How Often Should You Walk Your Dog?
Having a dog is a great way for a person to get out of the house. Dogs, unlike humans, cannot use the bathroom inside. As a general rule of thumb, the amount of exercise for a dog would be a range of 30 minutes to two hours per day. The first time you take your dog out you might want to keep it to a gentle 30-minute walk. From there you can make the determination as to how far they can comfortably go and make changes from there.
Different dogs have different walking needs
All dogs are not created equally. Some breeds naturally need more exercise than others. Some breeds are athletes and working dogs. They will have higher exercise requirements. Others need less exercise and are lap dogs (but this isn’t to say that some “athletic” breeds just want to lie down all day either). Smaller dogs (such as Yorkshire terriers) need shorter walks only because when you are slowly walking they are trotting because their gait is a lot shorter. Consideration of multiple factors, such as age, breed, and health of the dog, will determine how long of a walk, and how many times per day, you should take with your new four-legged (or maybe not) friend. This is definitely a point to consider when you are choosing what type of dog to get. If you are looking for a dog that is going to want to walk for hours with you, then you might want to consider a higher energy dog (see below), or if you are just looking for a companion that isn't all that active, you can take a look at the lower energy ones.
Age plays a big role in how long and often a dog should be walking. Puppies don’t need as much walking as you think, and too much walking can harm their growing joints, increasing the likelihood of early-onset arthritis. For puppies, there is a simple calculation that can work for many of them. For every month of their age, multiply it by five minutes. For example, if the puppy is 8 months old, they can walk up to 40 minutes per walk, twice per day. Fully grown would be based on their breed. Smaller dogs are fully grown at maybe a year while large breed dogs can take 2 years to fully mature.
Once out of the puppy stage, younger dogs still need a good amount of exercise. Depending on the breed, a healthy dog can go out for about 30 minutes per walk. Some younger dogs, however, can walk, hike, and run for a lot longer than that, and this is based on the breed as well as age. Older dogs and senior dogs might need more frequent walks that should be shorter in duration. They might have achy joints like humans do, but they still need to go out. Ensure that they go out and enjoy the fresh air and do their business but also that they aren’t getting overtired and overworked as well.
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Just like age, dog owners should consider the breed of their dog when determining the amount they should be walking them. When getting a dog, start off with short walks first to determine their stamina, and take it from there. Herding breeds, for example, which also include “police” dogs such as Belgian Malinois and German Shepherds, need a lot of running and expending of energy in order to remain happy and healthy dogs. Walking them (especially long walks that can allow them to use their nose, not just bathroom breaks), can be exceptionally good for them and for you as they are highly trainable and can make great partners outside. They would even be great running partners and sport dogs as long as other factors are taken into consideration as well.
A small dog, such as a chihuahua or Yorkshire terrier, is known to be a non-high-energy breed that will need significantly less walking, which makes them excellent companions for older people or those less active. Instead of long walks, dog owners can play fun games with them and go on smaller walks to help keep them healthy and in shape.
Some breeds are natural athletes and have high energy needs. These are dogs that are generally seen when doing sports that range from running, hiking, and biking with their humans, to agility, dock diving, flyball, and frisbee, just to name a few. These breeds were made for families that want an active dog and like to do high-energy activities. They generally will need more physical activity than a companion dog. They should go on longer walks, sometimes more than two hours total daily as well because they have the stamina and ability to do so, and a dog that hasn’t expended all its energy can become destructive.
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Some high-energy breeds that will match an active person's lifestyle would be Terriers, Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Siberian Huskies, Belgian Malinois, and German Shepherds. It might not be clear from this list, but these are mainly working breeds that are bred for whatever tasks they are to be partaking in and also for their energy. For example, a low energy Border Collie wouldn't be of much use to herd other animals if they just wanted to lie on the couch.
Then there are the dogs that are less active and have lower exercise needs. Their energy levels match those of people who like to be less active, move a bit slower, or just don’t have a lifestyle that matches that of an active breed. Maybe an owner of one of these dogs could be an older individual who just wants the company. These less energetic dogs still need daily exercise to maintain their health; however, their daily walks can be shorter in duration. This is not to say that all these dogs are less active—it really is dependent on the dog itself—but in general, they would rather lie on the couch than go run up the nearest mountain. Even though some of these dogs are large breeds, they don't have the energy needs that the more active dogs have.
Some of these less-active dog breeds would be Great Danes, Newfoundlands, Mastiffs, Greyhounds, and Bulldogs. One might think that a Greyhound for example is an active dog, when in reality if they are not racing, they do like to just lie around. And again, don't let the size fool you; these dogs just want to curl up next to you and relax.
A dog's physical health is a big factor in determining if they should get long walks or if they need shorter walks. One health condition that is generally preventable would be obesity. An obese dog needs shorter walks since they can injure their joints because of the extra strain if they are walked too much. It's just like a human who is overweight. Everything hurts more the more active you are at the beginning, and doing something strenuous on the joints and the body can actually be detrimental to getting healthy. A big part of that is keeping your dog at a healthy weight. They are not happier because they are chunkier and getting more treats or human food, they are actually unhappier because they can’t live up to their full potential and move around as they are designed to.
Some other health conditions that can impact how much they do includes arthritis, heart conditions, neurological conditions, and even pregnancy. These conditions might not be something that can be prevented (although pregnancy is solely dependent on either intentionally doing so or accidental litters that can be prevented). Something that some people might not consider is when they own brachycephalic dogs, they have to be even more aware of how their dog's breathing is. These are dogs that have a “flat face” such as a bulldog, Pekingese, pug, and a boxer—all very popular breeds. And while there is a movement to help create these dogs with longer muzzles, it’s not an overnight process. It takes generations of dogs to create what might be considered a better version of the breed. These dogs have a harder time regulating their temperature when it’s hot, and some also have many issues when it comes to their breathing in general. Knowing that these things have to be considered when getting a brachycephalic dog can make the difference in walking them far beyond their capabilities, and not enough. There is a happy medium.
Benefits of Walking your Dog
There are plenty of benefits for walking your dog on a regular basis, and these include benefits for yourself as well. It gives them the opportunity to meet and interact with other dogs, use their nose to sniff around and explore, burn off excess energy, and also the primary reason, to use the bathroom. The more time they can spend outside on a walk, the more likely they are to exhibit calm energy in the home as well.
We can easily go to the bathroom by getting off the couch and walking into it. However, dogs do not have that capability. A dog needs to go outside in order to have a potty break. In this instance, knowing your dog and/or your training is essential. Some dogs will potty in a learned area that has been trained. Others, however, will need time to walk around, get their bowels moving, and then find a suitable spot.
At a minimum, a dog needs to be taken out 3 times a day to potty; however, it is preferable to have more. Puppies who are not housebroken and dogs who suffer from incontinence will need to go out more frequently than that. Make sure when you go out you bring your waste bags so you can clean up after them. This is the top reason to get outside, but not the only one.
Exercise for both you and your dog is another reason to get outside more often. Some people get a dog specifically because they want a reason to get out of the house. Having a dog is the perfect reason because it is required to go out with them (especially if you don’t have a fenced-in backyard. A dog that is not getting enough exercise or mental stimulation might show destructive behaviors in the home. If you notice Fido is restless, they might have a lot of pent-up energy that needs to be expelled, and walking is the perfect outlet for that.
Another health benefit for going out is weight control. If you notice your dog is putting on weight, they might not be getting out enough and moving around enough. But don’t go jumping into adding hiking and hours onto them. Start gradually and increase the time or difficulty of the walk. Keeping their weight healthy and keeping them moving is also essential to keep their joints healthy. Just like humans when we are inactive for a long period of time, our joints get stiff, and we lose some of our strength as well. Keeping a dog active can help keep them mobile, for a longer time. Just because they are older doesn’t mean they have to stop walking (and shouldn’t); it all depends on the dog and how far they can go. If you are used to long walks with your pup, maybe you need to take shorter but more frequent ones.
Walks also help keep their digestive and urinary health in check. The more regular walks they have, the more consistent they are with the bowel movements. Just like with humans, you don’t want to have them holding it for an extended period. If you can take them out, do that. Don’t make them wait as that could cause issues over time as well. If you keep a regular walking schedule, you should be able to keep your dog as healthy as possible both physically and mentally.
A Good Ol' Sniff Around
A dog that gets regular exercise is a happy dog. Going outside shouldn’t just be for using the potty all the time; they also need time to explore. Going on long walks, where you are rushing due to time constraints, gives them the opportunity to sniff around and explore their environment and learn about what other dogs are there, different flowers and smells, and everything that they can. It helps keep their mental wellbeing in check and can ensure that they are calmer at home. Some people will go on walks specifically for just using the potty and then they have different tools, leashes, collars, etc. for them to know that it is time for just a relax-explore kind of walk where they can take their time. If given the opportunity (and with training), an off-leash experience for a dog can greatly enhance their wellbeing.
Interaction with Other Dogs
Interaction and socialization with other dogs is essential for a dog's mental health and wellbeing as long as both dogs are dog friendly (some are aggressive but some are fear aggressive, both of which can be helped and prevented by socialization and proper training). Your pooch might love you but they also need some playtime with another furry friend who plays similarly. It helps with their mental stimulation and physical stimulation as well. A tired dog is generally a happy dog.
If you don’t have time to set up playtime (or a space to use for off-leash play) then maybe you can use the time walking with your dog and another as their interaction. There are also people who do dog walking for a living and might do pack walks where there are multiple balanced dogs that walk together.
What Kind of Sports Can I Do with My Dog?
Walking is not the only activity you can do with your dog. There are also plenty of sports that you can partake of with them. Doing sports with them also helps them and you with their training because each one needs a certain level of obedience to do. Some of these activities can include running with them, biking, hiking, and even sledding or bik ir job (kind of like sledding but with a bike).
There are also other sports such as agility, flyball, dock diving, and flying disc/frisbee. These are some sports that require a decent level of training but are fun and tiring for the dogs. They all stimulate their minds and their bodies because they have to focus on you and their commands and also what they are doing. It’s amazing what a well-exercised dog can do and look like, and doing these activities with your dog can build an unbreakable bond.
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