Regular exercise is essential to stay healthy and fit. Dogs are no exception to this. Exercise is just one of your dog's basic needs. Life gets busy, so many of us forget to give our dogs the exercise they need.
How Much Exercise Do Dogs Need?
In general, most dogs should get one to two hours of exercise daily to help keep them healthy. Your dog may need more or less depending on age, breed, and tolerance. A senior Shih Tzu may just want to loaf around on the sofa while an adult Border Collie, Rhodesian ridgeback, or Bluetick Coonhound might be doing agility for four hours a day and still want more. No two dogs are the same, so discovering your dog’s exercise needs may require some trial and error. When in doubt, give your dog as much exercise as she wants, but be careful not to overdo it.
If you are starting a new exercise program for your dog, make sure to start slowly and let your dog build up endurance and tolerance to the exercise. Watch for signs of exhaustion such as heavy panting, wheezing, lameness, disorientation, and slowing or stopping to lie down during activities. Avoid outdoor activities on very hot days, and be sure your dog has access to fresh, cool water at all times. Stop or reduce exercise if your dog seems tired, achy or disinterested in exercise. Contact your vet if you notice any signs of illness during or after exercise.
What Kind of Exercise Is Best for My Dog?
There are many activities you can do with your dog while exercising at the same time. Some activities provide more exercise for your dog than for you but are still a fun way to bond. Play fetch with a ball or disc, visit the dog park. Do you want your dog to get involved in dog sports? Agility, flyball, and herding competitions are great places to start.
- 01 of 07
Walking is the classic form of exercise we tend to give our dogs. But that's okay, most dogs love to walk!
In addition to getting some exercise, a walk is a great way for your dog to explore the world with her nose. Don't rush it. Let your dog her take the time to sniff around during the walk. Try to take a different route every so often so your dog will get to see and smell new things.
- 02 of 07
Running is a great form of exercise for some dogs. Not all dogs can tolerate this type of exercise, but some dogs simply can't get enough!
Running with your dog can be made easier when you use a hands-free leash. Off-leash running is not usually a good idea for safety and legal reasons. However, it may be considered if your dog has a truly reliable recall and local laws allow off-leash dogs.
When you first begin running with your dog, make sure to start slowly and work your way up to higher speeds and longer distances. Avoid running in hot temperatures, especially on hot asphalt as it can burn paws). Check-in with your dog regularly to monitor his exercise tolerance and take breaks as needed. Bring plenty of water along on runs.
- 03 of 07
Not every dog is built to run alongside your bike. This can be dangerous in some cases (for you and your dog). However, riding a bike with your dog can be fun if you do it right.
The most important thing is to start slowly. Let your dog get used to the bike. Next, let her acclimate to running and keeping up with you. Ride as slowly as possible at first and avoid a lot of twists and turns. Your dog should always be leashed, so you may want to find a good bicycle attachment so you won't have to hold your dog's leash.
- 04 of 07
If you love nature and you love dogs, then hiking with your dog might be perfect for you. Hiking gives your dog a chance to explore the world on a deeper level than a simple walk.
When you first begin hiking with your dog, start with short day hikes on a cooler day. Avoid difficult trails with a lot of rough terrain until your dog gets used to easy to moderate hikes and will be more sure-footed.
Bring plenty of water along. Your dog might even take her own backpack; just make sure it's well-balanced and not too heavy.
- 05 of 07
Contrary to popular belief, not all dogs know how to swim. Other dogs simply don't like to swim. But if you have a water dog, you know it. Let that dog swim! You can incorporate the game of fetch with swimming to make it even more fun. Just remember these water safety tips.
If your dog doesn't mind the water but also cannot swim, you can still teach her. Start with a doggie lifejacket and shallow water until she gets the hang of it. If she likes the water, it won't be long before she is fine on her own. If she doesn't like the water, don't push it. She might just be a land lover.
- 06 of 07
There are many fun games you can play with your dog, some of which will provide some exercise too. Fetch, hide-and-seek and tug of war all provide moderate exercise for your dog and light exercise for you.
- 07 of 07
There are many exciting dog sports out there these days, and new ones seem to be surfacing often. Sports like agility and canine freestyle will offer some light to moderate exercise for you in addition to giving your dog a great workout.
To get started in a dog sport, do some research to find the ones that might be right for your dog. Then, look for classes in your area that will help you and your dog learn the sport.
Check with your vet before starting any type of exercise regimen for your dog.
When exercising with your dog, let her set the pace. Take breaks for water and rest. Avoid exercising in hot temperatures, especially with dogs that have shorter muzzles (such as Bulldogs or Pugs), senior dogs, and dogs with health conditions.
No matter what type of dog you have, watch for signs of exhaustion, illness or injury. When in doubt, stop exercising and head home.
Also, be aware of your surroundings when exercising with your dog. The presence of other dogs or people may create a dangerous distraction, especially if your dog is off-leash.