How much exercise does a dog need every day, and what are some signs a dog may need more exercise? The recommended amount of daily exercise for most dogs is 30 minutes to 2 hours, although certain dogs need more. Some breeds were developed for more active lifestyles than others, and in a companion dog situation, they are not able to do the work their ancestors were bred to do.
I often hear people talk about how their dog has been involved in a training program, but it just isn’t sticking. While there are a number of different reasons why this might be the case, insufficient exercise is one possible reason why you may notice undesirable behaviors persisting in your dog. If your dog’s basic needs aren’t being met, the best trainer in the world won’t be able to fix your dog’s problems if he or she isn’t properly exercised. Asking an under-exercised dog to stop pulling on the leash or barking so much is asking a lot.
How do you know whether your dog may need more exercise?
It may take a bit of trial and error. I looked up a list of the most energetic dog breeds, and I have to say- I’ve seen a certain amount of variation in energy level within those breeds. It can be helpful to think about the purpose for which your dog’s breed was developed. If you have a mixed breed and know some of your dog’s component breeds, this may still apply. But I would not depend too heavily on what is said to be typical of the energy level of a particular breed. Instead, find out for yourself what your dog needs.
Experiment with different amounts of exercise for your dog, and see what differences in behavior you notice. If your dog is constantly trying to initiate play with you while you are attempting to relax, then your dog may need more exercise. If you have a dog who always seems to be getting into things- raiding the trash, opening doors, eating weird things, chewing on furniture- then see if some of those behaviors start to diminish on days when your dog gets more exercise. Nighttime activity can also be a signal that a dog needs more exercise, as in general, your dog should be sleeping when you are.
Barking can be another sign your dog may need more exercise.
Of course, it is important to find out why your dog is barking, which often starts with noticing when your dog is barking. If your dog barks a great deal when you leave the house, but not when you are home, then the barking could be related to separation anxiety. While exercise may be part of the behavioral intervention used in this case, it alone is not going to solve the problem.
But if your dog is like my 4 year old standard poodle, Winston, you will notice a decrease in barking with regular exercise. When Winston gets at least an hour of exercise per day, he’ll spend a lot of his day napping on the couch. If he doesn’t, he’ll regularly wander over to the window, stare out at his kingdom, and look for dogs and people at whom he can bark. He’ll even lie on the couch, softly hoot-barking at noises that must surely be imaginary. You get the idea. While some dog breeds bark more than others and will bark a certain amount no matter what, a dog who barks incessantly may bark less when exercised. Experiment and find out.
It is also important to consider the role of exercise for dogs who are crated for some portion of the day or night.
While there are many factors that could contribute to a dog’s dislike of a crate- such a dog not being trained to use a crate in a gradual manner, or using a crate that is too small- exercise is an important factor to consider. If a dog is under-exercised, then he or she will likely feel restless and frustrated in a crate. In other words, exercise could be the difference between a crate being a cozy nest and a prison.
Think about the this: what if someone asked you to spend a few hours in bed with your laptop or a book (which for a dog might be a frozen Kong), and you had just spent a long day at work and had then hung out with friends. That doesn’t sound so bad, right? But what if someone instead asked you to spend a few hours in bed with no laptop or book after you had done nothing the entire day. You would feel much differently about this situation than you would the first situation, right? So it is with dogs!
And when we say a dog may need more exercise, what kind of exercise are we talking about?
A slow walk through the neighborhood over the same path for just 20 minutes a day is not going to cut it for most dogs. Most dogs need to exercise for longer, so experiment with the duration and pace of your dog’s exercise routine. Does your dog prefer a brisk walk punctuated by sniff stops, or a slow amble? Time of day is important as well. Many dogs need multiple exercise sessions during the day. A morning run for your pup without an evening outlet may mean that your dog is ready for action after an afternoon nap- just in time for you to return home, exhausted from work!
Experiment with giving your dog more exercise, and see for yourself the difference it can make! And if you don’t have time, let Outdoor Dog Adventures do it for you. Whether your dog needs a short walk, a long walk, or a full on Hiking Adventure while you’re at work, we’re here for you and your dog. Call us or visit our services page!