Almost half of Australian dogs are overweight or obese, according to research. Are you making sure your dog is getting enough exercise? To mark Active Dog Month this April, we’re tackling the often-asked question of “how much exercise does a dog need?”
We’ll also look at how best to exercise your dog, and why different dogs have different exercise requirements.
To start off, let’s look at why you should be making sure your dog gets those steps in.
The benefits of exercise for dogs
We know regular exercise is beneficial for humans. So it makes sense that it’d be good for dogs too. Exercise plays a double role in dog health by providing a host of benefits, both physical and mental.
Mental and emotional benefits of exercise for dogs
How many times have you heard a dog owner getting frustrated over their dog’s naughtiness or that they’re always chewing up prized possessions?
Often, these dogs aren’t getting enough exercise. After all, a tired dog is a well-behaved dog. Especially in those younger years where their energy levels can be off the charts.
Exercise helps dogs stay happy and content too. It can alleviate boredom, stress, and aggression. And even promote good brain health. Plus, it’s good bonding time for you and your dog.
Physical benefits of exercise for your dog
Physically, exercise reaps great benefits too. Obesity is a leading cause of diabetes in dogs, but active dogs are far less likely to suffer from weight-related health problems.
Other problems that can be caused by your dog being overweight include:
- Musculoskeletal problems (ligament ruptures, osteoarthritis, and so on)
- Shortened lifespan
You don’t want to be the reason your dog suffers. When you commit to having a dog (whether you’re as first time pet owner or not) you commit to exercising it… Which helps keep you active too!
How much exercise does a dog need?
Exactly how much exercise does a dog need for physical and mental health? As a guideline, dogs need between 30 minutes and two hours of exercise per day.
This depends on their breed, size, age, general health, and more.
Some dogs need much more exercise than others
Dogs were originally bred for different purposes, and this affects their need for exercise and stimulation. Dogs who were designed to run long distances or lead active lifestyles years ago will need more exercise. Collies, Huskies, Retrievers, and Australian Shepherds need less exercise than a Great Dane or Bulldog, for instance.
The size of the dog also makes a difference. A big, heavy dog is likely to take more strain on their joints by running, twisting, and spinning than an older dog. But as we’ll address a little later, these dogs can also take part in alternative exercise.
And age plays a part too. That’s why puppies need less exercise than healthy dogs in the prime of their lives. As Off The Leash explains, “the old rule with puppy exercise is they should only walk for five minutes for every month of his age.” A three-month-old puppy could do 15 minutes of walking, and a six-month-old puppy could do 30 minutes. This isn’t a perfect system, but is a good general guideline.
Older dogs, like older people, need less exercise too. However, there’s no hard and fast age rule. A Great Dane who’s eight will require a lot less exercise than a Jack Russell who’s eight. Take into account your dog’s overall health, fitness, breed, and energy levels.
There’s no golden rule for how much exercise your dog needs
As you can see, a lot of factors go into figuring out how much exercise your dog needs.
On the flipside, if your dog’s struggling to keep up with you or doesn’t seem excited about walks, maybe you need to cut the exercise down a bit.
This dog exercise calculator can help you out if you’re totally stumped. But remember, it’s just a rough guideline. You’ll need to use your own judgement.
What kind of exercise should a dog get?
The most common form of exercise is walks with your dog. Or runs, if you’re the kind who likes to work on your own fitness too. That’s definitely a good way to get the heart pumping – the reason it’s the go-to exercise for many dog owners.
But your pooch’s exercise doesn’t have to come just from walks – or even from walks at all. There are plenty of other ways you can get them to move around and shift a couple of kilos if necessary.
Going up and down stairs can tire a dog out quickly and help to work different muscles and ligaments. Just remember to do them in moderation. You could also play with a frisbee, or find another doggy friend for a play date.
You can also play dog and puppy games which focus more on mental stimulation. We promise, it’ll still tire your dog out and help promote good behaviour. Things like hiding food or treats for your dog to sniff out, playing with snuffle mats, or food dispensing treats and puzzles can all be useful activities.
Swimming is great exercise for dogs
Some dogs aren’t able to do long walks, perhaps due to joint problems.
In these cases, we love swimming if it’s available. The beach is a fun place for dogs to swim, but does come with a few dangers that you wouldn’t find in a pool. Other than the obvious worry of strong currents or waves, that is.
Before you take any dog to the beach, make sure they’re strong swimmers. A doggie life jacket might seem absurd, but is a good back up if you’re feeling nervous. And then read up on how to keep your dog safe at the beach too.
If you do have access to a pool, it’s a fun and safe way to teach your dog to swim and enjoy the water. Swimming is good for their fitness, joints, and soft tissues. Because it’s not weight bearing, there’s far less strain on their legs too. Perfect for senior dogs or those with musculoskeletal issues.
Remember pet insurance, active or not
Regardless of whether your dog runs marathons or watches movie marathons with you, pet insurance is a must. Although exercise is a great way to promote good health in your dog, all dogs – even the healthiest – can get sick or injured.
If you’ve looked at PD Insurance’s dog insurance plans, you’ll know we like to provide a soft landing for pet parents. So, if your beloved dog does pick up an injury, you can visit the vet without worrying about money.
How much exercise does a dog need – over to you
How much exercise does your dog get? Do they join you on hikes or cycle trips, or do you prefer laid back trips to the local park? Let us know in the comments.