How much exercise does a dog need?

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  • How much exercise a dog needs all depends on the breed and the dog in question – and it’s different again for puppies. Every dog’s needs and breed traits are different, which is why you should always do your research before deciding on the breed best suited to your lifestyle. Choosing a suitable breed is definitely an important thing to consider before getting a puppy. It’s no good buying a Belgian Malinois if you live in a flat and are at work eight hours a day because you will come home to no flat and a wound-up biting machine.

    Is walking enough?

    This also depends on breed as well as your health, age and ability. If you’re in poor health and unable to walk at pace and distance then border collies, German Shepherds, Malinois, pointers, Hungarian Vizslas and most spaniels are not the breed for you. If you can walk at pace and distance, then you will find that these breeds will jog anyway to keep up, but that by no means equates to walking being enough.

    I believe that all dogs, no matter the breed and energy level, deserve time off their lead – be that in an enclosed field or a park or woods – providing their recall is adequate, and you can keep them under control. This allows dogs extra enrichment, particularly if they like to fetch a ball or frisbee, play scent games or just enjoy their environment, sniffing about and running free. This is one of the five needs of a dog – and it is your duty to provide it.

    Do dogs need to walk every day?

    Yes, unless they are elderly, and even then it is good to get them out even if it is just for 10 minutes. Not only does it relieve any boredom but it helps them maintain muscle and joint function, which in turn helps keep the joints and ligaments tight to prevent muscle wastage and losing strength in their back and back legs.

    Elderly dogs also benefit from hydrotherapy as the water takes the weight off painful or arthritic joints, particularly in the giant breeds. Even elderly dogs can develop behavioural issues or depression if they are staring at the same four walls or garden day in day out. The only other times to not walk would be when it is too hot to walk a dog and or when it’s too cold.

    Do dogs need to be walked twice a day?

    Again, this is breed dependent, lifestyle dependent. For some owners, their work requires that they be away for extended periods of time and if they cannot afford daycare or a dog walker, then it is wise to make sure that the dog has a good long solid walk and run first thing, with plenty of enrichment before they are left. They can then be walked again in the evening when the owner arrives home, either for the same length of time or longer, depending on the dog and its energy levels. A miniature dachshund will not require the same level of exercise as a border collie for example. You’ll also need to consider the time of year as your dog may not be able to go off the lead in the evening when it is dark.

    What can you do if you cannot go out to walk?

    This could be because of inclement weather, injury to yourself or other domestic factors. If you are fortunate enough to have a garden, no matter the size, and your dog likes playing fetch (not all dogs do) then throwing a ball for them for half an hour is the equivalent of an hour’s walk. If they have no interest in balls or frisbees but are food motivated, try hiding things around the garden for them to find. Invest in a sandpit (like this one on Amazon) to allow them to dig and find their favourite things you have buried.

    Urbn Toys Plastic Sandpit
    This plastic sandpit is popular with dog owners.

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    There are some toys on the market that you can train your dog to use such as the best automatic ball launchers. Most have settings for indoor and outdoor use and have an automatic shut down after 30 minutes to allow the more obsessed dog to rest. I have one and I have to say they are a great invention.

    All For Paws Automatic Launcher
    Available in two sizes for different sizes of dogs, each has three different throwing distances.

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    There are dog puzzle toys you can purchase, but even doing basic training indoors or in the garden is positive stimuli that works the dog’s brain and drains their energy, too. You can train the most basic obedience through to the higher end obedience and dog tricks.

    Nina Ottosson Puzzle Toys
    There are loads of puzzle toys options with varying levels of difficulty to suit your dog.

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    All these are great tools to use should you find yourself housebound. Some owners have even invested in treadmills and trained their dogs to walk and run on them. Another important note to mention is that sometimes it is good for a dog, like us, to do nothing, especially on roasting hot days or bitterly cold days, dogs love you and your company and are sometimes more than happy to have a sofa day with you instead of you fretting that they have not had exercise, enrichment or training. It is OK to do nothing sometimes.

    Dog breeds with high exercise requirements

    Here are some of the dog breeds I feel need the most exercise and the least – but this list is by no means exhaustive and the personality of the dogs also has a massive part to play in how much exercise they’ll need each day.

    Dog breeds with low exercise requirements

    These breeds usually have lower exercise requirements, but it’s important to remember that there will be variation within each breed.

    • Basset Hounds
    • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
    • Chihuahua
    • Corgis
    • Dachshunds
    • Dogue Du Bordeaux
    • English Bulldog
    • French Bulldog
    • Great Dane
    • Greyhound and most other sighthounds
    • Italian Greyhound
    • Italian Spinone
    • Lhasa Apso
    • Maltese
    • Newfoundland
    • Pomeranian
    • Pug
    • Shih Tzu
    • West Highland Terrier

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