How Much Exercise Does My Dog Need?
Great question! Let’s take a look at how much exercise your dog needs and how you can fulfill that need.
One of the first things I will ask a client when I first meet with them is how much exercise their dog gets? Regardless of the reason I am there (from house training to behaviour modification), exercise is important. It is rare that the dog is getting sufficient exercise and in some cases the dog is getting no exercise at all. Unless your dog has medical issues preventing them from being exercised, chances are you could up their activity level, in turn you will have a happier, healthier, and more well behaved dog (and you will be happier and healthier too)! Having said that, while exercise is important, there is a need for balance. Some dogs even with tons of exercise are still hyper and crazy at home. The answer to that issue is not more exercise but teaching the dog to relax once given adequate exercise. Balanced training is about creating balance as a whole not just in our methods. We will talk more about the teaching calm side of things in on another blog post, but for now lets talk about exercise!
So how do you know if your dog is getting sufficient exercise? There are some important factors that come into play when figuring out how much exercise your dog needs to be fulfilled. Age, size, and health are all important and a little more obvious. However, usually people forget breed, energy level and the individual dog you have in front of you. If you already have the dog (versus in the process of choosing the right dog for you), then it is too late to take into consideration these factors. You need to work with what you have and take responsibility for owning the dog you got. If you are in the process of choosing a dog, do your homework to ensure you are picking the right dog for your lifestyle.
So first thing is first, lets set a foundation for the bare minimum amount of exercise needed for almost any dog. Regardless of age, size, breed, energy level (with the exception of health issues), every dog needs two walks a day. YES YOU READ THAT RIGHT, TWO WALKS A DAY. Start with two 20 minute walks a day and we will go from there. If you live on your own then you will need to find an extra (at minimum) 40 minutes in your day to walk your dog. If you have others living in the house, you can delegate walking duties to everyone in the house. It is not hard to find an extra 20 minutes each day to walk your dog. Your dog and your own personal health will benefit from it. No excuses!
So now lets talk about breed. Naturally some breeds are higher energy than others. Take for instance a Jack Russell Terrier, versus an Old English Bulldog. Both small dogs, with two VERY different energy levels. If you have a large dog you can look at an English Mastiff versus a German Shepherd. Again, two VERY different energy levels. If you have a breed that is considered high energy, you will need to add more time to those two daily walks. You are looking at a minimum of two 30-45 minute walks per day.
The next component we will look at is the individual dog. While you can get low energy JRTs or German Sheperds, they are not the rule they are the exception. And same can go for the the typically low energy dogs, you could in fact end up with one that has higher energy. So if you have a lower energy German Shepherd, then two 30 minute walks per day might be enough. However, if you have a high energy German Shepherd, two 30 minute walks might not be enough. Take an honest look at your dog’s energy level and go from there.
Now that we have addressed the foundation, breed, and individual dog, we need to address what constitutes as exercise. Obviously we are big believers in walking as a main source of exercise. However, that is not the only way to exercise your dog. We promote playing with your dog (fetch or tug are great ways to play), off leash hiking and exploring (only if your dog is trained to be off leash and in a safe place to do so), swimming (we have some great beaches and watering holes in and around Hamilton), and busy work (there are lots of toys that your dog can play with to physically and mentally exercise). Notice I did not say “backyard time” as a form of exercise? Unfortunately throwing your dog out in the yard does not count. While you can do that, it does not replace exercise.
How do you know if you need to increase your dog’s exercise? Is your dog constantly looking for something to do? Are they barking excessively for “no reason”? Are they overly demanding for attenion? Do they try to run out the door any opportunity they get? When you do take them out are they crazy and overly excited? Are they fat? Are they digging in the yard? Are they acting out on days they don’t get exercised? Do they run out the house endlessly, driving you crazy? If you said yes to any or all of these then chances are you could increase your dog’s exercise and while I cannot guarantee it will fix all your problems it is a good place to start!
So if you are struggling with your dog and want help with training, first you need to fulfill the dog with mental and physical exercise then we can train!