How much exercise does my dog need?

Behavior & Training
golden running with owner

Dog trainers and behaviorists tell dog owners all the time that dogs need exercise. A bored dog who doesn’t get enough exercise is more apt to get into trouble. With exercise, a dog left alone will be happier taking a good long nap instead of chewing, digging, or barking.

How to Decide Dog Exercises

A very simple definition is if an activity causes your dog to breathe hard, that can be considered exercise.

For example, taking my three 40 to 50-pound dogs for a three-mile walk is a good outing, but it’s not exercise because it doesn’t cause them to breathe hard. Also note that if the weather is hot and dogs pant because of the temperature, that’s a totally different thing.

However, if my friend takes her two Papillons for that same walk – same distance and walking speed – it would be considered exercise. Her dogs have much shorter legs and the dogs have to work harder to maintain the speed and cover the distance.

With my dogs, retrieving a ball or toy out in the yard where they can run hard is good exercise. Dashing back and forth, jumping to catch the toy, and playing with each other gets them breathing hard.

Types of Dog Activities to get Exercise

Watch your dog to determine what is exercise for them. Just as exercise for you should be enjoyable, your dog should enjoy it too. Some examples include:

How much exercise does a dog need every day?

There is no set rule as to how much exercise any given dog needs on a daily basis. If your dog is a couch potato, it won’t take much to get them breathing hard. My three herding breed dogs, who are very fit and well-muscled, need a good hour each and every day at a minimum.

Take a look at how much daily exercise your dog gets now and gradually increase it. Please note the word gradually. A sudden increase in exercise could cause sore muscles or an injury.

Also vary the exercises. For example, if you like to jog, maybe the two of you can go jogging two or three times a week, then have your dog swim one day, and on the other days the two of you can play retrieving games.

If your dog hasn’t participated in a regular exercise program, take them to the vet for a quick exam first to make sure it’s okay for them to begin exercising. If your dog is older, do that too. My oldest dog, Bashir, is nine years old and I just took him in for his annual exam even though he’s been exercising regularly to make sure everything is okay.

Understand Your Dog’s Needs

Just as every person has their own exercise needs, so does your dog. Increase the exercise program slowly and watch for soreness or injuries.

Watch your dog as you begin exercising. If they get hot or tired, stop, give them water, and let them recover. Take it a little slower the next time.

If you have a puppy, talk to your veterinarian about what exercises your puppy can do. Avoid repetitive exercise on hard surfaces – especially running and jumping – as these could cause damage to your puppy’s bones and joints.

Your old dog needs a gentle exercise program. Swimming is often very good for older joints.