6 Signs Your Dog Isn’t Getting Enough Exercise

Sandra C. Mitchell, DVM, DABVP
Vet Reviewed
By Sandra C. Mitchell, DVM, DABVP on May. 9, 2023
6 Signs Your Dog Isn’t Getting Enough Exercise

You worry about whether you get enough exercise—and even made a New Year’s resolution to work out more. (Did you keep it? Whoops!) But have you thought about whether your dog is getting enough exercise? Lack of exercise in dogs can cause everything from health problems to behavioral changes.

Read on to see if perhaps your dog is showing signs of needing a new exercise plan.

Sign 1: Weight Gain

To keep your dog healthy, try to follow the general concept we humans have learned: “calories in minus calories out equals weight gain or loss.”More calories eaten than burned causes weight gain, while the opposite leads to weight loss. If your dog has been getting a bit plump lately, it may be an indication that more exercise (calories out) is needed. Just like with people, most dogs lose weight best through an approach involving diet and exercise combined. Chat with your vet about what diet tweaks you might want to consider while you are also increasing daily walks, play breaks, and general activity.

Sign 2: Destroying the House

Behavioral problems, and especially destructive behavior, are commonly a result of not getting enough exercise. Many dogs, especially high-energy breeds, become bored and frustrated if they don’t get enough outdoor exercise and mental stimulation. If your dog is starting to chew things around the house, scratch or dig at doors, or raid the kitchen or trash can, the problem might be not enough exercise! Letting your pup release that pent-up energy with a brisk run, long walk with lots of sniff breaks, or a good game of Frisbee® at least once a day may be the only treatment needed.

Sign 3: Withdrawn Behavior

Some dogs will become very withdrawn and depressed when they are lacking in mental and physical stimulation. These dogs are more reluctant to engage with their human family and might need to get outside and moving to become more involved. However, this can also be a sign of illness, so consult your veterinarian if you are seeing this as a symptom. In particular, thyroid dysfunction can make a dog seem more sluggish.

Sign 4: Hyperactivity

Dogs that are hyperactive and those that show poor manners are often exercise-deficient. This is commonly seen in young dogs and dogs from energetic breeds. A personality trait of these pooches is that they have so much drive and energy! If their energy is not used in a productive fashion, it will be used for naughtiness. Many of these dogs can get themselves into trouble, eat and destroy things they shouldn’t, and have the attention span of a gnat. These pooches are begging for interactive exercise time.

Sign 5: Excessive Barking or Whining

Dogs that are restless and bark or whine a lot are the vocal versions of sign #4—they are just telling you that they need more exercise. Once again, these dogs feel the need to be doing something—and they know that what they want likely lies outdoors. On top of this, they want to be doing it with their people! So they are communicating in the best way they know—by barking or whining. Regular outdoor play periods are often the cure to this behavior issue.

Sign 6: Stiffness

Just like with people, a sedentary lifestyle—especially in older dogs—leads to muscle loss and stiff and painful joints. Daily exercise helps to maintain muscle tone as well as keep tendons and ligaments loose and ready for use. If your dog is having trouble with stairs or jumping, touch base with your veterinarian to see if a health problem such as arthritis is involved. But even if it is, a daily exercise plan will go a very long way to keeping your dog more limber and able to get around. Just make sure to add in exercise at a pace that is comfortable for your senior and does not do anything that makes matters worse. Many of these dogs benefit from swimming and light walks.

Easy Ways To Give Your Dog More Daily Exercise

All dogs need exercise every day, but some dogs need even more. A daily walk may well suffice for a middle-aged dog that is calm and settled, but young dogs and high-energy breeds need more—sometimes much, more. Some breeds will require several hours of exercise each and every day—a huge commitment—so be sure to research the energy level of the dog you are interested in bringing into your home…before you do it!

For most dogs, simply turning them out in a yard (no matter how large) isn’t really what would be considered “exercise.” So what are some easy things you might consider?

  • Play ball or Frisbee every day with your dog. Getting them running and chasing something across the yard is ideal for burning that extra energy they have to expend.

  • Take up bicycling or running, and bring your dog with you. Just make sure you are biking safely with your dog. The increased speed of these activities exercises your dog—and you get the benefit of a workout, too!

  • Find an area where your dog can safely swim off leash—and bring along some floating toys that can be thrown out into the water for them to retrieve for even more exercise and fun!

  • Take daily trips to the dog park, where the dogs can tire each other out!

  • Consider a doggie daycare program, where the staff will exercise your dog and send them home tired in the evening when you get done from work.

Some cautions are in order with dogs starting an exercise program. Much like with people, it is wise to consult with your dog’s veterinarian before starting a new protocol. But as a rule, young healthy dogs will likely be able to dive right into most exercise programs. If they are overweight, however, combining careful weight loss with gradually increasing exercise is likely recommended.

And if your dog is a brachycephalic (super short-nosed) breed, such as Pug, Bulldog or Boxer, you will want to schedule your exercise time early in the morning or late in the day when it’s cooler, and plan to stop if your pup shows any difficulty breathing. Older dogs may need to work slowly into an exercise program to strengthen muscles or joints that have worn down over time. If your dog has any medical problems, be sure to consult with your veterinarian before starting an exercise plan.

However, for most healthy dogs, as long as they are having fun and engaged in the activity, it is likely safe to keep going. And what is even better, you’ll probably get some exercise, too! The icing on the cake is that you both will have fun in the process.

Featured Image: Adobe/Soloviova Liudmyla


Sandra C. Mitchell, DVM, DABVP
Vet Reviewed

WRITTEN BY

Sandra C. Mitchell, DVM, DABVP

Veterinarian

Sandra Mitchell is a 1995 graduate of the New York State College of Veterinary Medicine. Since graduation, she has worked in many fields...


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