When you take on a new dog, although it’s an exciting time, it’s important to get clued-up on the various aspects of their care. Certain topics, like exercising your dog, can seem overwhelming when there is so much vague information around.
We all know that exercise is beneficial to our dog’s health and fitness, but if excessive it can also lead to illness or injury. The truth is, there are no solid rules and the amount of exercise your dog would benefit from is very individual, depending on breed, health, and age.
How much exercise does my dog need?
The amount of exercise your dog needs will vary depending on your dog’s size, breed, age, and overall health. For example, if you were to ask, ‘how often should I walk my small dog?’, the answer would be very different from the advice for a larger breed.
Small breed dogs may benefit from shorter, more frequent walks than a large breed, although some small dogs are very high-energy, and may cope and benefit from a longer, more active walk. Similarly, an older dog with stiff joints, or a very young puppy who is still growing, are likely to benefit from more conservative exercise.
What is the best time to walk my dog?
Another consideration when deciding how long or frequent your dog’s walks should be is the weather. Heatstroke, where the body overheats and is unable to cool effectively, can affect all dogs, although short-nosed breeds like Pugs, bulldog breeds, and Boston Terriers are more at risk.
When asked, ‘how often should I walk my dog in the summer?’ my response is normally to recommend walking in the early morning or later evening, to reduce the risk of heatstroke as well as the risk of burns from hot pavements.
Dog walks vs pee breaks
Remember that your dog will need to be taken out for toileting regularly throughout the day, unless they have access to, and will use, the garden. ‘How often should I walk my dog to pee?’ is another common question.
For toileting reasons, daily exercise is best split into three separate walks. These could vary in length, depending on your dog’s requirements. A young, fit, dog, would benefit from three, half an hour walks a day, or even longer, depending on your lifestyle.
However, if your dog is older, has health problems, or perhaps is a little arthritic, two short toilet breaks and one easy, half an hour walk, would likely be more suitable.
How much is too much?
As a veterinarian, ‘how often should I walk my dog?’ is a question I am asked regularly. Whilst there is no black and white answer, the above principles can be used to keep exercise safe and beneficial. A good guideline is to start short and build up the length of walks gradually. Listen to your dog by keeping an eye out for any signs they are struggling to keep up, stopping to rest, or experiencing breathing distress. If at any point they show these signs or appear to be injured or limping, it is important not to continue the walk, and consider contacting your veterinarian if needed.
So, how often should I walk my dog?
Ultimately, our day-to-day lives as dog parents will vary. There will be days when our lifestyle doesn’t allow much more than three short toilet break walks, but there will also be days when we have more free time and can do a lot longer.
The COVID pandemic has undoubtedly caused significant changes in all aspects of life and heavily shifted some traditional socio-economic norms. From the fall of the daily commute to an office, to the rise of home-based ‘side hustles’ and other revenue generating income streams such as crypto trading and day trading, most of us now have more time than ever at home. So finding time for your dog to get some form of exercise will always be beneficial, but balance, and watching out for signs that your dog isn’t coping, will help to ensure you don’t cause harm.