Your dog needs anywhere from 30 minutes up to 2 hours of exercise every day. The amount of exercise will vary mostly with age and breed, but health issues are another factor.
Senior dogs should be less than an hour and only through walks. Active breeds and adult dogs should get an hour or more. Puppies fall somewhere between senior dogs and active dogs.
And extreme weather conditions tend to reduce the amount of time that you can exercise certain dogs. In that case, do either multiple short walks or try indoor exercise for your dog.
Determining How Much Exercise Your Dog Needs Every Day
The amount of exercise that a dog needs every day is particular to each dog. But let’s use some common sense.
Puppies are very active but tire out easily. Also, their bodies are not fully developed so excessive activity can cause injuries. Read my article How Much Exercise Does a Puppy Need for tips if you have a puppy.
Senior dogs are like old people – they walk really slow and get tired easy (no offense meant to grandparents).
Then there are adult dogs, and their exercise needs vary by size which is a function of their breed. Different breeds have different activity levels and exercise needs. Check out my article Dog Exercise Needs By Breed for specific guidelines.
In general, adult dogs are like adult people. People who do not exercise are prone to being overweight and tire easily. The same goes for dogs. Healthy adult dogs can handle a good amount of exercise with some exceptions by breed.
Short-nosed breeds tire easily. Examples are bulldogs, pugs, boxers, and some toy dogs. “The longer the nose, the longer the walk goes.” I know, that’s bad grammar but it sounds good.
So try to do a few walks per day with each walk for a certain amount of time. The amount of time and distance of each walk will depend on his age, breed and activity level and overall health.
Go directly to:
- How often to walk your dog
- How long to walk your dog
- How far to walk your dog
- Dog overexertion symptoms
- Cold weather exercise
- Hot weather exercise
- Exercise for senior dogs
Q & A for You to Know Your Dog’s Needs
There are some questions to answer to know how much exercise your dog needs.
First, did you just adopt your dog, or have you had your dog for some time? If you have had your dog for a while, then you should be able to tell when he has had enough or not.
If you just adopted a dog, then you don’t know how much exercise he needs. Just start slow and see how he does. It won’t take you long to find out if he is a mellow dog or a ball of energy with four legs.
Secondly, can you pick up your dog and carry him if he starts to struggle? If not, just walk around the block. If he is fine, do another lap. I once walked an old overweight Labrador too far on a hot day. It’s not easy carrying a 100-pound dog a few blocks back to your home.
Finally, what kind of exercise are we talking about? There are two types: walking and playing. Give your dog at least 2-3 walks per day. And if they can handle it, puppies and adult dogs could also use some play time as well.
How Often Should You Walk Your Dog?
This one is easy. You should walk your dog at least two times every day. Three times is better. I personally walk my dog four times every day.
Keep in mind that puppies and senior dogs can’t hold it for long. They most likely need more than 4 walks a day.
You obviously should walk your dog first thing in the morning. You have to walk him for as long as it takes for him to go to the bathroom. Then do a walk as soon as you get home from work.
If you can, hire a dog walker for afternoon walks while you are at work.
And finally, do a night time walk so that he can relieve himself before settling down for the night. He is going to have to hold it until the morning walk, so make sure he takes care of business.
For the weekends, repeat the weekday schedule of walks so he has a regular routine. And if the weather is nice, take him for an extra walk or two. It’s a great excuse to spend some time in a local park.
Bottom line: take him out for a walk at least three times every day.
But let me ask my dog: “Hey, Buddy. How often should I walk you?” He told me to quit my job and walk him 10 times a day every day. Sorry, Bud, that’s not going to happen.
How Long Should I Walk My Dog?
As mentioned above, 30-minutes to two hours a day depending on your dog. You can easily get 45 minutes with two to three 15 or 20-minutes walks every day.
The main thing is to have him relieve himself during the walks. But don’t be the type of owner who immediately turns for home when he does his thing. Walk him a while longer so that he can do some smelling and maybe meet other dogs.
I think you should give your dog one “long” walk every day. It’s easy to cut his walks short because you are busy or have plans. If your dog brings you joy then try to give back. Give him a major romp to have fun, to smell everything and to get a lot of exercise while doing all that.
Let me ask my dog again: “Hey, Buddy, how long should your walks be?” He said until he gets bored and then to take him home.
How Far Should I Walk My Dog?
Some dogs walk fast, some slow. Other dogs move with speed and purpose, while others need to smell every 10 feet. I’d say walk them as far as you want to go. Just pay attention to how they are doing as you build up to longer walks. Don’t worry, you’ll be fine as times goes by.
And the size of a dog can be deceptive. You would think big dogs can walk farther than small ones. But I have found that the opposite is true. Big dogs are carrying around a lot more weight and they can get tired easily. Some small dogs will want to walk all day.
I was hiking one time with a group of people and there was a woman with a very small dog (can’t remember the breed). She mentioned that she would take him on 3-4 mile hikes. That’s a tough little dog. There are a lot of people who can’t walk that far.
Hiking and exploring local trails can be a lot of fun for you and your dog.
Try to make the one long walk a long distance walk as well. An added benefit to the exercise is that it will tucker him out. If you can, try to do this walk as the last walk of the day.
“Hey, Buddy, how far should I walk you?” He said until he gets tired then I have to carry him home. Not going to happen, Bud.
So unless your dog can talk, use the guidelines above until you get to know your dog.
Dog Overexertion: Over Exercised Dog Symptoms
As mentioned above, short-nosed breeds tire and overheat easily. They, like any dog, will start to pant heavily if they are overworked. Learn how to read your dogs’ body language and throttle back the exercise if you notice a problem.
Obvious signs to look for are limping or favoring a leg. Not so obvious signs are excessive panting, extreme thirst, lagging behind or not moving at all. Notice when your dog is panting or drinking more than normal. Know your dog.
Also look at the pads on their paws after a long romp. Make sure they are not red or have noticeable tears in the padding. If they start limping or have trouble walking, then they overdid it. Make a note of how much exercise they did and make sure they don’t play that hard in the future.
But try to stop the play before your dog overdoes it, This is especially true with puppies whose bodies are not fully developed and can easily injure themselves.
Older dogs will stop walking when they are tired. Let them catch their breath. The distance they can walk will only get shorter as they age. Make a note and alter the walks accordingly.
You need to learn your dog’s limits just like you had to learn his walking habits.
Dogs and Cold Weather
Sled dogs have no problem with cold weather. Neither do dogs with thick fur. However, dogs with short fur will have problems in extremely cold weather. Keep that in mind if you have a dog with short fur.
This is why you need to know if you can carry your dog or not. If your dog starts shivering uncontrollably, then he may be experiencing hypothermia. Pick him up and carry him home immediately.
Better yet, buy him a sweater and keep the walks short. My dog is an Amstaff and he gets cold easy. I bought him a Charlie Brown looking sweater which everyone loves. People always laugh when they see him. It helps to keep him warm but I keep the walks short in frigid weather.
You are going to have to try and get exercise in at home when it’s really cold outside. Take a look at the Exercise Indoors section in my Puppy Exercise article.
Dogs and Hot Weather
My dog is the smaller pit bull breed known as American Staffordshire Terrier. He has a medium sized nose and black fur so he gets overheated easily.
I make changes to his walks on really hot days. The walks are either short or I bring a bottle of water and a collapsible water bowl.
You need to say something when you see someone walking a dog on a hot day and their dog looks distressed. Hopefully, the owner listens to you.
Try indoor exercises or give your dog a long morning walk on extremely hot days.
Amount of Exercise for Senior Dogs
Last but not least, let’s take a look at the old dogs. Old and in the way. If they are in the way, you need to walk over them. They are too tired to move for you. How many times have you had to step over an old dog?
Senior dogs cannot walk as far as they once did, and they walk really slow. But they still need their exercise.
I’ve walked more than my share of elderly dogs, and usually, the walk is only for a block or two. Sometimes, they can’t even walk the entire block.
So get whatever you can. Walk them 3-5 times per day so that they can relieve themselves. Keep walking if they seem like they still want to walk.
Know your elderly dog’s halfway point. Ask yourself, “If I keep walking him, will he be able to make it all the way back home?”
What is the halfway point for your senior dog? And keep in mind that point will change from day-to-day. Sometimes they have good days, and sometimes they have bad days.
Don’t worry so much about the amount of time unless the weather is extreme. It’s more about knowing when it is time to turn back home.
So the answer to “How much exercise does a dog need every day?” depends on a lot of factors. Just go slow until you know your dog and his limits.