Activities & Sports
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How much exercise does your dog need?

A tired dog is a good dog. No matter the size of the dog, every pup needs a physical outlet to expend extra energy and maintain health and fitness. Regular exercise can improve your dog’s mental health and reduce some behaviors done out of anxiety or boredom. It is important to note that each animal is an individual and you need to modify your program. We must make adjustments for age, injury and be mindful of environmental conditions too, such as extreme weather.  

For a general guideline to exercise, dogs can be divided up by their breeds, or breed mixes, and what they were originally bred to do. However, remember to tailor your program to your dog’s needs.

Herding and Sporting Dogs

Both groups have very high exercise needs and should get at least 60-90 minutes of higher intensity exercise daily, twice daily is even better. These are working dogs so are easily bored, so make them work their brains! Intersperse training sessions with physical workouts to keep the routine fresh and interesting for both you and your dog.


From the little Cairn to the larger Airedale, these dogs are generally bouncy and charismatic pooches. Although they have significant exercise requirements, these dogs are smaller than the herding and sporting members, and can get a fair amount of daily exercise around the yard. But they should get a minimum of 60-minutes exercise daily.


This is a very diverse group that encompasses the sight hounds and scent hounds. Sight hounds like Greyhounds may have lower exercise needs, they are sprinters that release energy in quick bursts. Allow them a couple of harder sprint workouts per week. Scent hounds have higher exercise needs, similar to the herding and sporting dogs.

Toy Breeds and Brachycephalic Dogs

Many breeds fit into this category, including Poodles, Chihuahuas and Maltese. Even though these cuties are smaller than the rest, they still need exercise! They have a propensity toward obesity and often do not get the level of daily activity that they require.  They can, however, get a significant amount of exercise in a much smaller area.

These squash-faced dogs, like the Pug and Bulldogs, were not created for marathon running. A shortened muzzle and wrinkly face might be irresistible, but they impede airflow and put these dogs at risk for overheating and oxygen deprivation.

Weather Considerations

Weather conditions are an important consideration for all dogs, not just the Brachycephalics. Dogs too can be victims of frostbite or heat stroke. If you live in the snowy areas make sure you clean your dogs’ paws after an outing to remove snow and salt buildup. Dogs with thin hair coats may benefit from a nice dog coat or hoodie in the colder months. In the summertime, paws can also be damaged on hot asphalt or abrasive surfaces like the sandy shore. During any weather, it’s important to keep your dog hydrated. Bring along a compact dog travel bowl and fill it from your own water bottle.

Suggested Activities

Physical activities: There are a variety of different ways to wear out the over-energized dog. Fetch is a fabulous way to exhaust a dog with minimal output of your own energy and using a tennis racket gets even greater canine wear down. Swimming is a fantastic way to reap the benefits of exercise without the dangers of repetitive impact. You may also want to start out with a dog life vest, especially if you are far from shore, it is important to always use a vest when boating with your dog.

Mental exercises: A good brain game can be almost as tiring as a long hike. Some dogs enjoy a food toy. These toys require the dog to knock the toy around to make food fall out of small holes. They can be filled with small, low calorie treats or even pieces of kibble. If your dog is scent driven, she may enjoy searching for bits of food or treats hidden throughout the house.

Exercising with your pooch helps control her weight and maintain a healthy body and mind. Remember to tailor your program to your pet, to meet her needs and maintain safety. Keep her engaged, body and mind, and you will find that you share your home with a fulfilled best friend.


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Submitted by Frances | January 9 2014 |

Someone forgot to tell Sophy, my Papillon, that toy breeds need less exercise than the rest - a four mile off leash walk has her just nicely warmed up for the next circuit, and she is always 50 yards ahead, looking back over her shoulder waiting for the rest of us to catch up. A minimum of two hours walking a day, plus a few rounds of hunt the treat, find the mouse or playing with the Ottosson toys, plus running zoomies in the garden if the weather permits, and she may condescend to be a lap dog the rest of the time!

Submitted by Anonymous | January 27 2014 |

Dear Susan,

Thank you for this wonderful article.:)

This is a very diverse group that encompasses the sight hounds and scent hounds. Sight hounds like Greyhounds may have lower exercise needs; they are sprinters that release energy in quick bursts. Allow them a couple of harder sprint workouts per week. Scent hounds have higher exercise needs, similar to the herding and sporting dogs."

I have a female Walker Coon Hound (scent hound weighing 86 lbs.) that puts a big smile on my face when she plays tag with the incoming waves at the beach then frantically zigzags back to me (female - 5’2” tall &120lbs), knowing I’ll playfully chase after her. Right now is the best season to visit some National Parks where hardly anyone is around, which allows me to let her off-leash to explore the terrain. She is like a kid in a candy store. Sprints here, there, and everywhere but will stay within my sight always looking back at me to see where I am. Bicycling or walking with her while on or off leash along marshes and in some neighborhood parks and streets is great fun for us! She gets exercised on the average three hours a day depending on the weather. Oh, I nearly forgot, she does get exercise while being harnessed in the back of my SUV. She likes to stand looking out the cracked window once I’m off a freeway. Her body is rippling with rock hard muscle. She is healthy, happy, and dearly loved. I got her when she was two weeks old and now she is a little over three years old. Life with her couldn’t be better. I should mention I always check her coat and feet prior to putting her in the car after excursions then wash her paws when we arrive home or to a hotel at which time I’ll put castor oil on her feet to keep them soft.

I should mention that 3 out of 5 people have at least one dog where I live. Everyone seems to take the time to exercise their beloved four legged ones.

Submitted by Anonymous | February 5 2014 |

I forgot to mention that she likes to jump onto my king size bed as I somethimes chase her around the house! :) I call that tag. tee hee Love her gleeful attitude. :) I personally think that a healthy and happy dog(s) makes me happy, healthy, and wise.

Submitted by Carolyn | January 30 2014 |

I adopted a Maltese/poodle two years ago. Whoever would have thought she would be an athlete? She hikes, she runs 5 miles with me a few times a week, she swims, she retrieves, she kayaks. A toy dog whose "heart and lungs sound fantastic" according to the vet at her wellness checkup.

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