Every dog needs plenty of exercise to stay fit and healthy. When walking, dogs can use up their energy and meet other dogs allowing them to learn to socialize. Moreover, a dog produces endorphins through exercise, which makes it feel happy and cheerful. But how much exercise does a dog need? The answer to this question depends on the dog's age, breed and general health. A dog in the prime of life needs more exercise than an older dog.
How much exercise does a puppy need?
A young puppy cannot handle a long walk, as it can cause joint problems to develop. This can bother the dogs throughout their lives, so don't let your puppy out too long. You should also be careful with wild games, such as catch. It is also important that dogs do not slip in the house or on the ice. When they are small, it is useful to place old carpets on smooth floors. They may not look beautiful in the house but it is only temporary. Once the dog’s joints are fully grown - and less vulnerable - you can remove everything.
The general rule is that a puppy is allowed to 'mess around' for 5 minutes a day per week of life. For a 10-week-old puppy, that's less than an hour a day. Make sure your puppy gets plenty of rest to recover.
How much exercise does an adult dog need?
An adult dog in the prime of life (generally from 1 and up to about 7 years of age) should preferably be walked four times a day spread throughout the day. It doesn’t have to be four long walks but four 5 to 10 minute walks are not enough for a dog. Especially if part of the walk is walked on a leash without the dog being able to run free. It is important that the dog is let out for at least half an hour (an hour is better) once a day. Depending on the breed, the dog may need to be walked more often or longer. But there are also very quiet dog breeds that would rather be lazy than tired.
How do you know if you do not exercise enough with your dog?
If your dog is constantly busy at home and cannot sit quietly for a minute, chances are that your dog is not getting enough exercise. If dogs get enough exercise outside, they are a lot calmer inside. Or if a dog starts barking a lot indoors, it could indicate boredom. A remedy for this is to exercise more with your dog. Dogs that do not exercise enough are much more likely to be overweight. If your dog is too fat, it may need to exercise more.
How do you know if you are exercising too much with your dog?
A dog should be able to get up easily after your walk or play session. If your dog is stiff or limping, or not getting up easily from a lying position, you should keep an eye on it. Stiffness almost always indicates joint pain. A dog doesn't really know muscle pain or soreness from exercise, at least it shouldn't know it.
Are there any alternatives to walking?
Instead of walking you can also go cycling with your dog. You can start cycling when the dog is about 9 months old. Build this up slowly so that the dog can build up its strength and the muscles and tendons have the opportunity to adapt. Just think about yourself. Are you able to run 5 or 10 kilometers in one go? So is your dog. Be careful when cycling in warm weather. A dog can easily overheat.
What if my dog is limping?
If your dog is limping after a long walk, you can adjust in the following days. It is better to start walking a little more often but in shorter sessions. Preferably, a short 10-minute walk 4 times a day, then half an hour once. The limping should go away on its own. If it persists for more than three days, a visit to the vet is wise.
How much should I exercise with an older dog?
In older dogs, you need to adjust the amount of exercise. The moment at which you do this often differs depending on the breed. You could also make the dog move differently. For example, an older dog can still swim just fine because swimming is the least stressful activity for the joints. Too little exercise can lead to obesity but also to all kinds of behavioral problems such as indoor hyperactivity and boredom. Yes, you read that right. Dogs can also get very bored, causing them to bark or break things, for example. It may sound crazy, but dogs love to play games, even when they are old. If your older dog is not able to walk for long stretches of time, you may want to play some more mental games.