Exercise Needs for Puppies, Adults and Senior Dogs

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Dogs need exercise to maintain happy and healthy lives, just like people do. Your dog’s exercise needs will vary depending on their age and breed. So, it’s important to tailor your pup’s exercise according to their stage of life.

Why Do Dogs Need to Exercise?

The list of reasons why dogs should exercise is a long one, and there are many ways dogs can get exercise. From taking a walk around the block, to playing fetch, or, even getting as advanced as agility training. Not all dogs need higher levels of activity, but their need for exercise boils down to these reasons.

  • For their physical health: Dogs need exercise to stay in shape. Exercise results in tip-top body condition, from a healthy weight and muscle tone to a healthy metabolism.
  • For their mental stimulation: Dogs need as much physical exercise as they do mental exercise. Physical activity plays a big part in dogs’ mental states and provides stimulation for both the body and brain.
  • To reinforce positive behaviors and reduce unwanted ones: Just as exercise affects dogs’ physical and mental wellbeing, it also impacts their behaviors. With ample exercise, dogs are satiated, leading to fewer destructive behaviors.
  • To find a balance: Lack of exercise, as well as too much of it, can result in poor health and habits for your dog. Aim to find a happy medium.

How Much Exercise Does My Puppy Need?

Puppies have unique exercise needs. They are eager and active, but they are also brand new to the world and to exercising. This means that while they have huge amounts of energy, they don’t have the stamina to match.

  • Start with shorter play sessions. Puppies get large bursts of energy followed by long periods of rest and napping. To hold their attention and introduce them to exercise, hold a few short walks or play sessions throughout the day.
  • Don’t overwork your puppy. If they’re sleeping, let them sleep. Too much exercise can be harmful to your new best friend’s developing mind and body. Wait until your puppy’s bones and joints are fully grown, at around one year old, before making them your running partner. This is especially important for large breed dogs, as too much strain from exercise can damage their delicate cartilage.
  • Be mindful of your pup’s safety. Puppies should not be overexposed to the outside world until they are fully vaccinated and their immune system is armed and ready. We recommend having the majority of your play sessions indoors. Carrying your pup outside before they are fully vaccinated is a great way to introduce them to the sights and smells of their new home and to tire them out.
  • Learn your puppy’s breed. Regardless of their stage of life, some dog breeds are genetically and physically built to exercise more than others. Your 10-week-old Husky, while they may grow to 50 lbs, is still a small puppy right now. Don’t take them on a strenuous hike that they’ll be able to tackle in a year or two.
  • Make sure you are the one to initiate play and exercise sessions, not your puppy. This will prevent them from becoming over-demanding and hyperactive.

How Much Exercise Does My Adult Dog Need?

When it comes to exercising adult dogs, it’s crucial to consider their breed and lifestyle. Adult dogs can perform a larger variety of exercises than puppies and seniors, so mix things up and have fun. In general, dogs need a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise each day.

  • Less active breeds should get 30 to 60 minutes per day. This can be as simple as a few leisurely walks and some indoor playtime. Make sure you listen to your dog, as these breeds can tire out rather quickly.
  • Flat-faced breeds: Also known as brachycephalic, dogs like Pugs, Bulldogs, and Shih Tzus have a lower exercise tolerance due to their breathing constraints. Extreme caution should be taken with these breeds in hot weather. Even 10 minutes in the sun on a hot summer’s day can be more than they can handle, as they often cannot breathe well enough for adequate heat exchange. If you’re worried your dog is overheated, check out our tips to help cool them down.
  • Toy and small breeds: These little guys can’t take on as much as larger breeds. They are best suited to smaller amounts of exercise throughout the day.
  • Large and giant breeds: The biggest of the breeds are prone to joint and hip issues. Try a range of exercise that won’t put continual strain on their legs, like brief hikes and fetch sessions. If you have a breed that enjoys swimming, this is a great low impact exercise for your dog.

What tires out a little Pomeranian will barely warm up an eager Border Collie. High energy breeds need vigorous physical and mental exercise, typically 60 to 90 minutes everyday. Adapt their workout regime to what they do best.

  • Sporting breeds: Retrievers, Pointers, Setters, and Spaniels. These dogs are made for intense activities. Try taking them for a run, hike, or swim.
  • Herding breeds: Collies, Shepherds, and Sheepdogs. They are incredibly intelligent and easily bored. Set up a game of hide-and-seek using treats to put them in their element.
  • Working breeds: Huskies, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Boxers, and Rottweilers just to name a few. They thrive with long, consistent exercise. Spend an hour with them at the dog park, or go for a longer hike.

Most dogs need at least 30 minutes of exercise each day. A quick walk around the block probably won’t cut it for your furry friend.

How Much Exercise Does My Senior Dog Need?

The physical and mental health of senior dogs can be forgotten because of their mobility limitations. Set your senior dog up for success by giving them consistent exercise throughout their life. This way, they’ll stay as healthy as possible into old age.

  • Break up exercise. Senior dogs still need at least 30 minutes of exercise each day. Offer shorter walks and play throughout the day.
  • Choose low-impact activities. At their stage in life, senior dogs need more relaxation than stimulation. Go on walks, not runs. If you have access to a pool or water, go for a swim. It’s a great activity that is gentle on their brittle bodies.
  • Evaluate your dog’s weight. If your senior dog is overweight at all, consider a diet change or more consistent exercise. Being at a healthy weight will help reduce as much physical strain as possible.
  • Look into physical therapy. Just like it can help in people, physical therapy can relieve pain and discomfort that your senior dog is experiencing. Water therapy, massage therapy, heat therapy, and cold therapy are just some of the types out there.

Exercising Your Dog Safely

No matter how old your dog, it’s important to mention that you shouldn’t let them off the leash in an unfenced area until they’ve mastered recall in areas of high-distraction.

Dog parks and dog runs can also be an incredible tool for pet owners, allowing your pup to play with others and run around in safety. However, it’s crucial that again, you don’t take your dog to a dog park until you know they will always come back to you when called – just in case.

You should also ensure your dog is always within sight when you’re at the dog park. Even if your little one loves playing with other pups, others may not be so friendly. Watch out for signs of distress or aggression from your dog and others around them, so you can call your dog back to you straight away before things escalate.

Speak to Your Vet For More Advice

Your vet can also help advise on the precise amount of exercise your dog needs, given their breed, size, weight, and any health issues they might be facing. Also bear in mind that some days your dog may have more energy and need more exercise and stimulation than others, depending on their recent activities and sometimes the weather. With a little trial and error, you’ll soon find a balance that works well for your dog, keeping them happy and healthy no matter how old they are.

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