How to exercise a Dalmatian

The Dalmatian was originally bred to accompany and guard horse-drawn coaches on long journeys. As a result, they are muscular and have endless stamina. The Dalmatian is also a highly intelligent dog that requires plenty of mental stimulation to prevent boredom.

Dalmatian Running
Source: Getty Images

How much exercise does a Dalmatian need

Dalmatians require at least one to two hours of exercise and activity daily but they wouldn’t say no to more. They are also a very smart and intelligent dog that requires challenges for their mind.

Failure to provide adequate physical and mental exercise for your Dalmatian can result in problem behavior. This can include destructive behavior, digging, nuisance barking and even escaping.

Exercise is also important for Dalmatians to help to manage weight. An inactive Dalmatian may be prone to being overweight. For more on how to know if your dog is overweight see here.

There are three main types of exercise and activity you must provide your Dalmatian every day.

  • 1. Daily walk
  • 2. Purposeful Activity (see Dalmatian exercise ideas below)
  • 3. Mental stimulation

This recommended exercise quantity and ideas are for a healthy adult Dalmatian. The exercise needs of a puppy are different as they are still growing. The wrong quantity and type of exercise can cause injury to a puppy with growing bones and joints. See the bottom of this post for more about how to exercise a Dalmatian puppy.

As a dog gets older they become less active and have lower energy levels. However, it is still important that they remain reasonably active to keep their joints and muscles mobile and to manage their weight. Exercising an older dog can be a balancing act. Too much exercise can leave them sore and stiff. See the bottom of this post for more on exercising an older Dalmatian.

Over exercised dog symptoms

Dalmatians can go hard and keep going, often not knowing when to stop. With any dog, it is possible to over-exercise them, especially in hot weather. It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of a dog that has overdone it. Read “Overexercised dog symptoms”  and “Dog exercise in hot weather” to learn more.

Dalmatian Walking Time

Dalmatian walking

The daily walk is essential for a Dalmatian not only to release some pent-up energy. The walk allows your Dalmatian to stimulate the mind with the sights, sounds and smells they come across.

The length of the walk is only limited by your time and energy as a Dalmatian can go all day long. Ideally, the minimum should be 30 to 45 minutes daily but more would be better.

This can be just once a day, or two walks a day would be better if your schedule allows. Dogs also like routine, so try to schedule the walk for around the same time each day. Daily walks are much better than nothing all week and a big walk at the weekend.

If your Dalmatian has good recall and comes on command, walks at the park, or out on trails off the leash are ideal. Alternatively, you can use a retractable leash or long lead to allow them more freedom while maintaining control. In general, Dalmatians are obedient and easy to train and usually have good recall.

You can add extra resistance to the walk by using a weighted vest or dog backpack. It is recommended that no more than 10% of their body weight be added. This is more than sufficient to tire them and strengthen their muscles without overworking them. Other ways of increasing the resistance on the walk are to walk on sand or include uphill sections in the walk.

Dalmatian Exercise Ideas

In addition to the daily walk, your Dalmatian will require other purposeful activity. This will aid in burning pent up energy and keeping their muscles strong.

Here are some suggestions of ways to provide exercise and purposeful activity for your Dalmatian.

Fetch

Playing Fetch with your Dalmatian is another fantastic way to burn pent-up energy. Dalmatians are generally ball or toy crazy and can play this for hundreds of throws.

Handheld ball launchers are an excellent way to exercise your Dalmatian dog. Obviously, the further you can throw the ball the more your dog has to run.

They also make life easier for you as the long handle lets you pick up a ball without having to bend over to the ground. It also prevents you from having to touch a slobbery ball.

The best quality and well-known brand are the Chuckit.  These are also extremely inexpensive and well worth having. Check out the Chuckit ball thrower on Amazon.

A great alternative is to use an Automatic Ball Launcher so your dog can play Fetch by themselves. As the Dalmatian is highly trainable as long as you focus their attention they learn to use this quickly. For more information check out “Automatic Ball Launchers for Dogs

Frisbee Toss

Most dogs can chase and catch a ball. But a Frisbee requires a little bit more skill, coordination, and timing. Dalmatians look spectacular playing this due to their agility. Roll the Frisbee on the ground towards your dog. They will instinctually want to grab it in his mouth.

Once you’ve accomplished this, try tossing it at a very low level first to your dog. If you feel like your dog is ready to go to the next level, toss the disc a little higher and further. Great energy burner and you may be amazed at your dog’s agility and acrobatic skill.

We recommend the Kong Flying Disc which is made from durable rubber making it more suitable for dogs. A normal plastic frisbee will probably get trashed fairly quickly by a dog.

Swimming

Swimming is a great exercise for any dog as it burns energy and uses all the muscle groups, in particular, the front legs and shoulders. It is also a low-impact activity so doesn’t put a strain on the joints and tendons. It is a good exercise for dogs recovering from injury. See “What is Canine Hydrotherapy” to learn more.

Most Dalmatians love swimming. However, every dog is an individual so some Dalmatians may take to it quickly and others may not be so keen. Even if your Dalmatian isn’t a keen swimmer they may learn to love it if introduced to the water in a non-threatening way. It is best to introduce them to the water when they are young if possible.

The exercise benefits to a high energy athletic breed like a Dalmatian is well worth the effort. For more on swimming exercise for dogs see here.

Running, cycling or skating with your Dalmatian

Dalmatians make great running partners. Due to their high level of endurance, they are great for long runs and even keeping up with cyclists. Dalmatians are sure-footed and have good reaction time, making them just as good, if not better, on trails as on the road.

For Tips for running with your dog see here.

Play with other dogs

Provide the opportunity for your Dalmatian to play with other dogs. This is not only great to burn energy and stimulate their mind, but teaches them important social skills. Most Dalmatians are friendly with other dogs but if you are unsure you should supervise.

Tug of War

Tug of war is a great strength-building game for all dogs.  Make them crouch and pull back to use extra energy. Ensure that this is a controlled game and they release when you want them to.

The purpose of strength-building exercises for dogs is not necessarily.  to build muscle bulk. Strong muscles provide protection for the joints and tendons helping to prevent potential injury.

Flirt Pole

Flirt pole is like a giant cat tickler for dogs. It has a long handle with a bungy type rope with a lure or toy attached to the end. You simply move the lure along the ground around in circles or in different directions as your dog chases it. This activity is ideal for a Dalmatian as it works the whole body and strengthens their muscles. Be sure they have a good “leave it” command and don’t allow them to destroy the toy. It is important that this be a controlled exercise. For a full guide to flirt pole exercise for dogs see here.

View Flirt Poles on Amazon

Backyard agility

Set up an agility or obstacle course in your backyard. You can use items you have around the home, build your own agility or you can get reasonably priced agility sets on Amazon. You can include tasks such as the weave, hurdle jumps, tunnels, or jumping through hoops or a platform to jump on and stay.

Stair Exercise

A good energy burner if you have stairs in your home. Start at the bottom of the stairs and have your dog “stay”. Throw the ball to the top of the stairs and then say, “Go!” Let your dog dash up the stairs as fast as they can. Have them return down the stairs at a slower pace to avoid injury.

Walking up stairs or a hill strengthens the rear legs as the full bodyweight of your dog is on each leg as the step. As they descend the stairs they are using the opposing muscles for stability. For more on stair exercise for dogs see here.

Self Playing Dog Toys

There are a variety of dog toys that your dog can use to play by themselves. These are great for times when your dog is home alone, you don’t have the time or you are otherwise occupied. This way your dog can still get some physical activity and mental stimulation without your direct involvement. See “Self Playing Dog Toys” for some ideas.

GoBone

The GoBone is the ultimate motorized dog chase toy. Just touch the GoBone and it will keep your dog entertained for up to 8 hours. Alternatively, you can use the app to control the GoBone yourself. This makes for a fun game for both your dog and you. The  GoBone is tough and made from durable materials. However, if your dog does chew it you can get a replaceable exterior cover.

To make it even better for your dog you can place treats inside the wheels. Even more reason your dog will love one.

Apart from the GoBone, there are a couple of similar chase toys also available including the Wicked Bone and the PetGeek Play Bone. To learn more about the various options see Dog toys that move on their own.

Mental Stimulation for Dalmatians

All dogs need an outlet for their minds. If they are not provided the opportunity to challenge their minds they will come up with their own ways to achieve this. This usually manifests itself in bad behavior such as excessive barking, digging, escaping and other destructive behaviors. Read “Mental stimulation and mind enrichment for dogs” to learn about the 6 types or categories of mind stimulation a mental enrichment and some great ideas to provide this.

Some ways to provide mental stimulation and enrichment include;

Puzzle Toys

Puzzle toys are ideal for dogs like the Dalmatian to challenge their minds and test their problem-solving skills. Due to their high intelligence, try to find puzzle toys that are a bit more challenging as they tend to work these out quite quickly. Check out “Top puzzle toys for dogs” for my top picks.

In addition to puzzle toys, Kongs for dogs are another great way to get your Dalmatian to solve a problem and challenge the mind. Read “How to use a Kong for dogs“.

Scenting and nose games

Dalmatians can have a keen nose. Playing scenting and nose games helps to provide mental stimulation. Read “12 Scenting and nose games for dogs” for some ideas.

Chew Toys

Dalmatian chewing

Provide your Dalmatian with good strong chew toys. Chewing is a great way to occupy them. In addition, chewing releases endorphins and helps to relax a dog. Many dogs hold stress in the jaw.

For more on the benefits of chewing and the best chew toys click here.

Learning

Teaching new commands and tricks is also excellent to provide mental enrichment. A popular game that involves learning is to teach them the names of their toys. Dogs can learn hundreds of words and names.

Food enrichment

Turn mealtimes into an opportunity for your Dalmatian to get a mental challenge and enrichment. Instead of feeding them from a bowl, give them activities that require them to work for their food. To learn more about feeding enrichment for dogs see here.

Enrich their environment

Environmental enrichment is the process of making a dog’s living space more engaging and interesting. To learn more about environmental enrichment for dogs see here.

How much exercise does a Dalmatian puppy need?

Dalmatian puppy

The exercise suggestions above relate to a healthy adult Dalmatian. The exercise needs of a puppy are quite different. With puppies, their bones, muscle, and joints are still growing and developing.

Overly strenuous walks are not necessary and in fact, could possibly cause harm. An activity that is high impact on the joints should also be avoided.

The best exercise for a young puppy is free play with age-appropriate toys.

Socializing with other puppies or friendly adult dogs is a great way to burn some of that puppy energy along with teaching them the social skills they need.

As your Dalmatian puppy gets older you can take them for short informal walks allowing them to sniff and explore and get used to being on a leash. Puppies under three months probably haven’t had all their vaccinations so shouldn’t be walked in public. Check with your vet when it is alright to venture out to the park or street.

The general rule of thumb for walking a puppy is around 5 minutes for every month of age. So, for example for a 4-month-old puppy, a walk of 15 minutes to 20 minutes is enough. Monitor your Dalmatian puppy on the walk for signs such as lagging behind, lying down or panting. End the walk if they seem too tired.

Mental stimulation is important for puppies and can tire them just as much as physical activity. For more on mental stimulation for puppies see here.

For more on exercise for your Dalmatian puppy read “How to exercise your puppy

How much exercise does an older Dalmatian need

As a dog gets older they become less active and have lower energy levels. However, it is still important that they remain reasonably active to keep their joints and muscles mobile and to manage their weight. Read ” Dog exercise for a senior dog” to learn more.

Many dogs develop arthritis as they age. Exercise for them becomes a balancing act. It is important to keep their joints mobile and manage weight, but too much can make them sore. Read “How to exercise an arthritic dog” to learn more.

Summary – Dalmatian Exercise Needs

Dalmatians are high energy and have good levels of endurance. They are also very smart and need to have their mind occupied as well. It is crucial to provide adequate physical and mental exercise and activity to release pent-up energy and prevent boredom.

A minimum of 1 to 2 hours a day of exercise including purposeful activity plus providing mental stimulation is recommended. The cost of not doing so can be an unhappy and frustrated dog. This can lead to behavior issues such as barking, digging, escaping and destructive behavior.

Let us know in the comments how you exercise your Dalmatian.

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