Walking your dog is good—both for you and your dog. Walking your dog positively impacts physical and mental health by helping keep off extra weight, lower blood pressure, and provide a healthy dose of fresh air. But are you walking your dog enough?
Determining how often to walk a dog depends on several factors, including your pup’s breed, age, and energy level. And of course, it also depends on the amount of time you have to walk your dog.
Here’s how each of these factors weigh in when determining how often to walk a dog.
Different breeds have different exercise needs. Sporting or working breeds, such as Collies or Australian Shepherds, may have higher exercise requirements than those bred to be lap dogs, such as Yorkshire Terriers and Papillons.
But breed isn’t everything—individual preference comes into play too. For instance, some Basset Hounds can be natural athletes, whereas others prefer to stick to the couch. And dogs who are stressed, experience separation anxiety, or are known to be destructive may benefit from spending more time exercising.
Caution should be used when exercising or walking brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds such as Pugs or Boxers. These dogs tend to overheat more easily, and pet parents need to be vigilant for signs of heatstroke when walking them.
Most dogs can tolerate a daily 20–30-minute walk if they have a good body condition.
Your dog’s lifespan plays a big role in her walking needs. Younger dogs have more energy and, in general, will need more exercise than dogs who are middle-aged (5–8 years old) and seniors (9 years or older). But again, there are always exceptions to this rule.
Keep in mind that middle-aged and older dogs may have arthritis, muscle atrophy, or other diseases such as hypothyroidism or diabetes that lower their stamina. Mentally, they may be eager to go. But physically, they might not be able to keep up.
It’s important to look for signs that your dog is tiring on her walk and not push her beyond her physical limits. However, your veterinarian may also be able to help keep your pet performing at her best with joint supplements and other therapies as she ages.
Your Dog’s Exercise Tolerance
It’s important to consider your dog’s health when figuring out the appropriate amount to walk her. Most dogs can tolerate a daily 20–30-minute walk if they have a relatively good body condition. Dogs in great physical health can tolerate walks for up to two hours or go hiking for hours at a time. But it may be difficult for overweight or obese dogs to walk 10 minutes without taking multiple breaks or panting heavily due to exertion.
Take your dog for a walk and monitor her energy level. If she starts to slow down about 25–30 minutes into the walk, she may be getting tired. Instead of eagerly striding forward, she may start to pant more and take more interest in her surroundings (looking and sniffing around more).
Start to head on back home and monitor her pace going back. Does it slow down even more, or can she keep up the slower pace? If she continues to slow, it means she’s walked too far. Next time, your walk needs to be shorter because you have to account for the time it takes to walk back home.
Not only should you monitor how long it takes for your dog to slow down, but you also need to watch her behavior after the walk. If your dog drinks water and immediately crashes on her dog bed for hours, she may have overexerted herself. If your dog starts limping during the walk or after she has rested from a long walk, then she received too much exercise.
How to Build a Dog’s Exercise Tolerance
A dog’s tolerance for exercise can be increased as long as she’s healthy. Just like you wouldn’t join a marathon if you haven’t run in years, you should not expect your dog to walk, run, or hike for hours if she’s been living a sedentary lifestyle.
Take it easy and gradually increase the amount of exercise you give your dog week by week. By slowly building up her stamina and appropriately conditioning your dog’s body, you can avoid injury and pain.
People need at least 150 minutes of exercise per week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you strive to exercise your pet this much on weekly basis, that’s great! But we live busy lives and sometimes have really long workdays, and keeping up with regular exercise isn’t always possible.
If you’re struggling to walk your dog because of your schedule, try:
Hiring a dog walker
Aiming for a 10–15 minute walk a day
Substituting walks for playing in your yard
No matter the form of exercise, try to have your dog engage in at least 10–15 minutes of continuous activity every day. If you provide both physical and mental outlets for your pup, she will overall be healthier and mentally more well-balanced.
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