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How Much Should You Be Walking Your Dog?
Walking your dog too little or too much can cause your fur baby harm, so it’s important that your pet gets just the right amount of leash time!
Every pet parent knows that walking your dog is not only a fun pastime to bond with your pup, but is also a key way for your fur baby to get the exercise he needs to stay healthy. But how do you know if you are walking your dog the right amount? If you don’t walk your dog enough, your pet is more likely to become obese and may develop unwanted behaviors, such as destructive tendencies, barking, or becoming over-excited when he does go for walks. On the flip side, walking your dog too much could lead to pain, exhaustion, anxiety, and joint or mobility problems.
So, how do you know when you’ve hit that sweet spot when you’re walking your pet? In general, the average, healthy dog is satisfied with one or two walks per day that last for 15-30 minutes, but some breeds need up to two or more hours of vigorous exercise per day. These seven factors will help you figure out your dog’s walking needs.
Breed or Mix:
Dogs range in energy levels from lazy couch potatoes to super active and full of energy. If you have a purebred dog or have done a DNA test to find out your mutt’s mix, you can do your research to see how much exercise vets and dog trainers say these breeds need. Generally, giant breeds, small breeds, and sight hounds only need a moderate amount of exercise or about 30 to 45 minutes of walking per day. Meanwhile, terriers and vermin breeds (think Westies and Jack Russels) and scent hounds (Think Beagles and Basset Hounds) typically need about an hour of walking per day to be happy and healthy. The dogs that need the most exercise are naturally those with the highest energy levels. This group typically includes herding breeds, sporting breeds, and working breeds, with these dogs requiring about two hours of exercise per day in order to thrive.
While some dogs need seemingly endless exercise to burn off all their energy, other breeds shouldn’t be exercised much at all. For example, brachycephalic dogs or flat-faced dogs like pugs and bulldogs are more prone to overheating and breathing difficulties. These dogs only require a maximum of 20 to 30 minutes of walk time per day, as any more could make them very sick.
Your Dog’s Size:
Your dog’s size doesn’t matter quite as much as his breed because dog breeds of all sizes can vary on how much exercise they need. However, it is still worth keeping your dog’s size in mind when deciding how far to walk and where to walk. Look at your dog’s stride and consider how hard those little legs have to work to keep up with you. Also, consider what type of terrain is best for walking your dog.
Your dog’s age will also determine how much he should be walking. Puppies, adult dogs, and seniors all require different types of walks. A good rule of thumb for puppies is that they should be able to walk 5 minutes per every month they have been alive. For example, a 5-month-old puppy should be able to walk for 25 minutes at a time. Even then, your walks should be relaxed with chances for him to explore and you should take your puppy’s cues if he seems tired. Keep in mind that your puppy’s joints will not fuse until he is around eight months old, so too much exercise could create trouble in your puppy’s development or negatively affect his growth plates.
Once your dog becomes an adult, he is likely reaching the peak of his health and energy levels. But as your dog gets older, you will have to watch for signs that it is time to slow down on the walks. While you generally still want to give senior dogs at least 30 minutes of exercise per day, keep in mind that they may develop conditions like arthritis that make walking more difficult for them.
Your Pet’s Overall Health:
Even dogs who fall under the same breed are all different. Every dog is an individual and may have unique health requirements. If your dog is special needs or has an underlying medical condition, he might not be able to walk as much as other dogs of the same breed. If there might be some special conditions impacting your pet’s health or abilities, ask your vet for advice on how best to walk him.
Listen To Your Vet:
Speaking of which, your veterinarian is your best resource if you aren’t sure how much to exercise your dog. Your vet should be familiar with your dog and your lifestyle and should be able to give you specific advice tailored to your fur baby. Your vet can help you navigate the exercise requirements for the different stages of your pet’s life and can give you a starting point if you have a mutt and aren’t sure where to begin. And once your vet gives you advice, make sure you listen to it!
Depending on your dog’s needs and your family’s lifestyle, your furry friend may need more or less walks than other pups. For example, dogs who live in apartments might simply need more walks if only to use the bathroom when compared to a dog who lives in a home with a doggy door and big backyard. Rather than one or two long walks per day, apartment-dwelling dogs may need several shorter walks instead. Consider how your lifestyle may impact your dog’s needs before setting your walking routine.
Dogs need exercise, even on scorching summer days and during winter blizzards. But if you live in an area with extreme weather, the outside conditions might not be conducive to your dog’s normal walking routine. In the summer, your dog may be at risk of burning his paws, suffering from heat-related illness, or becoming dehydrated. In the winter, your dog might be at risk of frostbite and hypothermia if it’s too cold.
On days like these, you may need to adjust your pet’s normal walking routine to keep him safe. For example, you can walk your dog earlier in the morning and later in the evening during heat waves. And if you do need to cut out walks for your pet’s safety, supplement the lack of exercise with extra playtime inside.