You love your dog, and you want to ensure that he enjoys peak health for as long as possible. So you feed him a healthy diet, take him to the vet for regular checkups, and you don’t overdo it with the treats no matter how much he begs (at least I hope you don’t!). You also understand the importance of regular exercise, but how should you approach setting up an exercise routine for your pup? Is your dog exercising enough? Too little? Or too much?
A few factors will play into how much exercise your dog should be getting on a daily basis. First off, your dog’s age is going to greatly affect the amount of playtime or exercise he needs each day. A senior dog, for instance, isn’t going to be quite as active as an 8-week old puppy. Your dog’s breed, size, health conditions, and injuries (if any) are all factors that can affect the intensity and amount of exercise he should get. Therefore, the type of exercise regime that’s most desirable can vary substantially from one dog to another.
If you want your dog to be your best friend and companion for many years to come, you can’t take his health and well-being for granted. So, let’s talk about what your dog needs in terms of the type of exercise and the intensity of his workout each day.
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Why Does Your Dog Need Exercise?
First things first – why does your dog have to exercise in the first place? Why does anyone? You may only have to look to yourself to understand the importance of regular exercise, so let me ask you a question – did you go to college?
I did. And I can tell you that the “Freshman 15” is no myth. If your college years were anything like mine, you were probably so busy going to class, studying, and trying to get enough sleep in between going to class and studying, that you didn’t have much time for exercise. If you lived on campus, you probably existed on the starch-heavy diet provided in the dining hall.
If you were a “townie,” it wasn’t likely much better – after you paid your tuition and other fees and covered your rent, you probably didn’t have a lot of money left over to stock your kitchen, and the most exercise you got would have been walking to the grocery store to stock up on low-cost foods like ramen noodles. You packed on those 15 pounds in no time at all, and you might still be carrying most (if not all) of it today.
Whatever your life is like today, I hope that you do more than just eat, sleep and toil away at your job. If that’s all you do, then I’m thinking that you’re still battling the bulge, and you’re probably bored in the bargain. The same goes for your dog – a pup that does nothing but laze around the house, sleeping and eating is probably going to develop a weight problem at some point, and he’s also going to be leading a very dull, frustrating life.
It’s worth pointing out, of course, that some breeds of dogs are naturally more active than others. A working breed like a German Shepherd, for instance, or a herding breed like the Border Collie, is going to need, and want, more exercise than, say, an English Mastiff – a breed of dog known almost as much for its tendency toward laziness as for its size.
That said, all dogs require some level of exercise. Regular exercise provides you dog with many benefits, including the following:
- Exercise helps with weight maintenance.
- Exercise is vital when it comes to ensuring that your dog’s joints are properly lubricated, and contributes to healthy bone growth.
- Exercise doesn’t just benefit the body; it provides mental stimulation.
- An exercised dog is a happy dog – when we exercise, our brain releases endorphins (“feel good” hormones), and it’s the same with dogs.
Imagine if you were cooped up in the house all day. You’d be beyond bored, and you’d even find that doing nothing can be tiring! It’s the same for your dog. Dogs need to be active, and get in some exercise every day in order to be healthy. Regular exercise can help your dog to enjoy a better quality of life, and may even prolong his lifespan.
How Old is Your Dog?
Your dog’s age will have an impact on the amount of exercise he should do each day. A puppy, for example, might need at least 60 minutes of playtime spread out over a typical day. On the other hand, your 12-year old Lab might be content with a 20-minute walk once or twice a day.
You need exercise as well, so it shouldn’t be all that difficult for you to find the time to get out and be active with your dog. However, if your circumstances right now are such that you don’t have time to exercise daily with your dog – and that can happen; we get sick or injured, or have to work horrendous overtime hours – then consider “contracting out” the job – hire a dog walker. This way, your dog will get the exercise he needs, and also benefit from human companionship when you’re not able to be around.
Let’s start at the beginning. When it comes to your new puppy, more is almost always more! According to the U.K Kennel Club, a good starting point would be at least 5 minutes twice a day for each month of your dog’s age, until he reaches adulthood. So, a 3-month-old puppy would need two 15-minute sessions per day, a 4-month-old puppy would require two 20-minute sessions, and so on.
Keep in mind, this is the bare minimum. Usually, the younger a puppy is, the more active he’ll be, to the point where he might wear you out before you wear him out! But also bear in mind that young puppies are not able to exercise for sustained periods without becoming over-tired and even developing muscle strain. This is why you keep it to five minutes at a time for each month of your dog’s age.
Once your dog has reached the age of maturity, and is fully grown, the amount of exercise he’ll need is going to change. Although adult dogs don’t require as much playtime as puppies, they can safely exercise for a longer duration outside. Your adult dog should be getting at least 30 minutes of exercise daily. You can extend this out to two hours a day, although you might find that a bit excessive – if not for your dog, then for you! I can only speak from my own experience, of course, but I can handle 2 hours of light exercise in any given day – walking or gardening, for instance – but I’m no marathon runner, and 2 hours of vigorous exercise would just about do me in!
And now, on to senior dogs. The older your dog gets, the more difficult it will be for him to engage in sustained exercise, and have the same energy level that he did when he was younger. At this stage in your dog’s life, you’re going to want to scale it back a bit. Don’t think that this means you can forego exercise entirely, though – it’s very important to make sure that your dog gets regular exercise at this stage of his life.
For a senior dog, you’ll want to lower the intensity of the exercise while still ensuring, for most breeds, at least 30 minutes per day of activity. You can forego running or jogging, and other high-impact activities, in favor of walking. Swimming is also great exercise for senior dogs, as it places little pressure on the joints.
At a certain age, any dog can develop mobility issues. It’s the same as it is with humans – as we age, we’re prone to aches, pains and arthritis. Many of us choose to forego pain relievers in favor of natural supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin, and in fact, many veterinarians recommend the same treatment for our dogs. NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like Aspirin can ease pain, but can also be hard on the stomach. As one who has had more than a few senior dogs, I can tell you that I have personally seen the benefits of joint supplements as opposed to NSAIDs when it comes to my dogs’ quality of life.
One supplement that has worked very well for my dogs is LivanoPET Advanced Hip and Joint Supplements. It’s suitable for all ages, but very good for senior dogs. In addition to glucosamine and chondroitin, this supplement contains hyaluronic acid, fish oils, Vitamin C and Vitamin E and other natural ingredients that may improve your dog’s strength and joint mobility.
One thing I need you to know is that I don’t “shill” for anyone, and I would never recommend a product that I didn’t believe in. Buut I think that this is a good product because I’ve seen it work. I would encourage you, though, to consult your vet before using any supplement, or combining this supplement with others that you might be using. There can be too much of a good thing when it comes to supplements, and talking with your vet can help you to determine which supplements, and how much of them, are right for your dog.
Okay, so now that you know how your dog should exercise given his age, how about the breed of your dog? Does a Chihuahua need more exercise than a Husky, or less? Should you work your Border Collie vigorously while allowing your Dachshund to relax at home on his beanbag?
The breed of dog you have can very much affect the amount of exercise he needs. Whether he’s a purebred or a mix can also be a factor. Size, oddly enough, is not that much of a factor. Small dogs, like Shih Tzus, Toy Poodles and Chihuahuas don’t typically require a lot of exercise. However, at the other end of the spectrum we have the giant breeds, like Great Danes and Mastiffs, that are also typically low-energy.
Dogs that have flattish noses, like Pugs and Bulldogs, are often low-energy as well, and in fact should not be exercised vigorously because of their propensity toward breathing problems, particularly in the hot weather. Hounds, Pointers and Spaniels of various breeds are usually high-energy, and require more vigorous exercise.
If you’re considering a supplement for your dog, LivanoPET also makes All-in-One Soft Chews that are appropriate for all breeds and activity levels. Of course not every dog is going to require a supplement, so again consult your veterinarian. And make sure that the amount and intensity of exercise your dog is getting is appropriate for his breed. Given the number of dog breeds out there, I can’t really devote space to each and every breed, but if you simply Google “How much exercise does my [insert name of breed] need?” you’ll get the answer you need.
Usually, except in the case of puppies and senior dogs, there’s no such thing as “too much.” Your dog will ordinarily run and play until he’s tired, and then stop. He’ll know his own boundaries. That said, though, we’ve all known hyperactive dogs – dogs that just seem to have boundless energy combined with a highly nervous personality. Dogs that you just can’t wear out, and that seem to feel stressed no matter how much exercise they get. You can usually tell that these are not happy dogs; they’re just stressed out and bouncing all over the place because their brains are not telling them when it’s time to settle down.
This is another case where a supplement can be your best friend, and again I’m going to recommend LivanoPET. Their Organic Calming Treats for Dogs can help your dog to relax without becoming drowsy. The key ingredient is thiamine, which may help your dog to feel less agitated. It’s also believed to be a factor in easing separation anxiety and helpful for dogs that become panicked by loud noises.
I know it sounds like I have a dog in this fight (sorry, I just couldn’t resist!), but I don’t. I’m just another dog owner, like you, who wants the best for my furry friends, and who has had very good experiences with LivanoPET supplements. I think they’ll work for you and your dog as well, but if they don’t, all LivanoPET supplements come with an unconditional money-back guarantee.
What Type of Exercise Should You do with Your Dog?
Do you go to the gym? Use a treadmill at home? Swim lengths at the local pool?
Do you ever get horribly, mind-numbingly bored? Think to yourself, “I just can’t face that rowing machine again today,” or “Another day, another boring five miles,” or “Back and forth, back and forth, same old routine, same old water…”?
Here’s a news flash – if all you’re doing is walking or jogging around the same old route, day in and day out, your dog is going to get bored, too. There’s no reason why you can’t switch things up a bit. Take another route, or if that’s not possible, take the same route but in reverse. Take your buddy to the dog park so he can make new friends, both canine and human. Run instead of walking. Walk instead of running, and give him time to stop along the route and investigate his surroundings. You get the idea.
Now, on walking. The dog has never lived who responded to “Wanna go for a walk?” with disinterest. You just need to keep your dog engaged. If you have to walk the same route, do it at different times of the day. A nighttime walk looks and smells different from a morning walk, for example. And if you can vary your route, it’s a great way to keep your dog interested as well as changing your own perspective. If you have a car, you might even want to load up your dog and investigate new neighborhoods that are a little farther afield than your usual haunts.
Cycling and hiking are also great activities for more active dog breeds. If you bike regularly, take your dog biking with you. He can jog alongside on a collar, or if he’s superbly trained, you can let him jog off the collar. It’s also a good motivator to get yourself outside and cycle more frequently. Hiking trails are also excellent for any breed of dog that isn’t extremely old and infirm. There are several hiking trails in virtually any city, and even in smaller urban towns. There are also parks that have hiking or walking trails that you can go through with your dog.
Playing fetch is also a great way for your dog to increase his heart rate. Imagine you doing HIT (high-intensity interval training) at the gym. You’re doing short bursts, of extremely difficult exercise, followed by a period of rest. This is also beneficial for your dog. Plus, I’d be willing to bet that you’ve never seen a dog who doesn’t like fetching a stick or ball! It’s fun for your dog, and it’s a form of exercise that’s going to help improve his cardiovascular fitness, and overall levels of heart health as well.
There are several sports your dog might enjoy. Frisbee, volleyball, soccer, or even agility and obedience training courses, all have some forms of interactive exercise. Another great option is swimming. As mentioned previously, it is a great low-impact activity. Your dog doesn’t have to put too much pressure on the bones and joints, so even if he’s getting up there in years, this is a form of exercise that he can do regularly, without causing too much stress or pain. Some breeds absolutely love the water, so they’re going to jump at every chance you give them to go out for a swim
As a footnote, though, if your dog is afraid of the water, he might never want to swim, and you shouldn’t force him. Sometimes, a reluctant dog can be encouraged to enter the water, but it takes time and patience. For more on this topic, see my post Have Fun Teaching Your Dog to Swim! Never, ever throw your dog into the water and think that he’s going to be able to fend for himself. Contrary to what some people believe, not all dogs are natural swimmers.
Tips for Beginning an Exercise Regimen with Your Four-Legged Friend
Some owners don’t know where to start when it comes to beginning an exercise program for their dog. Some are afraid their dog can’t do some activities, while others don’t have the time to dedicate every day to exercising with their dog.
If you don’t have the time, invest in someone who does. As I’ve already suggested, a dog walker or sitter is a great resource for owners who want to ensure their dogs remain active and healthy, and it can definitely be money well spent. These are professionals know where to take dogs, how to exercise with them, and who will keep things as fun as possible so your dog won’t get tired of the exercises they’re doing. Using a dog walker or pet sitter can also be a great way to work on socializing your dog – the more people and experiences your dog comes into contact with, the more confident he’ll feel, and a confident dog is almost always a good canine citizen.
If you’re new to exercising with your dog and are starting an exercise program with them, make sure you take it slow. Going from a period of relative inactivity to vigorous exercise is never a good idea, so just as you would stretch and warm up before exercising, do the same with your dog. Start slowly walking before you make it out to that 10-mile hiking or jogging trail. Also, include a cool down routine after exercising. This not only helps with improving blood flow and joint lubrication, but it’ll also help prevent injuries, especially when you’re doing more difficult or strenuous exercises with your dog.
Most important, keep it fun, and keep it loose. Remember that not all dogs embrace exercise. If you make it a chore for those dogs who aren’t inclined to exercising, they’re going to get lazy and make every effort to avoid exercising, each time you get the leash to take them outside. Some dogs are like us in that sense – if you force it on them, they’re going to want to rebel, and then you have a battle on your hands instead of an enjoyable activity that you can share.
Generally speaking, when your dog is having fun, you are going to have fun as well, and vice versa. Your dog will get some much needed exercise, and so will you. Exercise should never be a chore, even if you’re training your dog for agility or another type of competition.
What if You Can’t Make it Outdoors?
Sometimes, you just can’t make it outdoors. Maybe you live in a region where weather extremes are a regular occurrence, and rain, sleet, hail or snow might hamper your ability to make it outside for your dog’s daily exercise needs. Or perhaps you’re a senior with limited mobility and limited income – you can’t get around all that easily, and you can’t afford a dog walker. This doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything with your dog. In fact, there are several ways that you can ensure that your dog is active, even if both of you are stuck indoors all day long.
One option is to take your dog to an indoor doggie daycare or park where you can exercise away from the inclement weather. This is a great choice if you have a dog that’s friendly and enjoys being around other animals and humans. A lot of major pet stores also offer indoor play areas for dogs. Also, there is no reason why you can’t exercise your dog inside your house or apartment!
Types of Indoor Exercises Your Dog Can Do
If you do end up staying at home with your dog and have to exercise with him, what should you do? There are several great exercises you can do with your dog, without ever needing to venture outside. If you can’t make it outside, or if you work crazy hours and only have limited time to play with your dog, these are some of the ways in which you can make the most of your time in an indoor setting with your best buddy.
Stairs – if you live in a building, you can walk the stairs with your dog. This is a great way to help build up cardiovascular strength and to get the blood pumping. It will help build up your dog’s muscle strength and joint mobility, and yours as well! It’s sure to get you sweating after a few rounds of going up and down. Whether you go five rounds or fifty, this is one option that you can choose to do if you are stuck inside, and have access to a staircase. Just be careful – an exuberant dog can knock you downstairs very easily.
Tug of War – Have you ever seen a dog who won’t fight you for that rag, towel, or rope? The answer is probably not. Tug of war is a great game for your dog to build up strength (muscle and tooth), and also for you to get a little sweat going on as well. This is especially true if you have a larger dog breed or a strong dog that you’re playing with. It’s not the most active exercise, but an active dog or competitive dog will make it extremely challenging in no time at all. And by the way, if anyone tells you that tug of war builds aggression, you can feel free to ignore them – it’s actually a great way to channel your dog’s natural aggression. It doesn’t build what’s not already there.
Treadmill Running/Walking – There are dog treadmills you can invest in as a pet owner; however, these are quite expensive, and you don’t really need one. If you already have a treadmill at home that you use for exercise, there’s no reason why your dog can’t also jump on and go for a walk, jog, or a run as well. Just make sure you adjust the settings accordingly and do so slowly, especially if it is your dog’s first time setting foot on the treadmill. You don’t want to frighten your dog, or possibly cause an injury because you are pushing him too hard, so make sure you start things off slowly. Eventually, he’ll get the hang of it, and possibly end up enjoying it so much that he’ll want to do it as a daily form of exercise.
Hide and Seek – Okay, be honest. You loved this game as a child, didn’t you? That shivery little feeling of secrecy, as though you were getting away with something, the joy of finding a great hiding place, and the tension when you thought you were about to be found? It was fun! And guess what? It’s still fun! If you have children or grandchildren in the house, they’ll love playing hide and seek with your dog, and it’s even better when you get in on the game! Dogs also seem to pick up on the “rules” of the game really quickly, and it can be a great way to stay active when you’re stuck inside all day.
Fetch and Catch – If you think that “fetch” is just an outdoor game, you’re wrong! There’s no reason at all why you can’t hurl a ball or a Frisbee down a long hallway and have your dog chase it. Many dogs are also natural catchers – one of my dogs was so good at catching balls, I’m sure that Pete Rose, at the height of his career, before that nasty gambling scandal, couldn’t have done better! I’d toss the ball, he’d catch it and bring it back, I’d toss it, he’d catch it and bring it back I’d – well, you get the idea!
Chase – This is another game that lends itself well to a long hallway, and is especially good for small, short-legged dog. It’s simple – you and your dog simply chase one another down the hallway, over and over, until you’re both totally worn out and ready to lie on the couch and binge-watch Netflix!
Find It – Here’s another game you can play indoors that will give your dog some exercise. Hide a treat or a toy in a closet, or under a piece of furniture, and tell yoru dog to find it. Peering into and around various locations, and muscling under low furniture, can provide a fair bit of exercise, as well as providing your dog with mental stimulation.
Can I Overdo It?
Yes, there’s such a thing as overworking or exercising your dog. If your dog is overly exhausted, winded, and is having difficulty breathing or moving around, you might be overdoing it. This can be true even with the most active dogs. Their bodies need time to rest and to heal after vigorous exercise, just like ours do. So, for even the most active dogs, make sure you set a cutoff time. It can be difficult to determine just the right point, though, and much can depend on your dog’s age and breed as well as his overall physical condition.
If you’re not sure how much is too much – and keep in mind that sometimes, our dogs will play longer and harder than they should if they think that’s what we want – then talk with your vet. You want to be sure that you’re heading in the right direction, so that your dog is getting enough exercise without overdoing it. Sometimes, dogs don’t know when to stop, so you have to be the adult in the relationship and know when to call it a day.
Dealing with Injuries
It pretty much goes without saying that a dog that is seriously injured should not be exercised. If he’s torn ligaments or broken a bone, and you don’t let him rest, you’re an idiot. I believe, though, that most people who visit this site aren’t idiots – they’re people who want the best for their dog, and probably don’t need me to point out the obvious.
Minor to moderate injuries, however, are much the same in dogs as they are in humans, and should be treated in the same fashion – they can actually benefit from a bit of activity. It wasn’t all that long ago, for instance, that we believed that the only appropriate treatment for a back injury, no matter how minor, was bed rest. We know differently now and encourage people with minor to moderate back problems to exercise – just not all that vigorously. Light exercise for minor injuries is fine, and even desirable – just don’t push your dog all that hard. Stick to things like walking and swimming, that don’t exert all that much pressure on the joints.
Just because your dog is injured, doesn’t mean they should stay indoors doing nothing all day. On the contrary, just like humans, when dogs are hurt, they have to mobilize in order to start the healing process. If he’s just lying around all day, doing nothing other than eating, then he’s going to get lazy. And, over time, that level of inactivity is going to make it harder for him to get back to a normal activity level, and a healthy lifestyle.
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The Final Word
Your dog has to exercise. It’s good for his heart health, muscle development, and yes, even his mental well-being. Your job is to be accountable for your dog’s health and happiness. A simple way to do this is to make sure he’s getting enough exercise each day. The information that I’ve provided here is by no means all-inclusive, but I believe that I have presented a few simple facts that every dog owner should know, in order to make sure they’re caring for their furry friend as best as possible. When it comes to exercise, there can be such a thing as too much, but there can also be such a thing as too little, and that goes for both you and your dog!
Think of what I’ve offered here as general guidelines when it comes to choosing the amount, frequency and type of exercise that you do with your dog. And as always, when in doubt, consult your veterinarian – he or she is always the best source of information when it comes to what’s best for your dog.
I’d also encourage you, if you have a senior dog, one that is injured, or one that seems stressed, to consider using a supplement that’s appropriate for whatever issue you’re facing. Supplements have worked well for my dogs, especially my senior dogs.
Finally, get out there and get some exercise with your dog! Walking, running and playing with your dog is great for him, and for you as well. It makes for bonding time, and a healthier, happier, more fulfilling lifestyle for both of you. As always, I wish all my readers and their dogs a wonderful day, filled with all the happiness that you deserve, and hope to see you back here soon!