How much exercise does my dog need?

Regular exercise is important for any dog, but even more so if your dog is on a diet. Your vet will be able to advise you on the amount for your dog, as this will vary with the type of dog and their stage of life.

Why should I exercise my dog?

The right amount of exercise is essential for any dog’s physical wellbeing, but it’s also important for their mental health as well. Bored dogs are unhappy dogs - they can show their frustration through destructive behaviour, barking a lot, toileting in the house, or developing compulsive habits like excessive licking. Our recent PDSA Animal Wellbeing Report (PAW) found that millions of dogs are left alone for long periods every day, so the problem could be even greater than anyone knows.

So what can be done? Exercise is the key: it relieves stress, and is essential to a dog’s physical and mental wellbeing.

How Long Should I Exercise My Dog For?

How much exercise your dog needs depend on its breed, age, initial fitness level and personality. You can use our graphic as a rough guide to how much exercise different breeds of dogs need but you can find out about how much exercise your breed of dog needs with our dog breed guides.

Exercise chart


  • Young dogs can usually go further and faster than older ones
  • Dogs with short legs don’t need to walk as far as those with long legs
  • Jogging isn’t good for puppies or larger breeds, as it can damage their joints
  • Dogs with short noses, like bulldogs and boxers, may have trouble breathing if they work too hard
  • Some dogs will need restricted exercise. For example, dogs with arthritic joints usually need frequent short walks rather than one long one.

As long as you’re both dressed for it, most dogs are happy to go out whatever the weather. Rain and even snow aren’t usually a problem (for the dog, anyway!) In really hot weather, go out early in the morning, or later on in the evening, if you can so your dog doesn’t get overheated.

Your dog needs to stick to the programme, so it has to be a daily routine, not just something you do at weekends. This is especially important for older and overweight dogs. If you can’t walk them yourself for some reason, ask a friend, or maybe a professional dog-walker, so your dog doesn’t miss out on a session.

Always check with your vet that the exercise programme you’ve planned is suitable for your dog.

Walking Your Dog – Top Tips

  • Our vets recommend that you don’t throw sticks for your dog to chase, as they can splinter and injure your dog’s mouth and throat. If you throw a ball, make sure it’s not too small, as your dog could swallow it.
  • Walks and games are much better treats for dogs than food
  • ‘Varied walking’ can be good for you and your dog. This is where you speed-walk for about 30 seconds, walk at normal pace for about a minute, then speed up again, and so on. It’s a really good exercise for both of you, and something you can do randomly throughout your walk.
  • Work at your dog’s own pace. If your dog isn’t getting tired, or is still full of energy when you get home, they may need more exercise
  • But be careful not to overdo it. If your dog is struggling, gets home worn out, or refuses to go at all, you may need to cut back!
  • Try to vary your route, to keep your walks interesting and exciting for your dog.
  • Always allow your dog to have a good sniff around. This is really important for their mental health.

You can get started by downloading our dog exercise programme.

Other fun ways to exercise your dog

  • Make them work for their food. Using interactive feeding toys is a great way to make your dog burn some extra calories to get their meal. Your dog has to solve a puzzle or move the toy around to get the food out so these toys are also great mental stimulation for your dog too. If you don’t want to buy toys you can use household items like empty egg boxes or milk cartons to hide the food in and make small holes so the food is gradually dispensed as your dog uses their tongue or paws to move it. Make sure all toys are safe to play with and always watch your dog whilst they’re playing with these toys.

  • Sniff it out. Dogs have an excellent sense of smell and this can form a fun game. Use one of their favourite toys or part of the food allowance to create a scent trail by rubbing it on the floor at regular intervals. Hide the toy or food at the end of the trail as a great reward.

  • Jump to it. For more mobile dogs you can use a plastic hula hoop held upright, just off the ground and get your dog to walk through it. Give them lots of praise once they jump through and gradually increase the height off the floor to get them jumping higher and burning those calories.

  • Get them to ‘step-up’ to the challenge. You can use a flight of stairs for any dog who is mobile. Leave your dog at the bottom of the stairs and walk to the top yourself. Call your dog to you, at the top of the stairs and reward them with some fuss or a game with their favourite toy. You can repeat this a few times but stop if they seem tired or out of breath.