How much exercise does my dog need? – is one of the most common questions asked by dog owners. The right level of activity for your dog is something that needs to be paid close attention to at every stage of his life – from that exciting moment when you first decide to welcome your dog into your home, to when he reaches old age.
Surely, in the process of choosing a canine companion, you’re wondering: do different breeds have different exercise and activity needs? The short answer is yes. However, dogs are individualists, so there are differences between them even within the same breed. Dogs of calm breeds, with typically little activity, may surprise you with how much they like to play, while dogs of active breeds, which tend to have lots of energy, may be quieter than you expected.
As well as breeding, you should also consider your dog’s lifestyle and age. If you have an adult dog who has recently put on a lot of weight, this may be a sign that he is not getting enough exercise about his recommended calorie intake. However, if your older dog is no longer able to run or walk as fast as he once did, you may need to consider whether his usual form of exercise is too strenuous. And if you have a rambunctious puppy, you may be surprised to learn that even puppies can overdo the amount of exercise (although they probably don’t know it!). Remember that all dogs – regardless of breed or lack of, regardless of age, as well as location: whether city or country, garden or building – all dogs need exercise.
The most important thing is to adapt the amount of exercise your dog gets to his capacity and if in any doubt, to consult your vet.
MAN’S BEST FRIEND: FROM WORKING DOG TO COMPANION DOG
We sometimes forget that dogs have been with us for many thousands of years and are considered the first domesticated species.
For centuries, dogs have been bred to work alongside humans, herding or guarding livestock, helping to hunt and track game, participating in search and rescue operations, acting as guard dogs or helping to get from one place to another like sledge dogs, often in very difficult conditions. So, for thousands of years, dogs have led very active lives that are filled with physical exertion. Today, as a result of our increasingly urban, sedentary lifestyles, many dogs are companion dogs, spending a lot of time at home, waiting for their guardians to return. Even if your dog has taken a well-deserved retirement, he still has a natural, biological need for physical activity. Often, all it takes is a little encouragement and a pinch of enthusiasm on your part to get your pet active and provide the right amount of exercise.
ACTIVITY FOR EVERY BREED
Your canine friend’s exercise needs depend primarily on his age, health, breed and personality. The size of a dog is not necessarily a good indicator of a dog’s activity requirements. Furthermore, many people believe that small dogs do not need much exercise. This may be true for some small breeds such as the pinscher or chihuahua, but if you’ve ever seen a Jack Russell terrier or West Highland white terrier in action, you’ll know that small dogs can have an inexhaustible amount of energy.
As such, depending on the breed or group they belong to (working dogs, herding dogs, play dogs or companion dogs, and sporting or hunting dogs – to name a few), dogs tend to have higher or lower activity requirements. Most breeds fall into one of four categories: low-activity, moderate-activity, high-activity and hyperactive dogs. However, it is important to remember that these are general guidelines rather than hard and rigid rules. Regardless of breed, every dog has its personality and inclinations. So don’t assume that a play dog will always want to spend time with you on the sofa, while a working dog must necessarily be crazy about running. Try to come up with a recommended activity level for their needs and then pay attention to what they enjoy and can do. Here are some basic guidelines that may help you.
CALM OR LESS ACTIVE DOGS
Activity level: 1-3 hours a day, such as off-leash walking or sports that do not require much effort. Remember that although your dog may be happy with a fairly low level of activity, try to gradually increase the daily portion of the exercise, adding another 15 minutes of walking or play whenever possible.
Dogs in this category are usually played dogs, herding dogs and sometimes utility dogs.
Examples: bichon frise, cockapoo, Yorkshire terrier and miniature pinscher…
Low activity dogs typically:
- like short daily walks
- like to be picked up and carried when they get tired
- love to sleep
- have their vision of training
- tend to put on a little weight
- like to be petted, cuddled and stroked
- are very relaxed and calm
MODERATELY ACTIVE DOGS
Recommended exercise: 1-3 hours a day of playtime, for example, without a lead
Dogs in this category are usually terriers, performance dogs and sometimes hunting dogs
Some examples: Airedale terrier, Scottish terrier, cocker spaniel, English setter…
Moderately active dogs usually:
- should be walked 3 times a day
- are happy to be let off the lead
- fall asleep at home after an active walk
- love to be trained
- are confident but polite with strangers
VERY ACTIVE DOGS
Some so-called very high-activity dogs can play sports and be active even under extreme conditions. Train dogs, for example, are not intimidated by long distances, sometimes hundreds of kilometres, in very cold temperatures. These rather special dogs require a lot of exercises to maintain their physical and mental health.
Dogs in this category are usually working dogs.
Some examples: Siberian Husky, Canadian Eskimo dog…
Active dogs typically:
- are incredibly hardy
- need more mental stimulation
- can never have enough exercise
THE BENEFITS OF GIVING YOUR DOG THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF EXERCISE
Ensuring your dog gets enough exercise is essential for maintaining their optimal weight and wellbeing, but it is also important for mental health and feeling happy. Dogs, like humans, need to be able to release energy accumulated during the day, especially when they spend a lot of time indoors or alone in the house. Exercise is an important way to release this energy while stimulating the dog’s mind and preventing boredom. It is also important to provide your dog with different types of exercise and play, and for some breeds to provide opportunities for instinctive behaviour such as swimming, tracking, searching or using a highly developed sense of smell, sight or hearing. Physical activity also allows your dog to interact with other dogs, people and the natural environment, teaching them social skills.
HEALTH ISSUES AND PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
Not all physical activity is suitable for every breed of dog. For example, short-headed dogs, which have flat and broad skulls or shortened heads with flat snouts (e.g. cavalier king Charles spaniel, boxer, Shih Tzu, mops, bulldog), often have breathing problems that prevent them from exercising intensely. They are also very sensitive to overheating, which can be dangerous for them. Some dog breeds are particularly susceptible to arthritis or arthritis. Signs to look out for include lameness, panting or weakness. These breeds include German Shepherds, but also some dogs in the high activity group, such as German Shepherds and Labradors. Of course, if your dog suffers from joint disease, do not force him to jump. Instead, regular check-ups with your vet are essential, who will diagnose any health problems in your pet and advise on the most appropriate exercise regime.
ACTIVITY IS AN INDIVIDUAL MATTER FOR EACH DOG
In addition to your dog’s age, general health or breed, when it comes to physical activity, you should not forget your dog’s personality and inclinations. So if your dog seems determined to walk the kids to school every day, you might want to think about enrolling him in a dog sports class, and then he’ll get more exercise. And if, on the other hand, he can’t seem to get past a body of water (including your neighbour’s ornamental pond), perhaps you should think about signing him up for paddle boarding or dock diving. And it’s best if you try different forms of exercise with your pet at first to see what he enjoys most. You never know. Perhaps together you’ll discover that he enjoys playing outside and throwing a frisbee the most, or maybe you’ll find that you love it too! Remember, the most important thing is to adapt to your dog’s natural rhythm and for you to have fun together!
Remember that when choosing a dog, you should consider not only their exercise requirements but also your lifestyle – whether it will allow you to cater for your pet’s needs. If you are the athletic type for whom mountain climbing, walking or swimming are the daily bread, it is worth considering a high-energy dog who enjoys a more active lifestyle. On the other hand, if you prefer a leisurely walk around the block and still haven’t tried out the new running shoes you bought last year, it’s better to choose a dog with lower activity requirements.