The level of exercise your adult dog needs is largely influenced by breed. Things to consider are energy levels, size, physical limitations, mental stimulation, etc. Your dog needs anywhere from 30 minutes up to 2 hours of exercise every day depending on their breed.
Below is a bar chart of recommended minutes per day of exercise for 9 different dog groups. You will find a listing of specific dog breeds in each group.
How Much Exercise Does a Dog Need Every Day Based on Breed
If you are uncertain of your dogs’ breed, then see if you can find a match in the descriptions. Or go to the American Kennel Club for a list of dog breeds with photos for most breeds.
Use the information as a guideline when it comes to exercising your dog. What is more important is to recognize when your dog is struggling and give him or her a break. Or even better, know your dog so well that you stop before your dog is overworked.
Energy Levels & Exercise Needs by Dog Group
There are extremely active dogs and low activity dogs. If you adopted, you should have a breed specified on your paperwork. Hopefully, the shelter or rescue got close to the correct breed(s).
Dog Breeds with High Exercise Needs
Dog Breeds in the Sporting Group
These dogs were bred to flush game birds in forests and retrieve them from the water. So taking then for hikes through the woods or swimming would be fantastic for them.
Because of their use by hunters, they are people-oriented and take well to training. This makes them some of the best family dogs because of how friendly they are.
They are described as alert and active, as well as intelligent. I would add that they can be highly energetic and playful.
Sporting dogs can handle long and brisk walks, which is a great way to burn off their energy. Also consider long hikes on forest trails, swimming. and playing fetch (especially for retrievers).
On a personal note, I enjoy hiking, camping, and swimming. My next dog will be a retriever who can accompany me on all my outdoor activities. I love my Staffordshire Terrier but he hates the water and he gets tuckered out rather easily. He doesn’t seem to enjoy camping.
Examples: (pointers, retrievers, setters, and spaniels)
Pointers: German Shorthaired, German Wirehaired, Weimaraner, Pointer
Retrievers: Golden, Labrador, Nova Scotia, Visla
Setters: English, Gordon, Irish Red & White, Irish
Spaniels: Boykin, Cocker, English, Irish Water, Sussex, Welsh
Daily exercise: These dogs need 60-120 minutes of exercise per day. Moderate to high activity is recommended for these dog breeds.
Dog Breeds in the Working Group
Energy levels for working dogs are best described as long and steady. A lot of descriptions for these dogs mention pulling sleds and carts. I guess so if you live on a farm or where there is a lot of snow throughout the year.
Some other jobs for working dogs are as a guard dog and in water and alpine rescue situations. They are happy when you give them a job to do.
If I had a working dog, I would have him drag me around on a sled after a snowstorm. I wouldn’t have to dig out my car to go to the store. A former client of mine has a retired dog sled husky. She would hook him up to a dog sled after it snowed and give the neighborhood kids a ride.
So having them guard your front door or pull children in a sled or wagon is a good job. Though they are not the best dogs for families or first-time dog owners.
Some can be on the big size and are hard to handle. Like sporting dogs, they take well to training which is good since you definitely need to train them They are fearless and can be overprotective of family members. That could be a problem when you have guests.
If you take them hiking, give them a vest to carry some gear. It will lighten your load and they will enjoy doing the work.
Akita, Alaskan Malamute, Bernese Mountain dog, Boxer, Bullmastiff, Doberman & German Pinscher, Standard & Giant Schnauzer, Great Dane, Newfoundland, Portuguese Water dog, Rottweiler, Saint Bernard, Siberian Husky
Daily exercise: These dogs need 60-120 minutes of exercise per day. Moderate activities like hiking would be a good choice. Avoid running and high-intensity exercise.
Dog Breeds in the Herding Group
Herding dogs were bred to move livestock which can be seen in the names sheepdogs and shepherds (“sheep” + “herd”). They herd animals by running around them, barking, nipping their heels, or my favorite, using strong eye contact.
But in a non-farm environment, they will tend to herd people, especially children. If you see them circling children, you need to intervene to make sure they don’t nip their heels (seriously).
They enjoy mentally and physically demanding exercise and play, as they are very intelligent dogs with high energy levels. Physical and mental stimulation is required for herding breeds. Like working dogs, they are happy when they have “work” to do.
Training is easy with this group of dogs. Once trained, they obey orders easily. They are very good with other dogs and with people they know, but they tend to be suspicious of strangers.
German Shepherds are notably versatile. They are used as an assistance dog for people with disabilities, and for work with the police, in rescue and drug or explosives detection. Quite a resume!
Examples: (sheepdogs, collies, and shepherds)
Sheepdogs: Belgium, Old English, Shetland, Welsh Corgi
Collies: Border, Bearded, Shetland, Rough Collie
Shepherds: Australian, German, Belgian
Daily exercise: These dogs need 60-120 minutes per day with at least 60-90-minutes of vigorous exercise. Try using a Chuckit ball launcher or a Frisbee to give them intense exercise.
Dog Breeds in the Terrier Group
Terriers were bred to chase or dig out game such as rats, stoats, foxes, and even birds. They are very tenacious and want to attack, bite or even kill that which they hunt. I had a Jack Russell bite me on my hand and my cheek. Thankfully, not seriously.
They remind me of Honey Badgers – small animals not afraid to attack lions. Terriers will attack bigger dogs or really anything that they want to attack. It’s not advisable to adopt a terrier if you already have a dog, have cats or small children.
Also, don’t adopt a terrier is you have a garden that you love. They love to dig. Unless you have vermin eating your vegetables then let them loose and you won’t have vermin for long.
But not every breed is that feisty. I have a Staffordshire Terrier (small pit bull) who is afraid of my cats. He wouldn’t attack anything. Westies and Yorkies are totally fine. As I mentioned, Jack Russell’s can be aggressive as can Schnauzers.
But let’s assume you already have a terrier and can handle him or her. Exercise for these dogs would involve chasing a ball, especially a squeaky ball.
Terriers are difficult to train because of how feisty they are. They have a mind of their own and a strong will.
Airedale terrier, American Staffordshire, Australian, Border, Bull, Beddington, Cesky, Cairn, Dandle Dinmont, Irish, Jack Russell, Lakeland, Manchester, Norfolk, Scottish, Westie, Welsh, Yorkshire
Daily exercise: These dogs need 60-90 minutes with 30 minutes or so of moderate to intense play.
Dog Breeds in the (Scent) Hound Group
All hounds were bred to locate and chase game animals. As a result, keep them on a leash or in an enclosed area or they will take off.
Scent hounds are sturdy & tough, being able to follow a scent for miles. They do not move as fast as their sighthound cousins, but they won’t stop following a scent. This makes them great for hunting and as search dogs.
By the way, those long floppy ears are what helps guide scents to their noses. Hiding treats would be a great exercise for these dogs.
Some hounds make a unique sound known as baying. Baying is a combination of barking and howling. If you can’t imagine the sound of baying, just think of any movie or TV show where dogs are being used to find someone.
They make excellent pets and are great with children.
Beagle, Bloodhound, Basset, Coonhounds, Elkhounds, Fox, American Foxhound, Austrian Black & Tan, Beagle-Harrier, Hungarian, Serbian.
Daily exercise: These dogs need 60-90 minutes of exercise per day, moderate to intense activity. Long hikes would be no problem for these dogs. The exception to that would be the Basset Hound which has more moderate exercise needs.
These Dog Breeds Have Medium to Low Exercise Needs
You will see breeds repeated in this section. There are breeds in the brachycephalic, toy and large dog groups that are members of the other dog groups.
Also, given the low amount of recommended activity for these dogs, make sure to watch their weight. Don’t overfeed them.
Brachycephalic Dog Breeds
Brachycephalic, or short-nosed & flat-faced dogs, were bred to have shorter snouts either for fighting reasons or because it made them appear more human. The shorter snouts may result in stronger jaws, and do look really cute.
They have a hard time breathing and can easily overheat, collapse and suffer heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Actually, these dogs have a number of health issues. For more information, take a look at a great article called Brachycephalic Health on the UK Kennel Club website.
But don’t let their health issues prevent you from adopting one of these dogs. I’ve walked almost every one of the specific breeds mentioned below and they are fantastic dogs. My personal favorites are King Charles Cavalier and Shih Tzu.
Exercise for these dogs should be moderate and in short amounts. Also, avoid exercise in hot weather. Even though they have health concerns, they still need to get exercise since they are prone to obesity. Either take longer walks in the morning or try indoor exercise when it is hot outside.
American Bulldog, Boston Terrier, Boxer, Brussels Griffon. Bull Mastiff, English & French bulldogs, King Charles Cavalier, Lhasa Apso, Pugs, Shih Tzu
Daily exercise: These dogs need 20-30 minutes of exercise per day. Take it easy on these guys and gals. Simple short walks are ideal with maybe some brief indoor play when the weather is bad. Also, use a harness rather than a collar which could further restrict their breathing.
Dog Breeds in the Toy (or Small Dog) Group
If Brachycephalic dogs were bred because they looked like babies, then these dogs were bred to be super cute lap dogs.
The majority of toy breeds are great for training, though some can be more difficult to train. You may need to train them to stop their barking and nipping.
They are great if you live in a small apartment or if you are a first-time dog owner, though you may need to train them to not bark so much. You will hear it from your neighbors if they are constantly yapping.
Given their size, they are fearful and, as a result, will want to constantly be by your side. They love the constant attention. Even though they can be prone to injury, these little dogs can also be quite tough for their size.
You’d be surprised how fast and far they can walk. And if they get tired, you can simply pick them up and carry them home.
Bichon Frise, Brussels Griffon, Chihuahua, Italian Greyhound, King Charles Cavalier, Lhasa Apso, Maltese, Miniature Pinscher, Pekinese, Pomeranian, Toy Fox Terrier, Shih Tzu, Silky Terrier, Yorkie
Daily exercise: These dogs need 30-60 minutes per day of moderate exercise. Because of their size, they can be exercised inside a house or apartment.
Dog Breeds in the (Sight) Hound Group
Sighthounds were bred to hunt game animals by sight and then to chase them down. Some common physical traits are sleek bodies and long legs (stream-lined for speed).
They do not need as much exercise as scent hounds. Although they are the fastest dogs out there, they only need moderate exercise.
Many breeds are excellent with children, though sighthounds may not be able to control their desire to chase the little ones (training).
Afghan Hound, Basenji, Borzoi, Greyhound, Italian Greyhound, Irish Wolfhound, Saluki, Scottish Deerhound, Whippet
Daily exercise: These dogs need 30-45 minutes per day of moderate exercise with an occasional short burst of running. Make sure to run them in an enclosed area.
Giant Dog Breeds
These large breeds tend to weigh anywhere from 60 to 120 pounds. Unlike toy dogs, they need a lot of space to move around.
It’s common for them to have joint and hip issues as they age, so be prepared for the added vet expense and concern for their well-being.
They are also prone to a condition known as bloat. I’m not a vet or personally familiar with the condition, so I’ll leave it to you to research that further.
The great thing about large breeds is that they look quite intimidating. As a result, their presence alone can scare away shady characters on the street or intruders into your home. It’s actually quite funny how intimidating they seem when they are actually gentle giants.
Many of them are good swimmers. Swimming is, therefore, a great exercise being that the weight on their joints is reduced in the water. Make sure to research your specific breed to see if they are good swimmers or not.
Alaskan Malamute, Bullmastiff, Cane Corso, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Great Dane, Great Pyrenees, Leonberger, Newfoundland, Old English Sheepdog, Saint Bernard
Daily exercise: These dogs need 30-45 minutes per day of moderate exercise.
When in doubt about how much exercise your dog needs, just take it easy on them. If you are new to owning a dog, or just adopted a dog, take some time to get to know him or her. In time you will know your dogs’ exercise needs even if you are unsure of their breed.