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How Much Exercise Does a Dog Need? | BetterVet

Dogs come in many shapes, sizes, breeds, and ages. One thing that they all have in common is that they need daily exercise. Daily exercise doesn’t have to be a long strenuous walk, and in fact, this could be harmful to certain dogs. But daily exercise is good physically and mentally, for both our dogs and us! All dogs need to have this included in their daily routine. A question that pet parents often ask is, how much exercise does a dog need? The short answer is that this is different for every dog and is based on a few factors. We’ll discuss this in more detail now. 

How Much Should I Exercise My Dog? 

So what is the answer to the question, how long can you exercise your dog? A common answer is that dogs should be walked for 30 minutes daily, which can either be done in one walk or split between a few. This isn’t technically wrong. Thirty minutes of daily exercise will suit many small-medium breeds, brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds, and dogs with lower activity levels such as dogs that have mobility issues or are seniors. 

However other dogs such as high activity level breeds (Labrador, German Shepherd, Husky, and Golden Retriever) that are fit with no underlying issues, will need more exercise than 30 minutes. These dogs could exercise for 1-2 hours daily with no issues. 

As you can see, there’s no one size fits all for how much exercise a dog needs. Most dogs will vary between thirty minutes to 2 hours, which depends on a few factors we’ll explain below. 

Factors That Affect How Much You Can Exercise Your Dog 

Age 

One of the factors to consider is your dog’s age and life stage. For example, a puppy’s exercise requirement will be a lot lower than an adult dog's.

Puppies require less exercise as they’re growing, so how much exercise does a puppy need? The American Kennel Club recommends 5 minutes of exercise per month of age, up to twice a day. This means for a 3-month-old puppy, that you’ll be walking them 15 minutes per day, and a 5-month-old puppy should be walking 25 minutes per day, and so on. Walking is important for puppies as it provides stimulation, bonding with their owner, and training opportunities. It’s important not to over-exercise your puppy as this can lead to health issues. Over-exercising can cause premature growth plate closure in puppies leading to joint problems as adults. 

Similarly, older dogs are likely to exercise less. This is usually due to a mobility issue such as osteoarthritis. This can reduce their walking frequency and duration. For this reason, we often recommend bringing these dogs for shorter 10-minute walks a few times a day and allowing them to walk at their own pace, which might be quite slow.

In general, adult dogs are at the peak of their exercising capability. Small breeds or lower energy breeds are likely to exercise for 30 minutes; medium breeds or higher energy breeds for 45 minutes-1 hour, while larger higher energy breeds can exercise for 1-2 hours. 

Breed

Along with their age, we also consider their breed. A dog’s breed will dictate their size and energy levels. This in turn affects how much we exercise them. Some small dogs like the Jack Russell Terrier have high energy levels so we would exercise them more than another small dog that has lower energy levels (Bichon Frise). Jack Russell Terriers may exercise for up to an hour. Similarly, some larger breed dogs, like the St. Bernard, have lower energy levels than other large breed dogs and aren’t likely to exercise for up to 2 hours. 

Certain dog breeds are also prone to health conditions that affect their ability to exercise. Brachycephalic breeds (flat-faced breeds) such as the Pug and French Bulldog have compromised upper airways and aren’t able to tolerate long, strenuous bouts of exercise. They also struggle to exercise in warmer temperatures and are at risk of going into respiratory distress. For this reason, it’s recommended that they have shorter walks and avoid exercising when temperatures are high. 

 

Health Conditions 

We now know that the age of the dog and their breed can affect how much exercise they need. Underlying health conditions also play a big factor in how much dogs can exercise. Anything that impacts them physically means that they could struggle to keep up on a walk. Mobility issues such as osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease may cause dogs to walk slower and less distance. Diseases such as chronic kidney disease, diabetes, and heart disease can cause lethargy and weakness which may prevent your dog from exercising much or at all. 

Every now and then dogs will get an upset tummy or become unwell with a virus or infection. In these situations, they often don’t feel well enough to go for a walk so pay attention to your dog’s cues. If they want to go for a walk they’ll tell you by getting excited seeing the lead or trying to head for the front door.

If your dog isn’t exercising as they used to and you’ve noticed a difference in their fitness level, contact your veterinarian for advice. Your vet will examine them and check for any underlying signs that could be causing this change, such as heart disease or hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid gland). 


Benefits of Exercise for Your Dog 

Daily exercise is hugely beneficial for both you and your canine companion. Daily walks provide physical exercise which helps to strengthen muscles and reduce obesity. Obesity is a big problem in the pet population and can lead to many health conditions such as diabetes, mobility issues, and chronic inflammation. Contact your veterinary doctor for more advice on your pet’s weight and nutrition

Apart from the physical benefits, exercise also helps to reduce frustration, provides mental stimulation, and has been shown to reduce separation anxiety in dogs. Exercise also provides an opportunity to train your dog and bond with it. 

 

Conclusion

Daily exercise is hugely important to dogs and provides them with benefits such as reduced obesity, strengthening of muscles, reduced frustration, less separation anxiety, and an opportunity to bond with their owner. A common question is how much exercise a dog needs and most dogs will exercise between 30 minutes-2 hours daily depending on their size, breed, and energy level. If they have any underlying health conditions, this will impact their ability to exercise, so seek advice from their veterinarian on how much they should exercise. 

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is walking enough exercise for a dog?

Yes, walking can provide enough exercise for a dog. Dogs will often walk between 30 minutes and 2 hours daily. 

Is a 20-minute walk enough for a dog?

A 20-minute walk is enough for many small and low-energy dogs or dogs with mobility issues.
 

How many walks does a dog need each day?

Fit adult dogs can have one walk daily while puppies and older dogs are better suited to shorter 2-3 walks daily. 

What is enough exercise for a dog?

Most dogs will exercise 30 minutes to 2 hours depending on their size, breed, activity level, and any underlying health conditions.