By Wag! Staff
Published: 03/01/2023, edited: 03/10/2023
You already know that your dog needs regular exercise, potty breaks, and a chance to interact with other people and dogs. But if you're not blessed with a fenced yard where your pup can relieve themself and get at least a little run time, getting them outside can sometimes be challenging.
Whether you're frequently busy with family and work, an apartment dweller without free access to a yard, or are just curious as to how many walks your dog should be having, we'll explore why it's important to work in walks and exercise time that can help keep your dog physically and mentally happy.
So, why are walks so great?
As a doting pet parent, you want the best for your furbaby. Regular exercise is one of the best things you can provide your pup as it is vital for their well-being. Let’s dive into why walks are especially important.
Exercise can help prevent obesity or help your dog shed unwanted pounds. But there are more health benefits to walking besides weight reduction or maintenance. Your dog's cardiovascular and digestive systems will both work better with regular walks, and you can improve joint health and reduce the impact of arthritis, too.
Your dog needs variety to stay mentally alert, and letting them visit new places and see new things is a “grrreat” way to do that. Walking also improves mental health and reduces unwanted behaviors like chewing, digging, whining, and unnecessary barking.
Seeing other people and dogs and learning how to appropriately respond to various situations can help your dog become an outstanding family member and doggy citizen. Going on walks can present your dog with many learning experiences and help them feel more comfortable in a variety of environments, including the dog park.
According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, more than half of the dogs in the US are either overweight or obese. Much like with humans, the health risks associated with excess weight are many: diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, kidney disease, and a reduced lifespan, to name just a few. What's making our beloved dogs pack on the pounds? While overfeeding has a huge impact, the lack of exercise is a big factor as well.
Your dog likely requires more exercise than you're giving them—but how do you know how much they really need? These are some of the factors to consider.
Puppies need to go out a lot—not only do they have plenty of energy, but they’re also in the process of learning proper bathroom habits. Older dogs may need to eliminate more frequently as well. We’ll take a closer look at the exercise needs of dogs at different life stages later on.
Active breeds, particularly those with genetic backgrounds as working dogs, will need more exercise than couch puptatoes. Certain physical features will also dictate how much a dog needs to be walked. For example, small dogs have small bladders and will need to go more often; brachycephalic breeds may only be able to do short walks as they are prone to obstructive breathing due to the shape of their head.
If your pooch has a health issue such as arthritis, obesity, or a heart condition, then they will find long, strenuous walks challenging. Your vet can help you come up with an exercise plan that’s safe and suitable for your furbaby.
Answer: Depends on age
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to the exercise requirements of puppies; how much you should walk your little one will largely depend on their age. Generally, the younger they are, the less exercise they need. You can calculate the amount by multiplying 5 minutes of walking for each month of age. For example, a 4-month-old puppy can walk 20 minutes per day, ideally spread over multiple sessions. Follow this guide until they are fully grown or can handle more strenuous activity.
Since your puppy’s growing bones and joints are prone to damage and injury, be sure not to overexert them; keep their walks short both in terms of time and distance. Protect your pup by starting out nice and easy, building up gradually, and taking frequent breaks.
Answer: Depends on breed and energy level
Adult dogs can go on longer walks than puppies, but how much exercise they should get will depend on their breed, energy level, and individual personality. If your dog is out of shape, start with a 10- to 15-minute walk. As long as they don't have any health problems, you can slowly increase the length of the walk and take them out twice a day. You can even add a couple of extra walks if you have the time; most adult dogs can go on three to four 15-minute walks per day.Note that shorter walks will do for small breeds such as Chihuahuas and Yorkshire Terriers, since they need to take more steps to cover the same distance as bigger dogs. Meanwhile, high-energy breeds such as Border Collies and Australian Shepherds will require at least 2 hours of intense activity each day.
Answer: 20 minutes to 1 hour per day
Senior dogs need shorter walks than adult dogs as they typically have less energy and limited mobility. Senior dogs can generally handle one to two 20- to 30-minute walks per day, or more if they’re willing and able. Walking is a great way to keep your older pooch physically and mentally fit.
Protect your older dog’s joints and muscles when you’re out and about by maintaining a nice walking pace and sticking to flat and softer surfaces like grass.
The best time to walk your dog will depend on a number of factors, including their age, breed, and where you live. For example, mornings are great for dogs who need to go as soon as they get up, while evenings are suitable for social canines who like to meet other people and dogs. If you live in an area with cold winters and your pup is sensitive to the weather, it would be a good idea to go out in the afternoon. If you have an anxious companion, they may prefer quiet nighttime walks.
Each time of day has its pros and cons, and only you can determine what’s best for you and your pup. For more information, check out When is the Best Time to Walk Your Dog?.
Walking is a “furrific” low-impact exercise that’s suitable for dogs of all shapes and sizes. That being said, every dog is different and has their own exercise limits. Never force your pup to go beyond their limits and always watch for signs of exhaustion.
Overexertion can lead to paw pad damage, heat exhaustion, sore muscles, and injuries. Be sure to stop the walk and give your dog a breather if they’re clearly tired. Then, go home and make the subsequent walks shorter.
Signs that your dog is getting too tired include:
As mentioned above, walking benefits your four-legged friend in many ways. But we also get that life happens—whether it’s a busy work schedule, disability, illness, or something else, there will probably be days when you won’t be able to take your pup outside. So what are some of the other ways to ensure your beloved pooch is getting enough exercise?
Puzzle toys and games not only work your dog’s muscles but also their nose and brain. You can purchase these interactive toys online and in pet stores, or make your own using ordinary household items such as cups and toilet paper rolls.
You don’t have to venture far to exercise your pup. Letting them run up and down the stairs a few times can help build muscle, though it’s important not to push them too hard. Other fun indoor activities to get your dog moving include nose work, agility, and indoor games.
Whether it’s teaching your dog something new or brushing up on old commands, training provides mental exercise, which can be just as tiring or even more tiring than physical activity. Plus some tricks require your dog to move around a lot, helping them get the wiggles out.
Sometimes, there just isn’t enough time in the day and you could use a helping paw. Hiring a dog walker is a great option for busy pet parents to make sure your furbaby’s needs are met.
If you’re not able to fit your pup’s walk into your day, book a local dog walker with Wag! to keep them active!
© 2023 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.
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© 2023 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.
Download the Wag! app