Exercise Guide For Dogs

It seems like everywhere we look, we see or hear people talking about ways to live healthier and get more exercise. Some bike or jog every day while others enjoy a membership to the local gym. People today are just more health-conscious, yet are they as conscious about making sure their dogs get the right amount of exercise? Exercise is as important to your dog as food and water. Regular exercise and the right kind of exercise is so good for your dog on so many levels.

Be sure to also check our Breed Guides for your specific breed.  Exercise is one of the biggest factors in dog ownership.  Each breed and each individual dog is different. An active, healthy, adult Vizsla or Labradoodle will have different exercise requirements than an older French Bulldog.  You’ll want to be sure you have the time and facilities to give your dog what she needs to be happy and healthy!

Exercise Overview

Exercise is an important part of dog ownership. If you’ve ever read a dog overview on a certain breed of dog, it may say that the dog may not do well in a small apartment. This isn’t because dogs have a personal dislike for small living spaces. It’s because the dog needs exercise and sufficient space to move around.

Regardless of the breed, age, sex or size of the dog, he or she needs exercise and needs it on a regular basis. In that aspect, dogs are not much different than us. Another similarity dogs have to us is the type of exercise they may need or get. Exercise can come in many varieties. When we think of giving our dog regular exercise, the first thing that comes to mind is taking our dog for a daily walk.

While walking the dog is a great way to not only spend time with your dog but also to give him regular exercise, it’s far from the only form of exercise you can provide for your dog. Here are a few of the many types of exercises that can benefit a dog.

  • Walking – Morning, noon or night – any time is a good time for a casual walk around the yard or the block.
  • Jogging – If your dog is the right age and in good physical condition, he should get a real kick out of jogging alongside you.
  • Dancing – You dog may not dance, but you can bet he’ll be running and jumping all around you as you dance.
  • Swimming – Swimming is an excellent exercise for man and his best friend.
  • Chasing Frisbee – Very seldom will you find a dog that doesn’t love chasing and catching a Frisbee.
  • Hiking – Dogs love nature and will love going through the trails with you.
  • Agility training – Agility not only provides great exercise but also keeps them in good condition while also preparing him for competitions if this is something that interests you.
  • Playing in the dog park – Few things provide such good exercise and enjoyment for your dog as running and playing in the dog park.
  • Bicycling with the dog – If your dog’s in good shape, he’ll love trotting alongside of you as you slowly pedal down the road. Just be careful here  
  • Skijoring – If you enjoy skiing, and your dog isn’t bothered by the cold, he’ll love the opportunity to be harnessed to you as you ski.
  • Fetch – Whether it’s a ball, a stick or a toy, most dogs love playing fetch, and it is a great source of exercise.

A key fact to remember is that while exercise is important for your dog, too much exercise can be as bad for the dog as not enough exercise. Both can be harmful to the dog’s overall health.

If your dog hasn’t been exercised regularly, it’s important to start gradually even if it’s only for 10 or 15 minutes, and start him off with a slow walk. Get the dog used to the routine of daily exercise and increase it gradually each day.

Dog Catching A Frisbee

How Exercise Benefits Your Dog

One of the most important benefits of exercise for your dog is for its overall good health. Proper exercise can also help the dog maintain the correct weight for its age and breed. When a dog becomes overweight, it puts a health risk on the dog the same way that being overweight puts a health risk on humans.

Approximately 50% of the dogs in the United States are overweight, which means that our canine friends are in as much of a need for regular exercise as we are.

Although it may seem like the only benefit to exercising your dog is weight loss, that’s definitely not the case because exercising your dog offers several other benefits.

Exercise not only helps prevent obesity but also helps promote overall good health. Dogs who have regular exercise have less chance of suffering from heart disease and cardiovascular programs. Walking with you will also help ward off depression, and yes, dogs do get depressed occasionally. Exercising can also help fight off infections.

How Exercising With Your Dog Benefits You

We’ll all well aware of how exercising your dog benefits the dog, but we often tend to overlook the many ways it can benefit you.

  • Improved Overall Health – Exercise helps your cardiovascular system the same way it helps your dog. It gives you sunshine, fresh air and the chance to clear out your lungs and just stay in shape.
  • Healthier Weight – When you’re exercising with your dog, whether you’re running, walking or jogging, you’re helping to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Reduces Unnecessary & Needless Barking – If your dog is not barking for the typical reasons (wants to go out, alerting you of visitors or in discomfort), he’s probably barking to get your attention because he’s bored. Bored dogs are often noisy dogs, whereas a tired dog is usually a quiet dog.
  • Reduces Destructive Behavior – Dogs that are not getting enough exercise will almost always destroy property, whether it’s chewing the stair railing, chewing a shoe or going potty indoors. All puppies chew things while they’re teething, but if your dog is beyond that age and is still chewing on things, he’s probably bored and definitely has too much energy to burn. Exercising him a couple of times per day should eliminate that problem.
  • Strengthens Bond with You & Your Dog – Exercising with your dog is a great way to develop and strengthen the bond. You’ll find that your dog will come to expect and even anticipate his exercise time.

So many dog owners are forced to leave their dog home alone while they to work each day. This can’t be avoided. Your dog is going to be alone all day and will become bored. A good idea is to allow enough time to take the dog for a walk in the morning before you leave. This is especially helpful with puppies.

The early morning exercise will tire him out, and he’ll spend more time sleeping and less chewing on things. If your puppy is participating in a training program, the training sessions should go much better because your puppy won’t be quite so hyper. There are just not enough things that can be said about the many benefits of exercising your dog. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.

Ideas For Different Kinds Of Exercise

There are different kinds of exercises for your dog. There are low-impact exercises, high-impact exercises, and exercises based on the dog’s health. Many things should be considered when choosing an exercise for your dog. There are also specific exercises for dogs based on certain factors.

  • Breed – What may be a good exercise for one breed of dog may not be good for a different breed. For instance, dogs with brachycephalic (short noses) like Pugs, Boxers, and French Bulldogs may suffer from breathing problems and have a difficult time with the heat, so they may not be able to handle strenuous exercise.
  • Age – Even though young puppies are filled with energy, they shouldn’t be allowed to do excessive running because their bones are still growing, and steady running can be bad for their bones. Senior dogs may also need to slow down on their exercise routines as well. Long jogs that they enjoyed when they were young, they may not have difficulties with.
  • Size – If a dog is overweight and just staring on an exercise program, he should be allowed to start out slowly. If he’s not allowed to adjust to exercise gradually, he can become overexerted quickly.

Your dog’s breed should always be a top consideration when exercising them or starting an exercise program. Some breeds have a higher exercise tolerance and a higher tolerance for heat. Certain large-breed dogs are more susceptible to orthopedic disease from too much exercise. A Border Collie, for instance, is going to have a higher exercise tolerance than a Great Dane or a Bulldog.

Giant-breed dogs grow quickly but mature slowly, so you should avoid forcing them to participate in heavy running and jumping until they’re fully-grown. Working breeds like German Shepherds, Border Collies, and Belgian Malinois love physical exercise but also need a lot of mental stimulation. Interactive toys and Nose work toys are great activities for these dogs. For more on this, be sure to check out our Complete Guide To Mental Stimulation.

Labradoodle With Ball On Beach

How Much Exercise Should Your Dog Get?

Puppies

As energetic and playful as puppies tend to be, we often believe they never tire out and can have all the exercise in the world. However, their bones and joints are growing, and too much exercise too quickly could damage their joints. During the first year or so of their lives, puppies should only get about 5 minutes of exercise for every month of their lives twice a day. Therefore, a 5-month old puppy should not get more than 25 minutes twice a day. So 5 minutes per month of age would be:

3 Months Old = 15 Minutes (Twice a day)

6 Months Old = 30 Minutes (Twice a day)

9 Months Old = 45 Minutes (Twice a day)

The exercises should include low-impact activities like short walks, playing with small balls or swimming. Pay attention to your puppy. If he seems to be getting tired, don’t allow him to overdo it. Your pup’s genetics will determine when you can switch to adult exercise levels. A small-breed dog can switch to adult exercises at about 9 months, but a large-breed dog shouldn’t switch until it’s about 15 months old.

Here are some helpful do’s and don’ts for when walking your puppy:

  • Do not jog or run fast with your puppy. This can be harmful to their little growing
  • Do not allow your puppy to run alongside your bike.
  • Do not go on fast-paced walks or long walks. Puppies tire very easily.
  • Do not play Frisbee or any catching game excessively.

Senior Dogs

Certain dogs need certain kinds of exercise. Senior dogs or dogs suffering from arthritis, chronic pain or injuries still need regular exercise, but they should do low-impact exercises that still give them the benefit of exercise without causing undue pain and discomfort. Some low-impact exercises include:

  • Walking – Regardless of the age, sex, health or breed involved, you just can’t seem to go wrong with walking. For older or less-than-healthy dogs, take them for a slow walk. The first couple of days, keep the walks to only about 10 minutes for the first week. Each week increase it by a couple of minutes. If at any time, your dog starts limping or appears uncomfortable, stop immediately.
  • Swimming – If your dog enjoys swimming, it’s a great low-impact exercise for older and slower dogs. If the dog doesn’t appear to enjoy swimming, just walk him along the edge of the shore and allow him to tread at his own pace.
  • Underwater treadmill – If your local vet has an underwater treadmill, you really should let your dog try it. The water buoyancy from the treadmill is quite beneficial to the dog’s joints and ligaments.
  • Nose Work – You’ll be hard-pressed to find a dog that doesn’t enjoy exercise that involves nose work. Find about 4 or 5 boxes and put some treats inside of one of the boxes and close all the boxes. Once your dog smells the treats, he won’t be satisfied until he discovers which box holds the treats. This exercise not only keeps them active but also provides some great mind work and mental stimulation.

Healthy Adults Dogs

If your dog is a normal healthy dog who’s just in need of regular exercise, start him off gradually. He’ll love going for walks, and won’t know when to quit, so it’s up to you to set the pace. Most dog owners find more success when they take the dog for two or three short walks a day rather than one long walk.

This is also very breed-specific.  A healthy and active breed like a Vizsla would need a lot of exercise!  He’s good to go for hours a day. Whereas a more compact and casual breed such as the French Bulldog would be fine with some walks and play time here and there.

Start walking the dog for about 5-minute walks three times per day. Do this for a couple of days and then gradually increase it a little each day or two. Eventually, you want to be able to comfortably walk the dog for 35-45 minutes each day.

Signs Your Dog Is Not Getting Enough Exercise

Every dog is different and is going to need a different amount of exercise. Sometimes, you may think the dog is getting enough exercise, but he may still need more. Just because your Poodle was content with 30 minutes a day doesn’t mean it’s enough for your German shepherd. How do you know when it’s enough or if he needs more? Does he still act hyper? Is he pacing a lot and acting restless? Here are some signs that your dog may be in need of more exercise.

  • Excess weight – Once dogs reach adulthood, they’re pretty much done growing. If your dog seems to be gaining weight, and he’s in good health and is not eating any more than normal, he may not be getting enough exercise.
  • Destructive behavior – If your dog has begun chewing things up, acting destructively or just plain behaving inappropriately, he may have too much excess energy he needs to get rid of with more exercise.
  • Acting shy or withdrawn – If your normally peppy dog is suddenly not as active or cheerful as usual, he may need more attention in the way of some good old fashion playtime or walks. However, you should first make sure that illness or injury isn’t causing this sudden bout of depression.
  • Too hyperactive – It’s not unusual for a dog to become excited when he sees the leash or toys and knows he’s going to have some outdoor fun with you, but if he’s way too excited and hyper, he’s not getting enough exercise and doesn’t know how to behave at the prospect of exercise.
  • Lack of endurance – If it doesn’t take much for your dog to become tired and ready to call it a day, your dog may be in poor physical condition and need more exercise on a regular basis.
  • Barking or whining – A dog that whines or barks unnecessarily is trying to get your attention and needs more exercise. Dogs can’t talk and tell you what they want, so this is their way of communicating their needs and wants.

In all of these situations, it’s important to first rule out any physical conditions. Any time a dog begins to behave in a different way, and it continues for a few days, a trip to the vet may be in order to rule out any sickness or injury. Once it’s determined that your dog is in good condition and just in need of exercise, you can begin him on a regular exercise regimen. You should soon see some very positive changes in your dog.

When Should You Exercise Your Dog?

Getting your dog into an exercise routine will not only make your life easier it will also help with ensuring consistency. Dogs are typically most active in the mornings shortly after the sun rises and in the evenings. If you have a dog now or have in the past, think about their energy levels when you greet them in the morning (or they greet you in bed) and when you try to relax in the evening–it’s true, right? Most dog owners, especially those who work during the day, find these times of day to be the best for exercising their dog.

Tiring them out with some exercise before you head off to work in the morning will help reduce separation anxiety and bad behaviors like chewing or excessive barking. The same goes for the evening. A nightly exercise session, whether it be a long walk or game of frisbee in the backyard, will make them much more relaxed and content as you wind down the evening.

Wait After Eating

GDV (gastric dilatation and volvulus), also known as ‘bloat’ is a serious condition where a dog’s stomach actually stomach twists, which prevents any gas from escaping either up the esophagus or down through the intestines (source). This causes the stomach to fill with gas, inflating it like a balloon. As you can imagine, this can have a devastating effect on a pup as it cuts off vital blood flow to and from their main organs. If left untreated, this fast-acting condition can take a dog’s life. Why mention this? 

It’s thought that exercising too soon after a dog eats a meal is a major cause of bloat.

While it seems to typically affect dogs that have a larger chest cavity (breeds like the Vizsla, Saint Bernard, and Standard Poodle), it’s extremely important and needs to be mentioned regardless of breed. You should be extremely careful not to pair vigorous exercise too close to your dog eating a meal. 

Help Prevent Bloat

  • Avoid exercise 1-2 hours after eating
  • Feed 2 meals per day, morning and evening
  • Make sure to keep food and water bowls on the ground and not elevated (reduces ingested air)
  • Avoid human-food as it’s high in carbs and can create excess gases when digested

Common Signs And Symptoms Of Bloat

  • Attempting to vomit but nothing comes up
  • Pain or discomfort in the abdomen
  • Abdominal bloating

As with any possible health concern you might have with your dog, be sure to contact a veterinarian if you notice anything unusual with your dog.

The information in this article is not meant to replace advice from a veterinarian professional. Please consult your veterinarian for information on your specific dog.