All dogs need an adequate amount of daily exercise to keep them fit and healthy both physically and mentally. In fact, many dog owners ask the question; "How Much Exercise Does My Dog Need?" However, there is no one correct answer for this. Dogs require different amounts of exercise depending on their breed, age and physical conditions. In this article we will discuss the key factors that will help you determine how much exercise you need to give to your dog.
Age effects on Dog Exercise needs
The dog's age is one of the main key factors to determine the amount of exercise required. The pattern is that the older the dog, the less exercise required. This idea is quite easy to understand because we can relate to it as human beings.
It is of no surprise that puppies have the most energy. However, it is extremely important to keep in mind that puppies would be still developing. Therefore, one must not over exercise a puppy since excessive exercise may lead to problems in the joints and articulations. As a guideline, you should allow at least nine to twelve months for proper skeletal development.
Adult dogs would be fully developed and going through their prime phase of life. During this phase, dogs are able to withstand the most strenuous exercise and are the most active. However, keep in mind that as your dog grows older his physical ability starts to diminish and we will notice that he will start to slow down.
As dogs grow older, they slow down progressively. Health issues will start to come into play and put limitations on the dog. Physical limitations will also start kicking in and a dog that previously could run all day, will now spend more time sleeping.
Size & Breed
A dog's size and breed are also very important things to consider when trying to decide how much exercise your dog needs to be healthy. Big dogs will manage to handle more exercise but some big breeds may have physical limitations. On the other hand, small dogs will need less exercise to keep them satisfied.
Small Dog Vs Large Dog
In general, common sense will tell you that smaller dogs will need less exercise while larger dogs will need more. A small dog such as Teacup Yorkie or Chihuahua would be happy with two daily walks of 15-20 minutes. While a big dog such as a Labrador or a German Shepherd will need at least 1.5-2 hours of good strenuous exercise daily. However, this blanket statement is only correct for generic dog breeds. There are breeds that have been specifically designed for working and can handle a lot of exercise, while there are breeds that have been designed just to look pretty as a companion dog and can take much less.
Examples of Breeds that need less exercise
All flat faced breeds, known as Brachycephalic breeds, can handle less exercise. This is true even if they are big dogs such as the Bulldog, Mastiff, Sharpei and Chow Chow. They can handle less exercise because brachycephalic dogs are unable to breath efficiently and in turn cannot radiate excess heat efficiently. Other small brachycephalic breeds that need even less exercise are Pugs, Boston Terriers, French Bulldogs and Pekingese. The degree of Brachycephalism varies from dog to dog. So, always make sure to monitor a Brachycephalic dog while playing and running, especially in hot weather, to avoid heat stroke.
Other breeds that need less exercise are most toy and miniature breeds such as the Chihuahua, Italian Greyhound, Toy Poodle, Miniature Pinscher and Dachshund to name a few.
Examples of Breeds that need more exercise
Hunting and working dog breeds are specifically bred to have more stamina. In this case, be ready to invest much more time in exercising your dog. Big working or hunting dogs such as the Border Collie, Pointer, Irish Setter, Husky, and Beagle will need much more strenuous exercise. They would need a minimum of 2-3 hours of structured exercise a day. Be ready to spend some time actively hiking, playing and training them in big open fields or beaches. Their hunting and working instinct need to be satisfied in order to have a mentally healthy dog. Also, be aware that there are some small hunting breeds such as the Jack Russel, West Highland Terrier, Schnauzer and Fox Terrier. Don't be fooled by their small size though as they will also need a lot of exercise to satisfy and deplete their hunting stamina daily.
Not quite sure about the specific breed makeup of your dog? Try doing a dog dna test to help understand the underlying breed characteristics that might influence your dog's exercise needs.
A dog's physical condition greatly influences the exercise required. The dog's overall health plays an important role when determining how much exercise your dog needs. Muscular injuries, bone fractures, developmental abnormalities and other physiological conditions will put limits on the exercise that the dog can take. In this case it all boils down to your judgement based on observation and your vet's advice.
It is very hard, to come up with an exact formula on how much exercise your dog needs. We suggest that you firstly consider your dog's age, breed and physical condition. Do some research and ask a bit around. Ask your dog breeder, your veterinarian and maybe a friend with a similar dog breed. Use what they tell you as a starting point and then fine tune your dog's exercise schedule depending on how your dog responds to it. You know your dog better than anyone so strike a balance that allows your dog to exercise adequately and be happy both physically and mentally. There are lots of physical and mental exercises that you can do with your dog.