Everyone knows that dogs need exercise, and plenty of it. If they’re not burning off their excitable canine energy going for walks, then they’re going to burn it digging up your yard, sprinting after baths, or tearing your house into tufts of furniture foam. One might even speculate that Dormie, the dog once put on a literal trial for cat murder in 1921, wasn’t walked enough.
But exactly how long and how often should your walk your dog, and how much exercise is too much?
As a general rule, 20 to 30 minutes of activity once or twice per day is enough for many dogs. Though their exercise tolerance can vary depending on breed and age, most will benefit—and enjoy—a good half-hour of walking.
A larger breed may require a little more activity of up to 45 minutes, especially if they’re bred for it, like a greyhound. They might not keep a great pace, but larger dogs need exercise to keep their joints and bones in good health. (If the dog is particularly large, consider swimming if feasible, as it’s lower-impact.)
While that rule covers a lot of breeds, certain dogs may be more receptive to longer durations. If your pet is a sporting or working breed, like a retriever or husky, or a smaller terrier, you might want to consider getting them out for 60 to 90 minutes daily. Some dogs may even benefit from two hours, though the owner may not always be able to accommodate them.
Dogs are pretty good communicators when it comes to their energy levels. If a dog is raring to go even after a walk, then you might want to bump up their activity. If they seem tired because they’re older, don’t let them overdo it. You should also allow your dog to move at their own pace. A puppy may get winded quickly, whereas a strong adult might want to do a little sprinting.
If you find one or two hours daunting, bear in mind you can break up sessions, walking them once in the morning and once in the evening.
If you haven’t been exercising with your dog regularly, remember to keep it short at first to build up their exercise tolerance. And keep in mind that fitness is good for more than just physical health. Dogs that are walked regularly tend to be in a better overall mood and may even have better cognitive health. Walking introduces them to a big world to explore and engage with. If your dog is displaying destructive behavior, is listless, or is hyperactive when they go for walks, they probably need more exercise (and exploring) to keep them of sound mind.
If your dog is brachycephalic with a short, flat nose and face, be mindful that they may not be able to exert themselves as easily as other dogs and shorter walks may be a good idea. In winter, remember to protect paws against antifreeze or salt with boots or creams and to wipe their feet before going back inside. And always keep your friend away from standing water outdoors, which can harbor bacteria.
[h/t Academy Animal Hospital]