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How Much Should

I Exercise My Dog?

By Steve Finkel

A happy and healthy dog requires more than just a good diet and keeping your annual checkup schedule with your veterinarian. Physical exercise and mental stimulation are an absolute must for an all-around healthy canine.

Just like with a human, exercising your dog regularly is important in order to maintain weight balance, tone the muscles, and keep their body in shape; metabolism up and more. Exercise also serves well to keep the mind stimulated, promote good behavior, and increase socialization.

Every single dog needs to exercise daily, just like we do. But not all dogs are equal in this way, again, just like humans. The amount of exercise a dog requires daily to stay healthy depends on a great many things such as breed, age, size, body type, and overall health.

The general rule of thumb is that dogs should get between 30 minutes and 2 hours of exercise every day. Obviosuly you want to exercise larger breed dogs, like retrievers and pit-mixes, will need the most exercise; while smaller and toy breed dogs, don’t require as much activity. Smushed-faced breeds, also known as brachycephalic breeds, like Bulldogs and Pugs do not need a significant amount of daily exercise, however they do require cooler temperatures and lower humidity levels in order to maintain better health.

Dogs can be finicky when it comes to exercise. Most large breed dogs that have not been exercised enough will eventually go into what most call “Zoomie” mode. You know, that moment when a dog runs endlessly around your home (usually from the couch to the bed) in circles to get the energy out that they have stored up throughout the day. This is often a dog’s way of saying that they need more exercise or physical exertion to be healthy. Granted, the zoomies also present themselves when Fido is fresh out of the bath. Please don’t confused the two!

On the other hand, most dogs won’t exercise themselves. It is imperative that you spend as much time with your pet getting that physical exercise that is so needed. Simply letting your dog out into the backyard isn’t enough. While Fido may chase a rodent of some type, they will likely not exercise in the backyard on their own as much as they need.

In these kinds of cases, having a handful of squeaky tennis balls can be a life saver. Especially if you live in a major urban metro where open fields and areas for them to run are few and far between. If you live in an apartment, you can use squeaky tennis balls to throw up and down your hallway. If you rotate out two or three balls at a time, then you can keep your dog running up and down that hallway for at least 30 minutes. By the end of that play session, look for them to drink the entire water bowl you have out for them and the need to run them out to pee. Then you can look forward to them collapsing from being so tired!

How should you exercise your dog?
Large breed dogs like Labs and German Shepherds are more prone to joint issues, which is what makes daily exercise very important for them. Mind you that often too much exercise can also be harmful, so you need to find the right balance. A proper physical regimen helps maintain a healthy weight and keeps muscles and joints strong. Remember, it is ALL about balance.

Taking your dog for a walk or run, hiking, playing fetch outside (in a safe and controlled environment), going to an urban park or even the beach, are a few of the many fun ways to keep your pup healthy and happy. You can also create an agility course, of sorts, to help keep your dog mentally and physically stimulated and happy. Sometimes this can be something as simple as a row of benches that he or she can jump over or through to get treat rewards. Please remember that large breed puppies do not do well with strenuous exercise in the first year of their lives. Because of their size, and often the weight level that they settle at once they are over a year old, you need to let their skeleton fully develop to balance that weight and muscle combination.  

With small breeds, who need less exercise, weight gain is a common issue. With small breeds, you need to make sure they get at least half an hour of exercise per day, regardless of whether or not it is broken up into two or even three sessions per day. This is especially important for breeds like Pugs and Bulldogs who do far better with short, but deep, exercise sessions.  

What happens if I don’t exercise my pet? As we have repeatedly said in this article, dogs and humans have a lot of similarities when it comes to behavior and exercise. Just like us, larger breed dogs can start to go stir crazy if they haven’t been exercised enough (ie – the aforementioned warning signs of zoomies). So while weight gain and joint issues are at the forefront of that concern with respect to not enough exercise, behavioral issues are even more prominent. I mean, who wants to come home to a couch that has been eaten because of canine boredom and frustration? No one! 

The bottom line is that it is all about balance. And it will take some time to find your balance with your furrever friend.