BEHAVIOR & TRAINING

How Much Exercise Does My Dog Need: Things To Consider When Preparing The Play Routine

Dog exercise
Wyatt Robinson
Written by Wyatt Robinson

Like humans, dogs require varying levels of exercise as part of their physical needs. Given that dogs have originally been bred for a particular purpose and have come from an animal group that is considered to be physically active, exercise is considered as an integral part of their lives. However, dogs of this generation have become similar to their owners; that is, dogs these days have become less active and more sedentary.

The active fur babies have turned into couch potatoes and leaned toward a lifestyle focused on meals and relaxation, similar to their pet parents. Thus, the incidence of obesity in dogs has been in a slow but steady rise over the past couple of years. The only way to burn the stored fat is to engage your dog into exercise as a physical and mental outlet.

Aside from the obvious physical benefits, exercise could also contribute to the stability of behavior and development of socialization.

Training dog and yourself

Given that most pet parents are pre-occupied with a lot of things like work and family matters, their dogs lose the opportunity to have exercise. Also, a common misconception among pet owners is that if a dog can roam around the yard, it is getting enough exercise. Please remember that exercise is not just about movement; it involves holistic stimulation for a dog in both the physical and mental aspects.

Problems posed by the lack of exercise

Believe it or not, there are a lot of health issues that may arise simply due to the lack of exercise and play. Having a dog, even a mature one, is similar to having a small child around the house. Your pet has to do something that will keep it busy. If you as the pet parent will not give your dog something to do as an outlet for its energy, expect that your fur baby will do something on its own, and sometimes, this activity can be destructive.

Behavioral problemsExcessive digging
 Destructive scratching
 Chewing
 Hyperactivity
 Nocturnal activity
 Excessive jumping
 Unruliness
 Rough play
 Excessive barking
 Increased occurrence of playful biting
Physical problemsObesity
 Heart problems
 Decrease in Stamina

Behavioral problems arise because a dog has energy that needs to be released. If there is no possible outlet for this energy, it will accumulate, and your dog might end up doing something destructive or annoying. Given that dogs are naturally playful, failing to have this energy channeled into different activities and situations will lead to bigger domestic problems.

Diverting energy without making any trouble

Playtime and exercise can keep your dog healthy and can actually result in a lot of benefits for both you as the pet parent and your fur baby. These benefits include:

  • Reduction and even total elimination of the common behavioral problems
  • Maintenance of dog health and agility
  • Improvement of confidence for shy dogs
  • Improvement of digestion and inhibition of digestive problems and constipation
  • Control of weight

As a pet parent, it is your responsibility to consult with your dog’s veterinarian regarding a suitable exercise program. Different dog breeds have varying levels of exercise requirements. Thus, the exercise regimen should be carefully prepared to avoid engaging your pet in exercise that you think is enough but is actually insufficient or in an excessive amount of activity that you think is alright but is actually over-exhausting your dog.

Exercise tips

The following are the primary considerations in preparing an exercise and play routine:

  • Dog breed
    • As mentioned earlier, different dog breeds have varying exercise and play requirements. They also vary in terms of physical features, some of which may inhibit their ability to sustain a particular exercise routine.
      For example, Pugs and Pekingese are both small breeds that have flat or short noses. This can compromise their breathing when engaged in vigorous exercise activity. Greyhounds, on the other hand, are the fastest sprinting dogs, but they have low stamina. This means that they can only sustain running for a short period of time, and they will easily become exhausted.
  • Size
    • It is a common idea that smaller dogs have lower exercise requirements. While there is a grain of truth in this belief, it is not always the case. Pomeranians, West Highland Terriers, Toy Poodles, and several other small breeds are just small in size, but they do require a considerable amount of exercise to keep them fit and healthy. It is very important that the exercise routine fits the size of the dog, especially because large dogs are more prone to injuries and hip dysplasia.
  • Age
    • Age is definitely a consideration for exercise and play. Ideally, regular play time and exercise should be done once the dog reaches a grown age of about eighteen months. This is the average maturity period for growing muscles and bones and is considered as the start of their peak muscle strength and overall vigor. Older dogs will require a decreased amount of activity and play because of degenerative diseases that they might have due to advancing age.
  • Pre-existing disease or condition
    • Although age can be one of the major factors relating to diseases that tend to appear at the later part of a dog’s life, any pre-existing conditions or diseases that are already present in young adult dogs should be taken into consideration. Hormone-related problems, such as hypothyroidism, and skeletal problems, including early-onset subluxation and dysplasia, will definitely reduce the ability of a dog to engage in physical activity.
      Dogs that have cataracts and other eye problems will also have a disadvantage in activities that require visual acuity and directions and may consequently pose a higher risk for injury. These concerns should be discussed with a veterinarian to be able to set a definite margin on what a dog can and cannot do based on its physical limitations.

The holistic exercise approach

An exercise and play routine should not solely focus on the physical aspect, it should be a perfect mix of physical and mental exercises for dogs as a form of stimulation. Such perfect balance is the key to addressing the amount of energy and curiosity that a dog has.

As a pet parent, keep in mind that dogs are generally more athletic than humans. Their anatomy is more suitable for physical activities compared with the human physical structure. There are so many ways to engage a dog in exercise that can be mutually enjoyable by the pet and its owner.

Dog training agility

Remember: Do not feed your dog before engaging in any level of exercise. Feeding your pet before any activity may increase its risk of developing bloat, a conditioning in which the stomach twists. Bloat may lead to life-threatening complications and even death. Always remember that a dog should be fed one hour before or after an exercise activity.

This includes treats, biscuits, and water. The pet parent should have the discipline not to be swayed by those puppy eyes into giving a treat because this is for the pet’s own good. Given that bloat is the most common exercise-related complication that can be prevented, you should be aware that the following dog breeds have a higher tendency to develop such condition:

Afghan HoundAkitaBloodhound
Alaskan MalamuteBernese Mountain DogBoxer
Great DaneDobermanGolden Retriever
Great PyreneesGerman ShepherdIrish Wolfhound
Irish SetterLabrador RetrieverNewfoundland
Standard PoodleRottweilerWeimaraner

These dogs either have an anatomical disadvantage due to their size and the position of their stomach or are genetically predisposed to develop bloat.

The average suggested duration of a mild exercise routine that includes walking is about half an hour. This will be augmented with other activities to promote a balanced routine. Pet parents may select activities that fit their dog’s personality and interests. There are breeds that simply prefer the classic play fetch, whereas others may require more complex activities.

Any exercise should be prepared well and should be ensured as safe. There are dog owners who tend to test their dogs’ physical limits by engaging them in advanced physical activities, such as trekking and hiking. Extreme physical activities are not only dangerous for both the owner and the dog due to the potential risk for injury, but they can also expose both dog and human to possible infections than can lead to serious complications.

Exercise routines for active and not-so-active lifestyles

While it might be overwhelming for you as a pet parent to know how to exercise your dog, it is important that the exercise routine that you will implement is something that you as a pet parent can handle because sometimes, an activity might be more exhausting for the pet parent rather than the dog. It is not uncommon that pet parents are not athletic, and there are alternative ways to exercise dogs without exhausting yourself.

  • Situational activities like puzzle toys, as well as trick and obedience training, can provide enough mental exercise for dogs along with the needed physical activity without covering a large distance just to achieve the needed exercise requirement. This is ideal for small dogs that need diversion for their big-dog energy. Such activity can actually be enjoyable when done in either indoor or outdoor settings.
  • Frisbees, fetching balls, and catching bubbles are great activities for pet parents who can tolerate a low level of physical activity because these will only require them to either sit or stand. Thus, mobility and physical activity are focused on the dog.

Dog owners are known to actually walk a lot more than non-dog owners for obvious reasons. This means that dogs can actually motivate us to be active. Dog owners who live a more active and upbeat lifestyle will enjoy on-leash walks that more active dog breeds will appreciate because this activity exposes them to different sights, sounds, and even smells.

Conventional walks can be modified to add mental exercises for dogs by changing the usual route, thus giving pets more experiences and sights to explore. For dogs that have been placed on this kind of activity due to weight gain, a lengthy regular walk duration should not be employed because the body is still not prepared for such activity.

Walking for an obese pet can be initiated by going for a short, 10-minute walk while observing if the dog can tolerate this length and duration. The length of time can gradually be increased over time.

Dogs running

Joggers can train their dogs to catch up to their pace. However, this is generally recommended for larger dogs because jogging has a significantly faster pace that toy dogs and smaller breeds may not be able to catch up with. Because of their short legs, one human step may need three to five toy dog steps, so just imagine the amount of energy needed for the smaller dogs just to catch up.

Pooch swimming

Swimming can provide an enjoyable activity for both the dog and its pet parent, and it can promote a tighter relationship while improving the dog’s self-confidence. There are breeds that are born as naturally acclimated to water, whereas others like the activity even if they are not bred for such task.

Introducing a dog to water as early as possible inhibits the probability that it will be afraid of swimming. This can be very helpful in the later part of the dog’s life because it will enjoy a good swim every so often.

Dog swimming

Just remember that dogs should have access to clean drinking water, and their eyes and ears should be cleaned afterwards to avoid infection. Also, for safety precautions, always observe your dog at a close distance if you will not be swimming with it.

Post-exercise activity

Exercises can be tiresome, especially for starting dogs and pet parents. It is important that your dog gets enough rest each day to help tired muscles repair and relax from the strain their received from the physical activity. Make sure that your dog is properly hydrated and that its temperature is regulated to inhibit over-exhaustion. A good exercise–rest cycle allows enough time for the dog to mentally and physically prepare itself for the next day, while also enhancing the function of its organs and systems.

Exercise with dogs provides a perfect opportunity for pets and their owners to strengthen their bond. The activity does not end after the last throw of the Frisbee, the last walk home, or the last fetch of a ball. This activity may initially be perceived as something superficial, but it actually works in more ways than one. It cements the connection between the dog and its owner, who end up having a bond that stays strong for the many years to come.

About the author
Wyatt Robinson
Wyatt Robinson

Wyatt Robinson had a great 25-years career as a veterinarian in United Kingdom. He used to be a member of British Veterinary Association and worked in 3 pet hospitals in London and Manchester. He is shining when he sees his pets healthy and full of energy and it is his duty to help other dog owners to keep their best friends full of life.

  • Lucy Daniels

    Is there an online canine group that takes care of our dog’s physical regimen? We’ve been busy lately and one of our dogs are not really getting the exercise she needs. Have you had experiences with putting your pooch to a sort of pet gym?
    Any thoughts on this please? Thank you!

    • There are numerous canine groups in social media (especially in Facebook) where you can interact with pet parents with a very busy schedule like yours. Pet gyms are good, but you have to make sure that the pet gym is reputable because you can only see your dog after you take it home. In addition, you can just segregate the things that keeps you busy, or change a morning jog to an evening stroll. It can be a win-win situation for you and your dog.

  • Lorrie Simmons

    Our son is graduating from College and will be working soon. He’s moving into
    his new apartment with his dog, a Husky. If he’s going to have a full
    time job, how many hours of exercise should the dog have to stay
    healthy? How do full time dog owners juggle quality, fitness schedules with their pets?

    • Based on your son’s upcoming routine, he must squeeze in a good three hours (divided into two sessions) for the Siberian Husky to be healthy. Such routine will require careful planning because of the time constraints and requirement for the dog to move around and release its energy.

  • There are numerous canine groups in social media (especially in Facebook) where you can interact with pet parents with a very busy schedule like yours. Pet gyms are good, but you have to make sure that the pet gym is reputable because you can only see your dog after you take it home. In addition, you can just segregate the things that keeps you busy, or change a morning jog to an evening stroll. It can be a win-win situation for you and your dog.

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