Your dog probably loves to go on walks, waiting anxiously at the door or jumping up in joy when you pick up her leash. While walking your dog might be an everyday activity, have you ever wondered if you're walking your dog far enough, or even walking her too far? Being able to recognize the signs of over-exercising a puppy or dog is important, and your dog will probably help you to determine just how far is far enough during a walk.
How Far Should I Walk My Dog?
The importance of walks
Walking your dog isn't just a fun outing for you both, but it actually provides your dog with important health benefits. Going for a walk helps to burn off calories, which can keep your dog from becoming obese. Your dog's joints also need to be used regularly, and going for walks helps to keep your dog from getting stiff and uncomfortable.
Because a walk gives your dog a chance to relieve himself, walks can contribute to your dog's digestive and urinary health. Walking your dog regularly reduces the chance of him developing a urinary tract infection. Walks also help to prevent constipation in your dog.
Finally, walks offer important emotional and mental health benefits to your pup. If your dog has extra energy or gets bored, he may take it out by developing destructive habits, like chewing on furniture. Giving your dog the right amount of exercise provides him with mental stimulation to help prevent boredom, keeping him healthier and happier.
Dog exercise needs by breed
It's important to recognize that a dog's exercise needs will differ according to that dog's breed. Most dogs benefit from between 30 minutes and two hours of exercise a day. Athletic, high-energy dogs like Labradors and Vizslas may need lots of exercise, while more sedentary, laid-back breeds will be happier with shorter walks.
French bulldogs, pugs, and other breeds with short noses will need shorter walks and briefer periods of exercise. These dogs can have difficulty breathing, and this is particularly true when it's hot outside. If your dog is a short-nosed breed, build in shorter periods of exercise and be sure to watch her for signs that she's fatigued.
Additional factors to consider
While your dog's breed may partially dictate his exercise needs, other factors can also affect the amount of exercise that's right for your dog. Older dogs typically need less exercise than younger dogs, and physical issues like arthritis can also reduce the amount of physical activity that your dog can handle.
Also consider whether you're walking your dog on a leash or letting him run free during the walk. If your dog is free to run and do as he pleases, he will probably run up ahead and then run back to you repeatedly, covering much more ground than you do. On the other hand, if your dog is on a leash, he will walk just as far as you do, meaning you may need to walk farther before he starts to feel tired.
Listen to your dog
Most importantly, listen to what your dog is telling you about her exercise needs. Your dog will let you know if you're giving her too much exercise, and you'll also notice if she has excessive energy at home and needs to get more exercise.
When walking your dog, keep an eye out for common over-exercised dog symptoms, like excessive panting, fatigue, and dehydration. Your dog may slow down during the walk, fall behind you, or seem to be working hard to pick up her paws. If your dog is tired, cut the walk short and let her rest.
With a little time, you'll figure out what exercise level is just right for your dog. Keep her overall fitness in mind, gradually increase the length of your walks, and be sure to talk to your vet if you have any concerns.