How Much Exercise Does A Dog Need Everyday?

Asking “How much exercise does a dog need everyday?” is kind of like asking how long is a piece of string?

How much exercise do dogs need? It depends

It depends a lot on the breed, on the personality of the individual dog and on the dog’s age.

Young dogs will usually be more active than senior dogs and athletic breeds like kelpies and whippets will tend to crave more exercise than breeds like pugs and great danes.

It also depends on whether your dog has access to a big backyard at home or is confined to an apartment, which enforces more sedentary behavior.

Your dog’s energy levels, like yours, will also vary from day to day.

How much exercise does a dog need everyday? Be guided by the dog.

If your dog is champing at the bit and full of energy, pay attention to that and make sure he has a chance to burn off that energy.

If he wants to sleep in once in a while, respect that. Listen to what his body is saying. 

Let him have his rhythms the same way you have yours.

Allow for the meat coma

If you’ve ever seen the way wolves kark out on the snow after a huge feed, you know that after a large meat meal your dog is likely to feel sluggish. Digestion is an energy-intensive process. Let him rest.

In general certainly don’t exercise a dog close to mealtimes, particular afterwards. Doing so increases the risk of bloat, an emergency condition particularly affecting deep-chested breeds and which can be fatal.

To minimize bloat risk, ideally feed at the end of the day so that your dog rests for the rest of the day and overnight after eating.

How to exercise your dog

Change up the types of activities your dog does for exercise. Variety is the spice of a dog’s life. 

On leash walks are a staple. Find tips on how to teach your dog to heel or loose leash walk here.

Chasing the ball or frisbee at the park or running around with their human is just about the best fun there is for a dog. 

Tugging on a rope is brilliant exercise. It’s said to engage every muscle in a dog’s body. It’s also very interactive play, great for bonding between dog and owner.

Most dogs absolutely love anything involving water, whether that’s playing in the sprinkler, romping in the ocean or swimming in a river.

Digging is fantastic exercise too and lets your pup just be a dog and do what comes naturally. To spare your backyard, give him opportunities to dig in acceptable places. In the sand at the beach is just about as good as it gets.

If you have two dogs then wrestling and playing together definitely counts as exercise, but it’s still worth getting your pups out and about for a change of scene. Dogs love exploring new places. Just about anywhere will do. It can be different parks and beaches or it can be as simple as taking a slightly different route through the neighborhood each time. 

How much exercise does a dog need everyday? Don’t forget mental exercise

Mental exercise will tire a dog out much faster than physical exertion alone.

How to exercise a dog indoors? Play games with your dog that involve not only running but thinking. Hiding a ball or toy somewhere and then telling your dog to run and “Find it!” is a great example that gets him thinking, sniffing and dashing about.

When you’re confined to tight spaces or when your dog is perhaps injured or unwell and not able to run around you can still play mental games or give your dog enrichment tasks like dog puzzles, learning tricks and playing scent-based games. This facebook group has heaps of great ideas for keeping your dog mentally stimulated and satisfied.

Sniffing tours are great ways to give your dog a low-key walk that still provides him with entertainment and mental stimulation. Reading the pee mail is important in a dog’s life!

If your dog is old or unwell, a dog stroller can help you get him further afield than the same trip around the block. 

Give your dog a bone

Recreational bones are a workout as well as a meal.

According to vet Dr Ian Billinghurst who wrote the book Give your dog a bone, pups that have bones develop more fully in the shoulders. Having watched my dog work on a lamb neck, I’d wholeheartedly agree.

Your dog has to hold the bone with his paws, pull with his jaws and neck and sometimes his whole body. Wonderful for physical and mental wellbeing. Chewing on a bone is very psychologically satisfying for a dog, it’s soothing and it’s and another way to let your dog be a dog, pure and simple.

How much exercise does a puppy need?

While your dog is still growing emphasize play rather than long walks.

Definitely don’t be having him jog or run with you on hard sidewalks before he’s fully grown. It’s to do with the forming of growth plates. Puppies can get injured if there’s too much exercise.

Infinitely preferable to hang out in the backyard or at the park and play so that your pup gets intermittent exercise rather than relentless exertion and stress/jarring on the joints. 

The same applies for all dogs, really. Minimize exercise on hard surfaces and avoid acrobatic jumping. Keep the jumps low to the ground. 

What I do with my boxer dog

I live in a tiny apartment with a 3-year-old boxer and have done since he was 8 weeks. We walk or play outside for an hour to an hour and a half morning and night with at least one 15-30 minute wander around outside during the day and another last thing at night.

Most days they’re all on-leash walks around the neighborhood. Several times a week we go to the beach and dig and swim and run. We alternate that with chasing balls on an oval. If we find a sandpit we dig in it.

In conclusion

A tired dog is a well behaved dog. 

Make sure your dog gets some kind of exercise every day — rain, hail or shine. 

If you structure your day so that you give your dog a good walk or play session before he’s left home alone, he’s more likely to snooze happily while you’re away. 

When it comes to how much exercise, there is no one size fits all. 

Observe your dog and match activity levels to his energy and mood from day to day. Keep what exercise you do interesting with an emphasis on play and interaction over straight exertion. 

If you’re having fun, chances are your dog is too. 

More reading

Mucus in dog’s poop: Why it’s not always a bad sign

Neutering: Why the old advice is wrong

Are you speaking your dog’s language?