How much exercise does your dog need?

Every dog has different exercise needs. Here's how to know what's best for your pooch.

As many dog owners are aware, pooches need regular exercise to stay healthy and to stop them from getting bored. What they might not know, though, is that the amount of time they need outdoors varies based on their age and breed.

To help dog owners work out how long their pets need to stretch their legs each day, Dr Jessica May, the lead vet at video vet service FirstVet, gives her advice on just how much exercise your dog should be getting, based on their age, size and breed!

Read more: How to care for your dog during lockdown

 

Based on their age…

a puppy in a field

Whilst puppies are often bundles of energy, it is important not to over-exercise young dogs. A good rule of thumb for puppies is that they should enjoy five minutes of a movement twice a day per month of their age; so, for example, if your puppy is 12 weeks old, keep walks or play sessions to around 15 minutes each.

Activity can be hard to track, so I find that wearable monitors like a PitPat can help owners to keep tabs on their pet’s activity levels, allowing exercise to be increased gradually as they get older and stronger.

"Judge your dog’s current condition at home rather than at the park"

Equally, geriatric dogs may struggle to take long walks, but should still be given the opportunity to go outside and move around at their own pace at least twice daily.

Judge your dog’s current condition at home rather than at the park. It is best to keep their level of exercise consistent to avoid overexertion; try letting them out into the garden regularly to stretch their legs, or play a game with them, rather than taking them on lengthy strolls.

 

Based on their size…

a huge labrador with owner

All dogs should be let outside for exercise twice a day, but how strenuous that exercise should be depends, in part, on the size of the dog. Larger breeds need more space to roam so, in addition to regular play in the house or garden, they should also be taken for walks twice a day and these should last for at least 30-60 minutes each.

Smaller breeds often require less of a workout, so letting them out into the garden for a runaround, in addition to their daily walk, can be an appropriate form of exercise. I’d still recommend one daily walk per day; two walks per day would be advisable. The government recommends at least 30 minutes of exercise per day for humans, so this is a good starting point for all fit and healthy adult dogs.

 

Based on their breed…

husky

Some breeds, such as border collies, springer spaniels, German shepherds and Siberian huskies, have been bred as "working dogs", so are suited to covering long distances. These types of dogs shouldn’t have any trouble tagging along on a long run, as long as it’s built up as part of their routine.

Dogs such as labradors (or any lab-crosses) and poodles have bundles of energy, so they are also great companions for a long walk. The key to ensuring that your dog is able to keep up with you, assuming that you have selected an appropriate breed, is consistency. Try to avoid going for a five minute walk one day and embarking on a five-mile hike the next—a steady routine will mean your dog is always prepared for your next adventure.

"A steady routine will mean your dog is always prepared for your next adventure"

Brachycephalic breeds, or those with flatter faces, such as pugs or bulldogs, are more likely to struggle with intense exercise. The shape of their noses means that these dogs can often have breathing difficulties, so it is important to let them exercise at their own pace, particularly in warm weather.

For these breeds, two shorter walks each day may be the best option; make sure to incorporate some rest breaks, and plenty of drinking opportunities, too.

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