Just like humans, dogs need exercise, and a good dog walk is a great way to get both pup and human moving. But how much walking is enough to satisfy your dog’s needs? This seems like a simple question, but many factors can play a role in how much exercise your dog needs to be happy and healthy.
Dogs need exercise for many of the same reasons humans need it. Dog walking helps manage your pup’s weight, keep his heart healthy, stave off arthritis, and improve digestion. Emotionally, dog walking can help your dog feel better and avoid boredom, preventing destructive behaviors and helping your dog to socialize and become a better canine citizen. Dog walking is a wonderful way to engage with your dog and work on training and communication, allowing you and your dog to enjoy each other’s company in a variety of settings.
General recommendations for dog walking are not that different from those for humans. At minimum, healthy dogs should get 30 minutes of exercise daily. Some breeds may require quite a bit more than that – Labs, Collies, Greyhounds, Dalmations, Jack Russells, and many sporting breeds may need as much as 2 hours of walking to achieve a satisfying amount of exercise. Less active breeds, like French Bulldogs and Bassett Hounds, will probably be happy with the minimum 30 minute walk, although no two dogs, even within the same breed, are alike, and even Bassetts can make great running companions.
You will want to assess your dog’s energy level and exercise tolerance. Start with a 20 minute walk and notice if your dog seems fatigued or uncomfortable by the end of the walk. Likewise, if your Golden Retriever is still bouncing around and chasing leaves at the end of your walk, you might want to consider a longer walk to help her burn off some energy. Older dogs need to walk, even if they have arthritis, but you may want to plan short walks or bring a “buggy” to allow them to take a break. Never force any dog to walk if they seem to be out of breath or in pain – just opt for a shorter walk.
Puppies and active breeds can benefit from a lot of exercise, as much as 2 hours of walking or more daily! This can be a difficult minimum for many of us to meet, particularly all at once, so consider taking two or three 30-45 minutes walks, and increase the challenge: try running with your dog, hiking up hills, or even adding a backpack with some weight to help wear your pup out. You can also employ the help of a dog walker to give your pup a little extra exercise during the day while you are at work, or to help you Dalmation get his fill of running every day.
Dog walkers can also be helpful for older dogs and small breeds. Dogs with lower exercise tolerance can still benefit from extra activity – small amounts of exercise throughout the day can help old dogs battle arthritis, and provide an excellent opportunity for small breeds to burn extra calories and avoid weight gain. Consider taking your senior pup out for a 15 minute walk morning and night, and maybe hiring a dog walker to go out for an additional 15 minute walk in the middle of the day to keep joints from getting stiff.
If you’re looking at your lazy St. Bernard and wondering if she wants to go for a walk at all, remember that walking is also an important part of your dog’s mental health. In addition to helping her maintain physical health, your dog needs stimulation and things to occupy her mind. Walking provides a valuable training opportunity – in addition to learning to walk on a leash, daily dog walks give your pup the chance to learn how to interact with other dogs, moving vehicles, children, and more. Walking with a dog walker helps train your dog to behave in any situation for any handler, so even if you can meet your dog’s exercise requirements by yourself, it can be extremely beneficial to allow a professional to walk your dog to further reinforce your training.
Keep in mind that weather can play a factor when walking dogs. Some breeds of dogs (pugs, bulldogs, boxers, etc.) can have a hard time breathing in excessively hot weather, and others may not be able to handle extreme cold. So be careful during extreme weather, and do a little more exercising inside.
So get your dog moving! If you haven’t been walking your dog, start slowly and build up your distance and time until you can walk at least 30 minutes a day with your dog. You will both feel better and be healthier!