Daily exercise is essential to keep your dog physically and mentally healthy. Walking your dog elevates their heart rate, strengthens their muscles, and stimulates their mind by sniffing, smelling, and exploring.
How often do you walk your dog? In the US, 40% of owners admit they don’t walk their dog regularly — the outcome is a startling 56% obesity rate in dogs.
Walking and playing with your dog for 30-minutes a day will help prevent obesity — and obesity-causing diseases — while controlling poor behavior.
While exercise is the primary benefit of daily dog walks, seeing the world, taking the smells in, and interacting with other dogs are equally as meaningful.
Hound dogs — nose to the ground tracking — can run for extended periods and benefit from using their tracking skills. While herding dogs — designed to chase and herd wildlife in open fields — can burn off excess energy.
This article breaks down the benefits of daily dog walks for all dogs and details the health risks when a dog doesn’t receive enough exercise.
- How often do you walk your dog?
- What’s the role of your dog’s breed?
- How much exercise does your dog need?
- Health benefits of regular exercise.
- Health issues in inactive dogs.
How often do you walk your dog?
Daily exercise is vital for all dogs. Adult and senior dogs of all sizes need at least 30-minutes of exercise each day — with more active dog breeds requiring an hour or more.
When thinking about exercise for your dog, a combination of walks and playtime is best.
As a general rule,
- Puppies need 5 minutes of exercise twice daily for each month of age. Playtime and short, structured walks should be part of the daily routine.
- Adult dogs need a minimum of one hour of exercise each day. It would be best if you exercised at least twice a day. More playtime in between will make your pup even happier.
- Senior dogs still need 30 minutes of exercise each day—unless instructed otherwise by a veterinarian.
Exercise is crucial even when walks aren’t possible — like during stormy weather or extreme heat. Regular playtime allows you to extend the duration to compensate for days walking isn’t possible.
Your dog’s breed plays an essential role in their exercise needs.
Your dog’s breed, and the group they belong to, impacts their health and exercise needs.
For instance, the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention found 63% of Golden Retrievers are overweight or obese.
The Golden Retriever’s ancestors were recovering fowl on land and water for over a century before becoming a household family dog. Excess energy not put to work — or play — can easily lead to obesity.
Aside from Golden’s, the genetics of most breeds tell them to run, chase, or work.
What’s the role of your dog’s breed?
- Herding Group: These dog breeds were bred to herd animals all day. They have an incredible amount of stamina and need to be able to run for long periods. Examples: Australian Cattle Dog, Australian Shepherd, Bearded Collie, Border Collie, Beauceron.
- Terrier and Sporting Groups: Bred to hunt and retrieve animals like birds or rabbits, these dogs need quick bursts of energy to help them chase down their prey. Examples: American Foxhound, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Irish Setter, Jack Russell Terrier, Labrador Retriever, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Weimaraner.
- Hound Group: Bred to track down animals by scent, hound dogs need to be able to run for long periods and have a ton of energy. Examples: Basset Hound, Beagle, Bloodhound, Greyhound, Petite Basset Griffon Vendeen
- Working Group: Bred for large jobs like pulling carts, guarding property, or rescuing people, large working dog breeds require extra exercise to stay healthy and happy. Examples: Great Dane, Bernese Mountain Dog, Doberman Pinscher, Boxer, Siberian Husky, St. Bernard
Groups like Toys, bred as companions, or non-sporting dogs with no designated job can often get by with a more calm sedentary lifestyle.
If you’re shopping for a dog and the proper amount of exercise isn’t possible, consider a breed better fitting to your lifestyle. There are many options for non-active dog breeds. Some, like the Greyhound, may even surprise you.
How much exercise does your dog need?
Since you’ve determined your dog’s group, it’s essential to understand your dog’s breed better. Many factors other than genetics significantly impact a dog’s exercise needs, like:
- Medical conditions
If your dog is healthy but has been inactive for an extended time, start with short walks around the block. Overworking your dog can cause injuries to its joints.
Once you finish a walk, observe your dog’s behavior. Signs of excessive panting, reluctance to stand up or move around, and excessive water drinking indicate they were overworked.
If, after a 15-minute walk, your dog still wants to play when you get home, extend the distance of your walks or increase the pace.
A regular pace of walking is 20 to 25 minutes per mile. When you add frequent stops, this casual stroll doesn’t help raise their heart rate to the levels needed.
Try avoiding stops for smelling and socializing in one direction, then casually stroll back so they can enjoy the outdoors.
Health benefits of regular exercise
An obese dog is 2.6x more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes. Hypothyroidism and arthritis are 2-3x times more likely in obese dogs.
When you walk your dog daily, you fight off obesity and obesity-causing diseases. Walking even prevents depression in dogs and poor behavior.
So, why is walking such a healthy exercise for dogs? Sustaining an increased heart rate during a walk promotes cardiovascular fitness, stronger muscles, and lower blood pressure.
Additionally, the sights, smells, and interactions with other dogs reduce stress and destructive behaviors at home.
Walks benefit you too.
Owners who walk their dogs regularly are 25% less likely to be obese. In fact, the average dog owner walks 23,000 miles over their dog’s lifetime.
Aside from the exercise, walks are a bonding moment between you and your dog.
Don’t neglect playtime as an exercise.
Walks will always be the best cardiovascular exercise, but playtime has excellent benefits you shouldn’t avoid.
For example, playing fetch gives your dog a chance to raise their heart rate with high-interval sprints. At the same time, tug-of-war lets them use all their pulling strength to burn calories while using their muscles.
Grab your dog’s favorite ball, pull toy, or squeaky and have fun. Split playtime into mornings and nights with an afternoon walk, encouraging a great night’s rest.
If your dog isn’t one to fetch or play tug-of-war, here are some exercises and game ideas to play:
- Hide a strong-smelling, low-calorie treat so they can work a scent trail
- Purchase a treat dispenser toy
- Play tag or chase
- Set up an obstacle course with furniture
- Play hide-and-seek
Exercise should become part of your daily routine. Choose consistent times, like throwing a ball outside with your morning coffee and pre-dinner hide-and-seek.
Health issues in inactive dogs.
Like us — sitting behind a computer working all day — inactivity for days or weeks is unhealthy and dangerous. When you consider dogs, who lay around while we’re at work and require more exercise, the consequences can be more significant.
Most health problems begin with weight gain and obesity. But, sometimes, weight gain is a symptom of a severe health problem.
If your dog is overweight or obese, the cause of it may be an illness like hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease. Before starting an exercise routine, complete a physical and blood work with your veterinarian.
Obesity is one of the leading causes of death in dogs. Obesity in dogs can be painful and uncomfortable while decreasing their lifespan by two and a half years.
Several diseases and conditions are linked to obesity in dogs, including:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Kidney Disease
- Liver Disease
Your pocketbook will be negatively affected by these preventable diseases too. Owners of obese dogs spent 17% more on healthcare than healthy-weight dog owners.
Arthritis in dogs costs up to $2,000 a year to treat, while diabetes costs $900 on average.
Dogs are a gift we are all lucky to have. Owning a dog means taking on a great responsibility to support them in health and love.
When a busy life turns tasks into chores, remember walks are the highlight of your dog’s day. So, how often do you walk your dog? As often as possible.
30-minutes a day can mean the difference between enjoying 12 long years with your dog or only ten. Thankfully, it’s never too late to focus on their health.
Obesity typically begins in dogs between 6 to 10 years of age. That’s why it’s essential to maintain a healthy exercise routine in younger life stages.
Consider starting these healthy habits today:
- Exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes a day.
- Maintain a healthy, high-protein diet.
- Switch to healthy snacks like fruits and vegetables.
- Always measure and give an exact amount of food.
- Never give your dog human food.
- Weigh your dog monthly and adjust their food, and exercise accordingly.
Many people have busy schedules or health problems preventing regular exercise. A busy lifestyle has prompted over 30,000 dog walking businesses to open in the US.
Dog walkers typically charge $20 for a 30-minute walk. Doggy daycare ranges from $15 to $30 a day. A walk around the block is free.
Grab a leash and tell your dog they’re going for a walk. Seeing your pup’s eyes light up might just make your day too.
Have a safe and fun walk.