Exercise is essential for all dogs. It helps keep them in shape but is really important for their mental health, too. It's so important that all dogs get a daily walk.
Our research shows that thousands of dogs in the UK are never walked at all. Getting out and about keeps your dog's brain active and is great stress relief for them. All dogs should get to go out for a walk daily to keep them happy and healthy. Dogs love to sniff and explore so make sure your dog has plenty of opportunity to just... well... be a dog!
Not getting enough exercise can cause health problems, such as obesity, but can also lead to behavioural problems. Bored dogs are unhappy dogs – they can show their frustration by chewing, barking a lot, toileting in the house and over grooming (licking too much).
If your dog has any of these problems, more exercise may 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 depends on their breed, age, healthy and personality. Our diagram below gives a rough guide to how much exercise each breed of dog needs.
Find out more about exercising your dog in their different life stages:
Find out more about specific types of doggy exercise:
Remember, walking needs 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, ask a friend, or a professional dog-walker so your dog doesn't miss out.
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 – 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 a much better treat 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 as much as necessary – if your dog isn’t getting tired, or is still full of energy when you get home, they may need more exercise. If your dog is struggling, or refuses to go at all, you may need to cut back!
- Try to vary your route – to keep your walks interesting and exciting.
- Always allow your dog to have a good sniff around – this is important for their mental health.
- Keep dogs on a lead in built-up areas – only let them off 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 to keep your dog on a lead around sheep and other livestock.
Fun ways to exercise your dog
- Make them work for their food. Using a feeding toy instead of a food bowl is a fun way to feed your dog at the same time as getting them to burn extra calories.
- 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.