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 unwanted 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. Adjustments should be made for the dog's age, injury and be mindful of environmental conditions too, such as extreme weather.
How Much Exercise Does a Dog Need?
For a general guideline on how much exercise a dog needs, we can get an estimate by looking at the dog's breeds, or breed mixes, and what they were originally bred to do. However, remember to tailor your program to your specific dog’s needs.
Herding and Sporting Dogs
Both herding and sporting dog breed 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 and 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, terrier 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.
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The hound breed group is a very diverse and 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.
Squash-faced dogs (brachycephalic), 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 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.
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. Plus it’s easy to add exercise to your dog’s day with simple running games.
Mental exercises: A good brain game can be almost as tiring as a long hike. Some dogs enjoy a food toy, like a Kong. 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, peanut butter 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 or by using a snuffle mat.
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.