We all know that they need it – sometimes we love it – sometimes, not so much… but one thing is for sure, exercising a dog is vitally important. Dogs are inherently active creatures with many purposefully bred as working animals to herd cattle or root out animals during a hunt or retrieve game. Of course, others aren’t bred for quite as much activity, but still have a need for daily exercise. Being active not only provides for the physical health of the dog, but the psychological health of the animal as well. Without an outlet to burn off energy (and even stress) dogs will find ways to deal with it on their own – typically in the form of destructive behavior. In fact, many dogs exhibiting negative behavior are simply responding to a lack of physical activity. And the conclusion here – misbehavior is often the fault of the owner, not the pet!
So how much exercise does a dog need? Unfortunately, there is not a one-size fits all answer. It all depends on the dog’s age and breed.
In terms of age, puppies need progressively more activity as they mature. A young pup will have short bursts of energy and activity but will spend a lot of time resting as their bodies are busy growing. Around 5 to 7 months your pup’s energy level, and thus needs for physical activity, will peak. This can be a difficult time in raising your dog as their attention span will be limited, leading to sporadic behavior. As the dog reaches the one year mark, they will gain more focus and be able to better control their energy as it levels off to an adult level. Activity needs will stabilize between 12 and 24 months of age and remain fairly constant until the dog transitions to a senior life stage. When dogs are considered seniors depends on the breed – there is no hard and fast rule – but you will certainly notice as your dog becomes less energetic and more docile.
While a dog’s age is universal across breeds, the second significant impact on a dog’s need for exercise is the breed – this really defines how big they are and what nature intends their role to be. Typically, large dogs need more exercise than small dogs and working dogs need more exercise than toy breeds. In general, herding breeds require a significant amount of exercise (at least four hours a day), sporting breeds a moderate amount (two to three hours a day) and smaller and non-sporting breeds a lesser amount (around one to two hours a day).
While meeting a dog’s required activity level seems like a big commitment at first, it can be achieved by working various activities into your daily schedule. For example, a morning walk or jog before breakfast and a nice game of fetch after work. It is no secret that having a dog and all the spoils that come with it isn’t always an easy task. Making sure they receive the exercise they need is an important part of being a responsible pet owner. The bonus is that exercising with your dog is good for both of you and greatly increases the bond that you share with each other.