We know it’s important to make sure our dogs get proper exercise to help maintain their weight and overall health, and provide mental stimulation. Every dog, regardless of size, needs a chance to stretch their legs every day, but how much exercise is enough? Breed does make a difference in the amount of exercise needed, and a dog that isn’t given a chance to get rid of pent up energy can develop bad behaviors.
Before beginning any strenuous activities, you should have your vet give your dog a checkup to make sure he’s up to a more physical workout. Each dog is an individual and it’s important to create an exercise routine that takes into account breed, age and physical condition. Old or current injuries, weather conditions and the amount of exercise needed should also be considered when it comes to daily exercise.
You can encourage your dog to play with other dogs at the dog park, or learn how to do agility or other dog sports, but you should never force him to do something he isn’t interested in doing. The amount of daily exercise should be based on what a dog was bred to do. That’s one reason why it’s helpful having a general idea of which breeds make up your mixed breed dog.
Most toy breeds were bred to be companion pets, but the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a true spaniel that can be trained as a hunting dog. The Miniature Poodle was bred to hunt truffles, and the Italian Greyhound was originally used to hunt small game. Even the smallest dog breed in the world, the Chihuahua, needs to work off energy. However, because these dogs are small, their exercise needs are equal to their size and playing fetch or running around in the backyard can fulfill their requirements.
Short nosed breeds like the Pug or Bulldog don’t need as much exercise. Their pushed-in muzzle puts them at risk of overheating and breathing difficulties if they over exercise. A walk around the neighborhood or playing in the backyard should be enough to get rid of their excess energy.
Terriers were bred to hunt rats, fox and other small prey, and these feisty, alert and fearless dogs have plenty of energy and stamina to do their job. Playing fetch, tug of war, or Frisbee in the backyard for an hour a day will give them a good daily workout that can satisfy them, but make sure to get in a couple of walks to give your terrier a chance to poke around with his nose for mental stimulation.
Hounds, scent hounds and sighthounds were bred to hunt by sight, smell or sound. Sighthounds like the Greyhound use their sprinting speed to run down prey, but they don’t need a lot of exercise. Two or three sprinting workouts a week is all they need. Scent hounds like the Beagle require much more exercise – 60 minutes preferably twice a day of more strenuous activity. Mental stimulation is a must to help keep the mind healthy.
Sporting dogs like the spaniels, retrievers and pointers, and the Herding breeds were bred to control the movement of livestock. These are working dogs that are happiest when they have a job to do. Their exercise requirement is 60-90 minutes of intense exercise, preferably twice a day. They also need plenty of mental exercise. Many of these breeds are a good fit for dog sports such as agility, which can give them the workout they need on a daily basis. A walk around the neighborhood isn’t going to be an effective workout for them.
Agility is a dog sport that canines of all sizes can do. Flyball, disc dog, canine dancing, dock diving and other dog sports provides high energy breeds with a good way to get rid of energy while having fun. You can also wear your dog down by playing fetch, tug of war, jogging, biking, swimming or other activities. You can use a combination of exercise and mental stimulation to release extra energy. Training him to learn a dog sport or working on basic commands gives the brain a workout, too.
Older dogs, those with achy joints, and handicapped pets may be slower, but they still need some exercise to keep the body working properly. These dogs may find water activities more suitable. Each dog is different, and providing enough exercise for their body and mind can keep your dog happy, well behaved and fit.
Top photo by Emery Way
Middle photo by Jelly Dude
Bottom by Jonas Löwgren
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