Regular exercise is important for any dog. It helps keep them in shape but it’s really important for their mental health, too. Dogs love to sniff and explore so make sure your dog has plenty of opportunity to just…well…be a dog!
Exercise is even more important if your dog is on a diet and needs to lose a few pounds. Speak to your vet before upping the amount of exercise your dog is doing. They’ll be able to give you lots of advice on how to safely get them into shape.
Exercise is essential for dogs
Exercise is essential to having a happy dog. It keeps them fit and healthy, physically and mentally. Getting out and about keeps your dog’s brain active and is great stress relief for them.
Our research shows that thousands of dogs in the UK are never walked at all. Not getting enough exercise can cause health problems, like obesity, but can also lead to behavioural problems. Bored dogs are unhappy dogs - they can show their frustration by chewing and being destructive, barking a lot, going to the toilet in the house, or developing habits like licking too much.
If your dog has any of these problems, giving them more exercise might help them cope better. If you’re worried about their behaviour, speak to your vet for more advice.
The right amount of exercise for your dog
How much exercise your dog needs depend on its breed, age, fitness level and personality.
Our graphic gives 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.
- 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 your 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
- 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 small enough for your dog to swallow.
- 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.
- Exercise 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
- 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.
- Keep dogs on a lead when exercising in built-up areas. Only let them off the lead when you are absolutely sure it is safe. This ensures your dog isn’t a nuisance to others and protects it from traffic, litter and other hazards. It is also important not to let your dog loose where there are sheep or other livestock.
Other fun ways to exercise your dog
- Make them work for their food. Using interactive feeding toys is a great way to help 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 during play time.
- 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 their 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.