• Regular exercise for dogs is essential – it helps keep them in shape and is important for their mental health.
  • Fit and active dogs are less likely to suffer from arthritis, obesity and behaviour problems.
  • It’s important to make sure you have the time and ability to give your dog the exercise they need.
  • If you’re unsure how much exercise your dog needs, or if you have concerns about their weight or fitness, speak to your vet for advice.

How much exercise does your dog need?

The amount of exercise your dog needs will depend on:

  • Breed: Some breeds need a minimum of one to two hours of exercise per day, but others, such as working breeds need significantly more. Take a look at our breed pages for more information.
  • Age: The amount of exercise your dog needs will change throughout their life.
    • While they are growing, it’s important to protect their joints by introducing them to exercise slowly.
    • As an adult, it’s important to make sure they stay fit and active.
    • When they are into their senior years you may notice that they need a little less exercise than usual.
    • For more detailed information about exercising your dog during their younger and senior years, check out our specific pages on exercising your puppy and exercising your senior dog.
  • Health: If your dog is unwell or injured, they might not need as much exercise as usual. Resting is an important part of recovery so always follow your vet’s advice. During times of rest, it can be helpful to find other ways to keep them entertained and mentally stimulated so they don’t get bored and frustrated - puzzle feeders and snuffle mats are great options.
  • Fitness: Build their fitness gradually. If you want them to start doing more, or join you in a new hobby such as running or hiking, easing them into a new fitness routine slowly will help avoid any injury.
  • Personality: Just like us, every dog has their own preferences so it’s important to make sure they are enjoying their daily exercise. If they aren’t finding it fun and stimulating, think about what else you can spend time doing with them and tailor it to their breed where possible for example if you have a dog that has been bred to retrieve or swim.
An illustration showing the energy level of different dog breeds

Different ways to exercise your dog

  • Walking should be part of every dogs’ daily routine. Most dogs need at least 1-2 walks per day (unless otherwise specified by your vet).
    • A brisk walk is a great opportunity for them to burn off extra energy.
    • A slow, meandering walk sniffing and exploring is great for their mental health.
  • Swimming is a great option if your dog likes the water, and as an added benefit, is easy on their joints. Whether it’s in a pool, the sea, a river, or a lake, make sure you follow water safety advice to keep your dog safe.
  • Running is a great way to stay healthy with your four-legged friend – just make sure you introduce them to it slowly. Start with short bursts of gentle jogging throughout your normal walk, then gradually build up to longer stretches. For more advice, have a look at our 'how to get running with your dog' page.
  • Agility involves training your dog to complete an obstacle course containing hurdles, tunnels and seesaws. It’s a great way to bond with your dog and socialise them with other dogs. If you have a dog with an active mind that loves a challenge, this could be the exercise for them. Take a look at our guide 'agility for dogs: how to get started'.
  • Hiking is a wonderful way to spend time with your dog. Before you set off, make sure the route is suitable for your dog and that they are fit enough to tackle it. Always check how long the hike will take, and avoid any overly steep sections/difficult scrambling. Remember to keep an eye on the weather, and to take water, snacks, and regular breaks.
  • Training should be an essential part of every dog’s daily routine. It helps keep your dog’s mind active, reinforces commands, prevents boredom, and is a great way to bond. Take a look at our advice on reward-based training.
  • Flyball involves your dog running through an obstacle course and releasing a ball, which they then need to catch. It’s a great sport for dogs with a lot of energy and/or an active brain. Flyball isn’t a good sport for very heavy dogs, or dogs with joint problems, so it’s important to speak to your vet before starting your dog at a class.
  • Play doesn't replace a good walk, but is a great way to keep your dog active, alleviate boredom, exercise their mind, and allow them to express normal dog behaviours such as chasing, pouncing and searching. The type of games your dog enjoys will depend on their breed and personality – they might want to chase and retrieve a toy, play tug of war, or sniff out their favourite toy in a scent game. Here are some top tips from our vets about choosing the right toys for your dog:
    • Only use toys designed for dogs. Others are less likely to stand up to the rough and tumble of pet playtime and could be dangerous.
    • Check your dog’s toys regularly and throw them away if they have any parts that could be bitten off, chewed, or swallowed.
    • Make sure toys are large enough that there is no way they could be swallowed whole or be a choking hazard. As a rule of thumb, the safest toy for your dog is one they can carry without having to hold the whole thing in their mouth.
    • Keep a close eye - only ever leave your dog alone with toys that you are sure they can’t destroy or swallow.
    • Keep throwing safe – throwing items for your dog to fetch can be a lot of fun, but the quick starts and sudden stops can put strain on their joints. Avoid throwing things for your dog if they are:
      • Still growing
      • Elderly
      • Injured
      • Arthritic
      • Overweight
      • Prone to joint problems or a breed known for joint problems
      • On a wet, slippery, or unstable surface
    • Never throw sticks as they can cause very serious injuries if they splinter, get stuck in the throat, or become lodged in the ground and impale your dog.
    • Variety is the spice of life as your dog may get bored playing with the same toys week-in week-out, so swap toys in and out to keep things interesting.
    • Mental exercise as brain games are a great addition to any dog’s routine, and are especially important if you have a breed that needs more mental stimulation (such as a working dog), or your dog is currently receiving less exercise than usual. Feeding puzzles and snuffle mats are perfect for this.

Exercise safety for dogs

A photo of a dog chasing a frisbee outdoors

Our vets have put together a few tips to help you keep your dog safe and happy during exercise:

  1. Training is key to a successful walk. For the safety of you, your dog and the general public, it’s vitally important that your dog knows what you are asking them to do in all situations. Good recall is essential so that if you need your dog to come back to you in any situation, they will. This can be achieved with positive reward based training. Practice this in your house to begin with and in an enclosed garden or park before letting your dog off the lead in an open space.
  2. Collars and leads: It is a legal requirement for your dog to have a collar and ID tag on when out in public. The tag must include your name and address including postcode. We don't recommend extendable leads – they can be dangerous for both you and your dog, especially around busy roads.
  3. Countryside code: Always keep your dog on the lead when you’re near any roads, in built up areas, or around livestock when on countryside walks.
  4. Summer: During the summer months take water on walks and only exercise your dog during the cooler hours such as the beginning and end of the day. For more information, check out our pages on heatstroke in dogs and 'How to keep your dog cool in the summer'.
  5. Winter: consider how cold your dog might be getting, and when it’s dark, make sure they wear a high visibility jacket, collar/harness so they can be seen. For more information, check out our page 'Pet care advice for winter'.


My dog doesn't like walks – what can I do?

If your dog isn’t enjoying their walks – it’s important that you try to work out why, and adjust their routine so they enjoy them again. We’ve listed some of the most common reasons below:

Fear: If your dog is scared of other dogs, people, or going outside, walks are likely to be scary and not fun. If you believe this is the case, seek the advice of an accredited behaviourist and in the meanwhile, try to think of other ways to keep your dog busy in the house and garden.

Fitness: It’s important that your dog stays fit enough to enjoy their walks. If you think your dog is struggling, speak to your vet about how you can improve their diet and exercise routine.

Boredom: It’s important that your dog is able to spend time sniffing, having fun, running and playing on their walks, otherwise they are likely to get bored. If you find yourself rushing dog walks, try to find a better time of the day to walk them, or consider hiring a dog walker.


How should I walk my reactive dog?

If your dog is aggressive towards other dogs, the best thing to do is avoid other dogs as much as possible while you work on their behaviour with an accredited dog behaviourist. Walk them at times and places you know they won’t meet others, or consider hiring an enclosed dog walking paddock. If you do meet another dog, walk away calmly and quickly, whilst distracting your dog with something they really like, such as a treat or toy. It can help to try to get a physical barrier between the two dogs, for example a gate, fence or car. For more information on dog aggression take a look at our advice.

How much should I walk my arthritic dog?

Arthritis is a painful condition of the joints, which can make moving around difficult and uncomfortable. If your dog has been diagnosed with arthritis, it’s important to keep them moving regularly throughout the day to prevent their joints seizing up but the exercise they do should be low impact. Walking and gentle running is fine, but it’s best to avoid chasing, jumping, and skidding. Observe what surfaces are more comfortable for them to walk on, they might struggle more on sand or gravel and might find pavements and grass easier and more predictable. It’s also sensible to avoid steep slopes, as they put extra pressure on the joints. For more information on caring for an arthritic dog, take a look at our advice. 

How can I teach my dog to come when I call?

Before letting your dog off the lead, it’s important that they understand to come back when you call! It’s best to start training when they are a puppy but it’s never too late to begin teaching an older dog. For more advice on this, take a look at our page on reward based training for dogs.

Can I just let my dog run in the garden?

No, even if you have a big garden, it’s important to take your dog out for regular walks too. Walks give your dog a chance to sniff new smells, explore new places and meet new people and dogs – all of which are really important for their mental wellbeing and confidence.

How often should I walk my dog?

Every dog's daily schedule should include walking to ensure their physical and mental well-being. Typically, dogs require a minimum of one to two walks per day, unless advised otherwise by your veterinarian.

Will exercise stop my dog behaving badly?

Exercise is an important factor in dog behaviour, as dogs with excess energy often become frustrated, stressed and find it difficult to cope. Having a good exercise routine may help to improve any unwanted behaviours, but is unlikely to fix the problem completely.

If done in the wrong way, it could even make things worse, as exercising a stressed dog in a busy environment can make them feel more stressed! If you are worried about your dog’s behaviour, it’s best to seek advice from an accredited dog behaviourist. For more information on behaviour, take a look at our advice.