Dogs come in all shapes, sizes, and energy levels. But, no matter how big or small, exercise is an essential part of raising a healthy pooch.
For some, a daily walk might be all it takes — especially if your dog has a yard to romp in. For others, it might take multiple walks, a play session or two, and even a trip to the park in order to keep them satisfied.
In order to help your pup live their best life, it’s important to figure out how much exercise they need.
“The typical guideline we aim for is about 30 minutes of exercise per day,” says Rebecca Greenstein, DVM, chief veterinarian and owner of Kleinburg Veterinary Hospital in Ontario, Canada.
However, the exact amount of activity that’s best for your dog depends on a number of factors.
If you have a low-to-mid energy breed, you might only have to take them on a morning walk to meet their needs. “However, some athletic or working dogs will require (and ask for!) significantly more activity and stimulation,” says Dr. Greenstein.
No matter what, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, (ASPCA), all breeds need some type of regular exercise.
Look for cues in your dog’s behavior. Are they chewing up your shoes? They could be letting out pent up energy. In fact, many behavioral issues are linked to exercise. An over-active pup trapped in an under-active environment can grow destructive.
Also think about your dog’s mood. It is easy to confuse a lazy dog with a depressed one. Does your dog lay around all day because they’re a couch potato, or is it because they’re lacking stimulation? Depression and lack of exercise often go hand-in-hand (for both dogs and people).
A dog who is can run around a yard all day needs less exercise than one that lives in an apartment building — if they use it, that is. If your dog just goes out to use the bathroom, the yard isn’t doing them any favors.
So it’s important to think about how your dog lives. Are they lazing on the couch most days, or are they up and playing? Identifying your dog’s day-to-day lifestyle can help you plan an appropriate exercise routine.
For a healthy and happy dog, it’s important to balance both diet and exercise. If your dog is overweight, you’re likely need to increase their activity level and decrease how much food they consume, says the ASPCA.
Some dogs (especially active ones) can control their hunger and only eat when hungry. However, many dogs will continuously eat throughout the day — often overeating. The link between boredom and lack of exercise can also contribute to overeating.
Be sure to measure out your dog’s food according to the weight and activity chart on the back the dog food label. This can help prevent overeating while ensuring your pup is getting the right amount of nutrition based on their activity level.
As your dog ages, their energy level tends to drop. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean they require less exercise. While you might trade your long runs through the park in for gentle laps on the trail, adequate exercise is still important, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA).
Try adapting the intensity of your dog’s exercise to accommodate for aging joints. Keeping your dog active is important for maintaining their lifelong mobility. Just be certain you aren’t pushing a growing or aging dog too hard, says the AKC.
“The most common challenge dog owners face is trying to find the time in their hectic schedules to meet their dog’s exercise needs,” says Greenstein. “I recommend breaking exercise time into shorter, more manageable intervals. Ten minutes of vigorous activity several times a day is an easy and practical strategy for most pet parents, and adds up to a healthier lifestyle.”
Above all, remember that your dog depends on you. It is up to you to keep them healthy and happy, so go the extra mile to meet their needs. They’ll surely return the favor in the form of endless kisses and years of companionship.