How much exercise does my dog need?
In reality, the amount of daily exercise a dog should get really depends on the individual. Take the following into consideration:
- Lifestage: expect puppies and seniors to have special needs regarding exercise and energy levels. The bottom line with both: support healthy development/maintenance without over-doing things. Adult dogs in the prime of life (after growth has stopped and before age 7) are best suited for more rigorous exercise and activities.
- Current condition: If your dog is a couch potato, he’ll need to slowly get fit before he can be expected to run the next 5k with you – always consult your vet before starting new exercise regimes!
- Energy levels: Does your dog resemble a super-charged engine or a statue? Dogs with loads of energy will need different levels of exercise (and different types) compared to natural couch potatoes. If your dog is in less-than-perfect shape now, you can expect his energy levels to pick up a bit once he begins an exercise regime!
- Breed: some dogs are bred to go the distance while others were developed simply to sit by your side – take this into account when you choose the exercise most appropriate for your dog. Also, dogs bred for certain purposes will more readily take to activities that cater to their instincts: sight hounds may love a day out coursing, whereas mastiff types will likely prefer a nice friendly strength-based activity or a neighbourhood “patrol” walk, and terriers may love chasing balls for hours or showing off on an agility course. It’s always fun to just try out a few things and see what kind of exercise your dog enjoys best!
Keeping it fun
Variety is the spice of life – and this certainly holds true for dogs, despite their love of basic routine. The best way to keep your dog both physically and mentally young and agile is to create a mix of new and routine – think routine daily walks mixed with one new or less routine activity a week, such as a day hike, swim session in a local lake, or a fun new activity such as agility, or outdoor retrieving games – you can even try something truly novel like simulated hunts (which don’t require real quarry, just scented lures or retrieval toys), herding, or sledding (with wheeled training carts – no snow needed!). While these sound complicated, many special interest groups or local trainers host fun sessions that allow people and pets to try out these activities without the commitment of purchasing special gear or enrolling in lengthy hard-core training courses. See what kinds of active fun you and your dog can dig up together – he’ll never need to know it’s really exercise!