You’re probably already a big fan of watching your dog leap and bound all over your backyard. The satisfied expression of a worn-out pup brings a special kind of fulfillment, and the calm demeanor of a well-run dog can be a welcome side effect.
What’s more, the health benefits of exercising with your dog are very real. Dogs who get regular exercise may live longer, and dogs who fall within a healthy weight range are at a lower risk for conditions such as canine diabetes and canine arthritis.
Health conditions, such as anxiety and joint pain, can often be managed or prevented altogether with regular exercise. A 2018 study by the nonprofit Association for Pet Obesity Protection found that over half of the country’s pets are estimated to be obese. Just like with humans, a dog’s weight increase can happen due to a lack of regular, daily exercise.
It’s too bad you can’t sign your dog up for a gym membership! But, armed with information, you can still make sure they get all the activity they crave.
How Do I Know How Much Exercise My Dog Needs?
The amount of daily physical activity that your dog needs will depend on three factors: your dog’s age, breed, and their current activity level.
First, consider your dog’s age. Puppies have what appears to be an unlimited amount of energy. Mature dogs don’t need as much activity to get their exercise. The UK Kennel Club suggests using a formula of five minutes of exercise per every month of a puppy’s age. That would mean a four-month-old puppy would need 20 minutes of exercise, a five-month old would need 25 minutes, and so on.
By the time your pup turns two, they will be considered an adult, and exercise recommendations will vary by breed. Even the smallest dogs should get at least half an hour of exercise per day. Large dog breeds can typically run, jump, and chase for longer periods of time, and might need up to two hours of daily physical activity.
Shepherd and Labrador breeds, known to be high energy, might need even more than two hours of exercise to feel satisfied and ready for a rest. Pugs and bulldogs, on the other hand, do just fine with a daily walk and an occasional game of fetch. Breed recommendations state that poodles should get around an hour of brisk exercise per day. Boxers are considered high energy and need a minimum of two hours.
Your dog’s current activity level and abilities should also be taken into consideration, too. You don’t want to overdo it with your pup on the first day. Keep in mind that dogs can get achy, exhausted, and overheated from exercise the same way people can, even if it looks like they are having a grand old time. Your furry friend may do their best to keep up with you throughout an activity session, then feel quite sore later on. Introduce exercise slowly if it’s been a while, and stop when your dog shows the first signs of getting tired.
How Do I Exercise With My Dog?
There are tons of options for safe and effective ways to exercise with your dog.
For best results, try to find an exercise that both of you enjoy. If you’re not feeling enthusiastic when you exercise with your dog, it will be harder to create and stick to a routine.
You may already be exercising with your dog a little bit during your daily walks. Walks are essential for your dog, even if you have a backyard where they can spend time. They offer a unique opportunity for obedience training as well as bonding time. Walks with your dog allow your dog to “patrol their territory,” get the lay of the land, and feel more in control of their surroundings.
Running with your dog is a popular option, although it’s not realistic for most smaller breeds. If you decide to take up running with your canine companion, ease into it, starting with 10-minute increments and gradually increasing the length of your run. If there’s a quiet beach available near you, you may want to trot back and forth over the sand as an added challenge to your workout.
There are also plenty of classic backyard games that you can play together, such as Frisbee and fetch. Tossing the ball around is a great activity for dogs bred to retrieve, but most other dog breeds enjoy it, too. A do-it-yourself obstacle course that you adjust for your dog’s needs and abilities is also a creative way to add to the fun.
On rainy days when you can’t take your dog outside, you don’t have to rule out exercise. Tug-of-war is a mentally engaging game for your dog that can also raise their heart rate. A simple game of hide-and-seek in your house or apartment will get your dog’s heart racing (in a good way), too.
Whatever form of activity you choose, make it clear to your dog that you’re having a blast. As much as it’s important to indulge your dog’s physical needs, exercise can also be great way to relate to your pup on a psychological level.
It isn’t always easy to get motivated to go for a jog or play a game of Frisbee with Fido, but it will be worth it. You want to give your pup the longest and best life possible, which means that it’s a great idea to get moving -- together!