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How much exercise does my dog need?

- Posted by in Pet Care

How much exercise does my dog need?

Some sure-fire steps and suggestions for ensuring the health and fitness of your dog (whether puppy, adult or senior)...

Several factors can influence the exercise needs of your dog, including its age, breed and state of health. The quality and quantity of exercise needed will vary as your dog ages or experiences periods of weight change or convalescence, so it is important to bear in mind that the exercise needs of your companion are subject to change.

Puppies of any breed require far less exercise than their adult counterparts. First-time owners have a tendency to over-exercise their puppies, which can be detrimental to the health of developing joints. If a puppy is over-exercised it will tire quickly and may be susceptible to early-onset arthritis.

The Kennel Club suggests a suitable ratio of five minutes exercise for every month of age, for example, ten minutes for a puppy that is two months old, fifteen for a puppy that is three months old etc. Observing this basic principle will ensure your dog remains at an optimum state of fitness and health throughout its early stages when it is most vulnerable.

Hip Dysplasia is also more likely to occur in dogs that are vigorously exercised as puppies. High-impact activities that place pressure on joints (i.e. frisbee, jumping, and lots of running) should be avoided in puppyhood and altogether in dyplastic-prone dogs.

The exercise needs of adult dogs will differ depending on the breed, with those of working dogs that were primarily bred for herding livestock being greater than the needs of toy breeds, developed as low-maintenance lap dogs. Just as physical exercise is important for fitness, mental stimulation is as important for the well-being of your dog, especially if the breed has a working history.

The Border Collie, for instance, believed to be the most intelligent breed of all, was historically utilised in herding over difficult terrain. The Collie had to remain vigilant to the threat of predators and act quickly to protect its flock, so continues to benefit from both physical and mental enrichment in its daily lifestyle. Border Collies are amongst the most trainable and perceptive of dogs, so teaching them new tricks is an easy, fun, and beneficial way of bonding.

Similarly, traditional guarding breeds such as the Dobermann and German Shepherd - breeds that are still highly valued for their inherent trainability, intelligence and versatility will become bored, frustrated and destructive if they are not mentally stimulated. Simple training in manners, obedience and basic control is a good starting point in enriching your dog.

Active breeds require about 30-60 minutes of exercise every day to stay fit and healthy. Walking times don't just vary across breeds but from dog to dog. The only way to gauge your dog's unique exercise needs is to keep going until he tires! If your dog has slowed down by the time you go home, it's safe to say he's had enough exercise for the day. If, when you get back, he's still charging around inside and climbing the walls, you know you need to exercise him more.

Contrary to popular belief, small and toy dogs do not get enough exercise inside the house. They are more prone to obesity and therefore need a good run around outdoors every few days to stay active and trim. This is necessary whatever the size of your house. Pugs are especially prone to weight gain and are often treated as lap dogs and 'handbag' companions that are rarely exercised. 30 minutes indoor exercise is better than nothing, but it is no substitute for a walk around the block in the fresh air.

If the weather outside is poor, running up and down the stairs (not recommended for dogs with short legs and long backs i.e. Dachshunds, Corgis and Basset Hounds), searching around the house for a hidden toy/treat, and rolling a ball back and forth for your dog to fetch, are good ways of bonding and exercising your small dog inside.

The exercise environment is also critical. Most dogs have a capacity for jumping and climbing, so ensure your garden is well fenced and secured at all times to reduce the risk of your dog escaping. Keeping your canine on a leash in public areas will also minimise the risk, particularly if your dog is a sight or scent hound that is inclined to follow a trail.

Whatever means you take to exercise your dog, there is no substitute for socialisation, and the earlier your dog is socialised the better. This means introducing your dog to the sights and sounds of the outside world, and acquainting it with new places and faces to prevent your dog being unduly nervous or aggressive when confronted with change.

Puppy classes are a great way of socialising your dog from a young age and getting it acquainted with other dogs and their humans. Basic training, obedience and manners can also be picked up at these classes without too much work - bonus!

Whether you are the owner of a large working breed or rather fancy yourself a ‘toy’ breed enthusiast, exercise is an essential part of your daily routine and is a key contributor to the well-being of your dog. Whatever the breed, it is important to remember that exercising your dog on a full stomach or directly after a meal is hazardous, with large, deep-chested breeds being prone to bloat and gastric tortion, potentially fatal conditions if left untreated for any length of time.

If you have any comments, please post them below. Feel free to contact me with any further questions and/or suggestions for future blog posts: hannahd@viovet.co.uk

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Comments

18th Aug 2014
  • Customer Since: July 2014
  • From: Suffolk, United Kingdom

Exercising my dogs means I get exercise too, and all 4 of us love our daily walks. Penny the labrador does not like the warm weather and since it has been cooler she has been much better. She will be 13 this month but still does very well most of the time.

19th Aug 2014
  • Customer Since: April 2014
  • From: Northants, United Kingdom

Ted is a Jack Russell dog, and he gets lots of walks a day it not only does him good it helps me as well I am not very good on my legs.my GP not to sit around. so as you can see exercising my dog also helps me We go out at least 4 time a day Ted is 6 years old and he just loves to get out

19th Aug 2014

My 14 year old springer spaniel chases seagulls on the beach like he was a puppy..he has been on Glucosamine/chondroitin since a pup and now Collagen for his joints. he is amazing and jumps out of his bed with non of the usual aches and pains of older dogs, I have to put him on his lead now for half his walk or he would run constantly with my 3 year old spaniel!

27th Aug 2014
  • Customer Since: May 2010
  • From: Essex, United Kingdom

I have three border collies who go out every day come rain or shine. the elder collie 11.5yrs old, has suffered torn cruciate ligaments in both legs and is on meloxidyl, but still goes for his usual walk with the other two younger dogs. It also gives me a reason to get up and keep fit and also train my two young dogs in agility.

4th May 2015
  • Customer Since: September 2013
  • From: Flintshire, United Kingdom

This is good advice, except that I think you need to warn owners of dogs with short legs and long backs (like basset hounds, corgis and dachshunds) that running up and down stairs should be a limited part of the exercise regime, as they can easily slip a disc.

5th May 2015

Very good comment Sue Wildblood, I have inherited a dachshund of nearly 15, I activly try not to let her run or even come up and down the stairs anymore..... But she comes out twice a day for a short walk with my 11yr Tibbetian, exercise we both need. She still has her manic moments too....

5th May 2015

I have a very active 11 week old cockapoo, he hasn't had his 2nd vaccination yet so I don't walk him, but he get's more than 15 minutes of exercise each day as he runs around the garden and house a lot. Do you think I should discourage this amount of exercise? I'm worried now that he gets too much!

6th May 2015

Good advice Sue - I have added a sentence to the article about this.

Thank you for your comments.

6th May 2015

My 6 yr old Yorkshire terrier cross Jack Russell goes on the school run twice a day, we walk approximately a mile and a half more if it's a sunny day. Coming back she seems to be lagging behind, she has had a cruciate ligament repair and that knee is very arthritic. Am I walking her too much, she doesn't limp, should I be giving her glucosamine for her arthritis, the vet never mentioned anything. Thanking you

6th May 2015

I am glad you mention gastric tortion in deep chested breeds. Not enough publicity is given to this. I have a Red Setter & I am always careful to make sure she does not exercise for at least an hour before and after meals. I know people who have lost Red Setters through gastric tortion.

7th May 2015

Hi Tracy,

I wouldn't worry too much. The 5 minutes per month of age is a recommended amount and there will be days when your dog gets more, and less, than this.

Running around the house and garden is usual for a puppy anyway :) I think the guideline is in place to discourage structured and intensive exercise in growing dogs, as this approach is more likely to cause problems.

Regards

14th Aug 2015
  • Customer Since: April 2015
  • From: Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom

I have a 5 year old American Bulldog, I walk him twice a day for 30 - 40 mins. Is this enough?

15th Aug 2015
  • Customer Since: May 2015
  • From: Staffordshire, United Kingdom

I have just had to have my boarder collie put to sleep, she was 13yrs. The last 18 mths she had no exercise apart from garden which is quite big due to heart failure.
I'm about to have a Golden Retriever puppy and found this article very interesting, as after such a long time, you do forget

17th Aug 2015

hi I have a 12 year old lab/staffie cross he is now not wanting to walk far sometimes and struggles to jump out of the car will this help him please

23rd Feb 2016

Hi Hannah,
Very interesting article and something we are always being asked about with regard to our puppies.
Can I just ask are you a Veterinary ? Or what is your background to write such an article ?
Many thanks

20th Jul 2016
  • Customer Since: May 2009
  • From: Hertfordshire, United Kingdom

I have a 14 year old Tibetan Terrier cross, some days he likes a 10 minute sniff around the block and other days he is on a mission and I have to jog to keep up, an hour later he is still full of beans, all I want is a cup of tea! Long may he keep me on my toes.

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