How long should you walk your dog each day
Many people ask how long should I walk my dog each day? The answer is that it depends on a number of factors. Obviously, the type or breed of dog will make a difference. In addition, age, weight and overall health and fitness level of the dog must be taken into account.
For a full exercise guide for your particular breed of dog see here.
The importance of walking your dog
The daily walk is far more to a dog than just an opportunity to get some exercise. It is important for the dog to leave their own property to explore and take in the sights, sounds, and smells. This provides mental stimulation for your dog. Mental enrichment and mind stimulation can burn as much energy as physical activity and has psychological benefits for your dog. It also provides a training opportunity and helps to build a strong bond with your dog.
Even if you have a large backyard this is not exercise for a dog. Dogs will generally not exercise themselves. This is true even if you have more than one dog. The majority of the time they will just lay around.
There is also the social interaction aspect of taking your dog for a walk. While out walking you are most likely going to meet other dogs. This is a great way for your dog to learn the correct ways of social interaction and communication with new dogs. It also helps your dog to build confidence. A well-socialized dog still enjoys playing with other dogs, but they will know when to stop.
If you have an older dog, exercise is just as important for them even if they are less active. By keeping a senior dog mobile it helps to manage their weight, keeps their joints and muscles working, and mentally keeps them happier. For a guide to exercising a senior dog see here.
How many walks a day does a dog need
The number of walks you give our dog daily will depend on your time and schedule and the type of dog. If you have time to take your dog for a walk two or more times daily, it is ideal.
This gets them out of the house more and will help to prevent boredom. The breed of dog also makes a difference. Some breeds may not be able to walk for too long or far in one session. A good example of this is the breeds with a short muzzle such as Bulldogs. This means they have compromised breathing passages and tire easy and lack stamina.
Other breeds like sporting or working dogs were bred to walk for long distances and for many hours. Longer walks, even if you only have time for one in a day, will tire them more.
How far should I walk my puppy
Puppies are different from adult dogs in that at the end of their long bones they have what are called growth plates. These contain rapidly dividing cells that allow the bone to grow until they reach puberty.
At that time the bone ends calcify becoming a stable inactive part of the bone. Until the growth plate close they are vulnerable and prone to injury. In addition, their bone density is not fully developed and muscles and tendons are still growing. It is important to not over-exercise a puppy for the above reasons.
As your puppy starts to get older you can take them for short informal walks allowing them to sniff and explore and to get used to being on a leash. The general rule of thumb for the length of these walks is 5 minutes for every month of age ie. up to 20 minutes for a four-month-old puppy.
Monitor your puppy on the walk and end the walk if they show signs of overtiring such as lagging behind, lying down or panting. 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 for them to venture out to the park or street.
For more on this read “How to exercise a puppy”
How far should I walk my small dog
This again depends on factors such as breed, age, and overall health. In general, for most small breeds 20 – 30 minutes daily is sufficient with other play and mentally stimulating activities added in to complete their exercise needs.
The main exception would be the small terrier breeds which tend to be very high energy and highly intelligent. As a result, they would generally need a least a 30 minutes walk daily with lots of other activity and mental challenges thrown in.
You may also wish to read “How to tire a hyper high energy dog” and “mental enrichment and mind stimulation” for more information.
How far should I walk my dog each day – other breeds
For a guideline of how much exercise your particular dog requires read “How much exercise does my dog need calculator“. It is important to get the balance right when it comes to providing exercise for your dog. Insufficient exercise will result in a dog that has pent-up energy. This can cause a dog to be bored and frustrated. If you don’t provide a means for them to release this pent up energy they will find a way themselves. This often can be in ways that are destructive or even dangerous for them.
At the other end of the scale, it is possible to over-exercise a dog. This can result in injury and in extreme cases death. Take note of signs your dog is giving. If they are falling behind, panting excessively or simply lay down end the session. For more on this read “over exercised dog symptoms” to avoid this.
Also, for dogs that may have health-related issues exercise is still important. Dogs with arthritis or hip dysplasia it is important to keep moving to help keep the muscles strong and mobile. In addition, weight management is important to lessen the strain on the joints. Read “Exercise for an arthritic dog” and “Exercise for dogs with hip dysplasia” for more on this.
Can you walk your dog too much
Yes, you can over walk and exercise your dog. A dog’s fitness level needs to be built up gradually. Fitness also goes in cycles. A dog can not maintain peak fitness all the time.
A sign that you are walking your dog too much can include them lagging behind or even laying down on a walk. In addition, if they are taking a long time to recover after a walk it is best to reduce the frequency or distance of walks
Also, if you do notice signs of your dog not having as much energy or getting niggly little injuries it is a good idea to reduce the quantity of activity and build it back to the level it was.
For more on over-exercised dog symptoms see here.
How far your dog walks compared to you
The distance you walk and the distance covered by your dog may not be the same. If you are walking your dog on a short leash, they will cover roughly the same distance as you. If you walk one mile, they cover one mile.
By walking a dog on a long line or retractable leash, it will increase the distance your dog walks compared to you. It will on average result in your dog walking nearly twice the distance you do. Therefore, if you walk one mile, your dog will have covered 1.5 to 2 miles. It will actually depend on how much your dog is circling around and running back and forth.
This type of long leash walking is often referred to as compression walking. This is because it allows your dog to destress and decompress by exploring while still being under your control.
Off-leash dog walking
If your dog has good recall and comes when called, allowing them time off-leash at the park is ideal. This allows them to burn off much more energy and explore. It also means you don’t need to walk as far and use as much energy.
How to increase resistance on dog walks
To maximize the benefit and amount of energy your dog uses on a walk, you can increase the level of resistance. This can be achieved by providing environmental resistance or adding weight to your dog. Examples of this are:-
Walking or running on sand or shallow water.
Walking your dog on sand or in knee-high water provides another type of resistance not achieved by normal walking and again is a low impact activity. As with swimming, just 10 minutes of this is more than sufficient to give your dog a good workout. Running uphill also provides added resistance and is great for building strength in the hind legs.
Dog walking games
Incorporating dog exercise games into your walk will have many benefits for both your dog and you. It can help to increase the intensity of the workout, provide more mental stimulation and enrichment and can be a great training opportunity.
The use of dog walking games helps to have your dog focus on you and not get distracted. This can help to fix leash pulling, reactive behavior and keeping your dog’s attention.
On your next walk to the dog park give some of these games a try.
This is a good way to get your dog more attentive to your movements and will help with leash pulling. This can involve changing the speed you are walking. Start to walk quicker or jog and give your dog a command such as “faster”. Then slow down giving a similar command such as “slowly”. Or you can stop and start much like a game of Red light, Greenlight. Your dog will quickly recognize the commands and will be more attentive to you.
Use your imagination and use different changes such as changing the side they are walking on or walk in a zig-zag or completely change direction.
Mix the changes up and make the length of each burst unpredictable meaning your dog will need to be aware of what you are going to do next.
Change your route
One of the easiest ways to provide enrichment for your dog is to go to different places full of exciting and unfamiliar sights. If you are limited to the number of different places you can go, try mixing it up by walking the route back to front or walking on the other side of the road.
Urban agility or doggie parkour
Urban agility is where you use the normal surroundings to provide obstacles for your dog to run around, jump over or on to or crawl under. You can even use the playground or skateboard park as a source of obstacles.
Using your imagination you can turn the park into an obstacle course. Just be sure to ensure the activity is safe and within your dog’s ability.
If you have a dog that is very athletic you can try them with more advanced dog parkour type techniques. This can include walking along a narrow surface or even climbing a tree.
Recall games are a great way to really master your dog coming on command. Coming on command is not a signal that it is the end of the interaction. It is just the start of the fun. This can include activities such as going through your legs or to circle around you.
Watch the video below for ideas on how this game works.
Dog walking safety
It is important to be aware of safety considerations when walking your dog. If you have good control over your dog there should be little chance of anything going wrong.
However, you can’t control the environment and other people and dogs. Here are some tips to keep both your dog and you safe while out on walks.
Be aware of the surroundings
It is crucial that you remain aware of the surrounding keeping an eye out for any potential issues. This can be anything from other unfriendly dogs heading your way to cars pulling out of driveways without looking.
I see time and time again people walking their dogs with their faces in their phones. You don’t need to be checking Facebook or emails while walking your dog. Enjoy the experience of being out and about with your dog.
Feeding dog before or after exercise
Dogs that eat too soon before or after exercise can develop bloat. Bloat is a digestive issue that causes a dog’s stomach to fill with gases blowing up like a balloon. It is often fatal.
This is more common in breeds with deep chests such as Shepherds, but it can happen to any dog.
As a general rule of thumb wait at least 60 minutes after walking or exercising your dog to feed them. Alternatively, if you walk or exercise your dog after they eat, wait at least 1 hour after returning, preferably 2 hours.
To learn more about feeding and exercise see here.
If you are walking your dog at times the light is dim or on drizzly dark days, it is crucial that both you and your dog can be seen. It is a good idea for both you and your dog to wear bright, reflective clothing so that motorists will be able to see you clearly.
When walking around the streets of most suburbs there will be ambient light from the street lamps. In this case, a reflective vest for your dog will make them clearly visible.
View Reflective dog vest on Amazon.
If you are walking in very dark areas, take a torch and use an illuminated dog harness for your dog.
View Illuminated dog harness on Amazon
Keep your dog hydrated
It is essential that you keep your dog hydrated on the walk, especially in hot weather. Dogs can overheat quickly in hot weather. Have plenty of water on hand and take breaks in the shade to let your dog cool down.
It is best to walk or exercise your dog at cooler times of the day such as early morning or evening if possible. For more on exercising a dog in hot weather see here.
The daily walk is an important part of your dog’s exercise needs, both physically and psychologically. It allows them the opportunity to leave their own property and explore. It is also a great way to improve their social interaction skills, build confidence and strengthen their bond with you. The walk can also be a great training opportunity for your dog.
Take into account your dog’s breed, age, and overall health when deciding how far and for how long to walk them. See the “How much exercise does my dog need calculator” for more details.
You may also be interested in other articles in the age/breed/size category. There are many articles on different breeds, and advice for young and old dogs exercise needs.
Also, the health/fitness category has great advice for exercising dogs with health-related issues and for dogs with very high energy.
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