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No two dog owners in the UK will walk their dogs in exactly the same way, and there is no magic formula to work out exactly how much exercise any particular dog needs, what type of exercise they need, or how often to walk them. From dogs that pop out for ten minutes once a day, to dogs that spend a couple of hours twice a day or more outside running around, there is no set stipulation of exactly what constitutes the right amount of exercise for dogs as a whole. If you are trying to work out how much exercise your dog needs, what counts as exercise, and how to tell if your dog is being walked enough, it can be puzzling. As mentioned, there is no one right or wrong way to go about addressing your dog’s exercise needs, but if you take into account the following factors, you should be able to ascertain the appropriate amount and type of exercise for your dog. Read on to find out more!
Generally speaking, a wide variety of activities can count as ‘exercise’ for your dog. While playing in the house cannot be totally discounted, however, exercise for a dog really implies activities outside of the home, where the dog has the opportunity to properly stretch their legs and move around freely. So for the purposes of this article, playing inside of the home does not count as exercise, and neither does being allowed outside for a few minutes at a time to go to the toilet. Walking on the lead, play and activity in the garden, running off the lead in a safe place, and other activities such as agility practice or swimming count as exercise, and should be taken into account when working out your dog’s activity levels and how much exercise they are getting, or should be getting.
A large part of answering the question of how much and how often your dog should be exercised comes down to the breed and type of dog that you own. Some breeds are naturally much more sedentary than others, although this by no means implies that they don’t need exercise or that you can skimp on the amount of time they spend going out. Some toy dogs such as Chihuahuas will only thrive on short walks, while other smaller dogs such as various terrier types will be full of beans and need a considerable amount of time outside! Any working dog breed, such as the spaniel, and particularly the collie and other herding dogs, will need a significant amount of exercise each day to stay healthy and happy. When trying to ascertain how much exercise your dog might need, looking into their breed history and general activity levels can be a big help. For instance, the Siberian Husky was bred to run and run and run, and can soon prove a handful or prone to bolting off if they do not get enough exercise.
The age of your dog and their general health will also affect how much exercise they need and should get; older dogs are naturally rather less active than younger dogs. Also, older dogs are more likely to suffer from stiff joints and various other natural ailments of old age that mean that for them, too much exercise can be a chore. There is a fine line between keeping your older dog fit and overdoing it, and so you should consider your dog’s age and any health issues carefully as part of working out their exercise regime. If your dog is no longer fit enough to manage long, energetic walks, try breaking down their walks into several shorter walks over the course of the day instead.
Weight and exercise can be a bit of a catch-22 with dogs; being overweight means that a dog is less able to exercise as much as they possibly should, but also makes it all the more important to get them moving and hopefully burn off the pounds. Using exercise in combination with dietary changes is an important part of managing your dog’s weight. As with older dogs or those with health issues, however, pushing your overweight dog into high-energy activities and overlong walks can cause more problems than it solves. Again, consider breaking your dog’s day up into shorter walks, rather than one long one that your dog might have problems dealing with.
The surface under your dog’s paws can make a big difference to how happy they are to go walking or play, and how suitable an area is for walking on. Grassy areas are the best- try to avoid prolonged walks and high-impact play on the pavement or other concreted areas. If your dog seems reluctant to go out, try taking them in the car to a field or area with a less punishing surface underfoot; discomfort, pain and even injury may accompany too much walking on hard surfaces, or in snow and ice.
There is no type of dog that does not need exercise; this is a simple fact of dog ownership. Turfing your dog out into the garden a couple of times a day to go to the toilet is not enough! However small, delicate or sedentary your dog is, you should assign at least half an hour a day to their walks, as a bare minimum. Whether this means one half hour walk or two fifteen minute walks, this is the absolute lower limit of the amount of time that any breed or type of dog needs to stay fit and healthy, and for the vast majority of dogs, half an hour a day simply will not be enough. Don’t forget that exercise can take many other forms as well as walking; throwing a ball for your dog, letting them off the lead to run, and playing outside all count as well!
If you are a particularly keen walker yourself, or are enthusiastic about getting your dog fit and active, it can be easy to push things too far the other way, and pressure your dog into overexerting themselves beyond the point at which they are comfortable or happy. Your dog should return from his walk slightly tired and satisfied, but not on the verge of collapse! Make sure that your dog does not become overheated or worn out when exercising, and give them plenty of opportunities to calm down and possibly have some water while you are out on longer walks. It is better to offer several short to medium length walks per day rather than one epic journey; or perhaps one main walk, accompanied by one or two extra short walks later on.
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