Dogs love to go outside. Just say the word "walk" and they'll jump up and down, wag their tail, or yelp out of excitement.
While you know dogs love walks because they get some fresh air and can experience the sights, smells, and sounds of the outside world, you're wondering: Do they also enjoy walks because they need the sun?
After all, you've often caught your pup lying in the sun outside, or basking in the sunny spot on your floor all day long. Maybe this means that they need Vitamin D or some sort of heat from the sun.
There are some medical reasons why dogs enjoy lying in the sun, and these reasons point to how much sunlight they need.
Why sunshine is important for dogs
Dogs are sun seekers because it helps them lead healthy lives. When there is sunlight on your dog, it helps regulate their body temperature. That's related to the same reason why they like to cuddle or burrow underneath blankets—dogs enjoy being warm.
The sun's rays also help break down the oil in your dog's skin, which converts to vitamin D in his body. When he licks his skin, he is doing more than grooming: He's also ensuring that his body absorbs all that healthy vitamin D. The right amount of vitamin D3 helps your dog have a healthy heart, bones, muscles, and nerves, and it ensures his mineral metabolism is properly regulated.
When dogs are able to experience the sun throughout the day, it helps them regulate their sleep schedules—just like it does with humans. They should be exposed to sun as much as possible. In the morning, it can help them wake up, and in the late afternoon/evening, it can help them rest easier.
How much sunlight do dogs need?
Dogs ideally should be able to have access to the sun all day long, whether they're on a walk, hanging out in your yard, or lying in the sunny spot on the rug. You should be giving your dog a walk for anywhere between 30 minutes and two hours per day, depending on his energy level, which is time he'll also be exposed to sun.
If you're at work or gone all day, make sure you keep the shades open so that he can get the sunlight he needs. Your dog won't be very happy if he's in a dark room all day, alone.
Possible dangers of the sun
If dogs spend too much time in the sun, they can become susceptible to sunburn as well as skin cancer. Hairless breeds, dogs with thin hair, and dogs with light-colored coats are most at-risk of getting sunburn.
To avoid your dog getting sunburn, make sure he has access to shade whenever he needs it. Provide water for him, too, in case he becomes dehydrated. You shouldn't ever leave him outside if you're not home. Make sure you check up on him often while he's outside and listen to hear if he's scratching at the door because he wants to come inside. You could install a doggy door as well so he can come in and out as he pleases.
You can purchase a doggy sunscreen that he can wear whenever he's outside. This is especially important if you're going on a long walk or spending a day at the park or beach with him. Remember: If you've had enough time in the sun, chances are, your dog has too, even if he doesn't communicate it.
Dogs should get walks in the sun that last between 30 minutes and two hours every day depending on how much energy they have and their age. They should also be able to see the sunlight throughout the day in the home. While there is no precise amount of time where dogs need to be in the sun, aim for at least those 30 minutes outside, and ample access to sunlight when your dog is at home. Then, you can ensure you'll have a happy and healthy pup for years to come.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.