How much exercise does a small dog need?

Most small dogs benefit from 2-3 walks a day and 30 minutes of moderate exercise. But to calculate how much exercise a small dog needs there are several factors that need to be taken into account. The breed of your dog and their energy levels is the first thing to consider. Select the category your dog fits into from below. This guide of exercise needs is for fully mature adult dogs only. The exercise needs of a puppy are different as they are still growing and developing. To learn more about this read “How to exercise your puppy“.

lhasa apso puppy

Energy Levels

The energy and exercise requirements of a small breed dog can vary dependent on the particular dogs breed. A small terrier such as a Jack Russell is a very high energy dog while a Brachycephalic breed such as a French bulldog tends to be lower energy and exercise intolerant.

Weight and health

The next factor to consider is your dogs’ weight and general health and fitness.. If your dog is a normal healthy weight then follow the recommended amount of exercise. If your dog is overweight or even obese reduce this by around 20-30% or look for low weight-bearing exercise such as swimming.

It may seem strange to recommend doing less exercise for an overweight dog, but this is to reduce the stress on their joints and tendons and heart and lungs due to the extra body weight. Exercise in itself has little effect on helping a dog to lose weight (around only 10%).

The main contributing factor in a weight loss program is actually to reduce calories consumed. Logically it takes a lot of activity to burn relatively few calories so it is more efficient to consume fewer calories.


The third factor to take into consideration when considering your dog’s daily exercise needs is age. From around the age of 7 or 8 dogs are considered to be senior dogs.
This age can vary from breed to breed depending on the average lifespan expectancy for that breed. For a senior dog reduce the daily recommended amount by 20-30%. It is important for an older dog to still stay active to keep the muscles and joints strong but not to overdo it. It is about finding the right balance. Read “How to exercise a senior old dog” for more on this.

Specific health issues

The final factor is any health issues the dog may have such as arthritis, hip dysplasia or an illness. In this case, it is best to discuss your dogs exercise needs with guidance from a vet. You may be interested in “How to exercise an arthritic dog” or “How to exercise a dog with hip dysplasia

Over exercised dog symptoms

cav spaniel exerciseIt is important to provide your dog with adequate exercise to keep them healthy, to prevent behavior problems caused by boredom and pent-up energy and make them feel happy. This not only includes physical exercise but should include mental enrichment. Mental stimulation can use as much energy as physical activity. To learn more about providing mental stimulation read “Mental enrichment and mind stimulation” and also “Top 7 Puzzle Toys for dogs

It is also just as important to not over exercise a dog which can result in injury, heat stroke or worse.

What are symptoms of over exercise in dogs?

Excessive panting during or after the exertion

Extreme thirst

Lagging behind when they are normally in front raring to go

Any lameness, limping or a reluctance to exercise or continuing to exercise

Confusion and lack of focus.

Appearing to be overtired after the exercise, or sleeping or laying down more than normal

Signs of overheating or heat stroke. As dogs can’t cool themselves in the same way humans do by sweating it is possible to overheat even if the weather isn’t that hot. For more on the signs of overheating or heat stroke read “Exercising your dog in hot weather”

Dog exercise needs by breed

Below are the various categories of breed and dog energy levels. This is for adult dogs only and should not be used in the case of puppies. Refer “How to exercise your puppy” for more information on this.

Take the recommendation of quantity and type of exercise relative to your dog and make any adjustments to take into account age for senior dogs and weight factors for overweight dogs. Remember, this is only a guideline and every dog is an individual. Your individual dog’s needs may be more or less than another dog of the same breed. If your dog’s particular breed is not listed select a breed that is similar. If you have a mixed breed they will have similar exercise needs to the breeds they are mixed with.

What dogs need the most exercise?

Dogs bred to hunt vermin or foxes are the most high energy breeds and need the most exercise.  This group of dogs include Terrier Breeds and Hounds such as Foxhounds, Beagles, Bloodhounds and Coonhounds.  Often they are very intelligent meaning they require as much mental enrichment as they do physical exercise. The exercise needs of a dog are often based on what they were bred to do.
For a guide of ways to exercise the more high energy breeds read “How to tire a hyper high energy dog” and “How to tire a dog quickly

Terrier Breeds

border terrier fetchThe Terrier breeds include the many smaller terrier breeds such as Jack Russells and Yorkshire terriers. They were originally bred to chase prey such as rodents. Recommended activities for the terrier breeds include moderate walking and high-intensity games such as fetch and Flirt Pole. They are also highly intelligent and have a keen nose so mentally challenging and scenting activities are also good. Check out “Top 7 puzzle toys for dogs” and “12 Scenting and nose games” for ideas.

Select the article from the list below of your particular terrier breed or the most similar.

Other higher energy small breeds

mini schnauzerApart from the terriers, there are many other small breed dogs that are very active. These breeds also need a good amount of daily activity and mental stimulation.
This includes;

What dogs need less exercise?

Brachycephalic breeds needs less exercise due to their facial struture.

pug exerciseBrachycephalic dogs are dogs with a squashed face like a Bulldog (French and English) or Pug. Due to their pushed in faces they have compromised air passages and are prone to overheating.

It is important that they still do get exercise as they are often prone to obesity. However, they are in general exercise intolerance and any activity should be moderate and exercise in hot weather should be avoided. For more on exercise for the Brachycephalic breeds select the article on your particular dog’s breed or most similar;

Medium energy dog breeds

Toy and Small Breed

lhasa apso playThis group includes dogs from the Chihuahua to the Bichon or Shih Tzu. They generally have only moderate exercise needs with a daily walk of 20 to 30 minutes and some free play being sufficient. The exception would be the toy and miniature poodle which are more active and also intelligent, so require a little more physical activity and plenty of mental stimulation. Refer “How to exercise a Cockapoo” for a breed with similar exercise needs.

Select the article related to your particular dog’s breed from the list below. If your dog’s breed is not listed, select the most similar breed.

In summary, how much exercise does a small dog need?

If your particular dog’s breed is not listed or you have a mixed breed, it is best to base your dog’s exercise needs on which group they are the most similar with, energy-wise. For example, a Miniature Poodle is a higher energy breed so a breed such as the Cockapoo would be similar

The easiest way to keep track of how much exercise and activity your dog is getting is by using a dog activity monitor. To learn more about this read “9 reasons to use a dog activity monitor

If you feel that you just don’t have the time or energy to provide the recommended amount of exercise each day for your particular dog read “No time to exercise your dog” and “Dog exercise for Lazy owners” for some ideas and tips.

I hope that you have found this “How much exercise does a small dog need” guide useful. Remember that every dog is an individual so use this as a general guideline and adjust it to suit your own dogs exercise requirements.


  • Joseph Coleman

    A lifelong writer and proud dog dad. Joseph started this blog dedicated to helping other dog owners find accurate information on how to keep their pets at their healthiest through exercise and nutrition. His passion for all things canine shines through in his writing, and he believes that every dog deserves the best possible care. If you're a dog owner looking for reliable advice on how to keep your pup healthy and happy, be sure to check out Joseph's work.