Dogs need regular exercise to keep them happy and healthy. That includes a daily walk. Here are a few reasons why walks are so important.
- Health benefits - Exercise can help to prevent obesity. Your dog's cardiovascular system and digestive system will both work better with regular walks. Walking can also improve joint health.
- Mental stimulation - Walking to new places and seeing new things can help to keep your dog mentally alert. Walking improves mental health and reduces unwanted behaviors like chewing, digging, anxiety and unnecessary barking.
Socialization - Walks can provide a variety of learning experiences for your dog and help him to feel more comfortable in new environments.
How Much Should I Walk My Dog?
If you're a dog owner, you may have asked yourself, “How much should I walk my dog?” The answer is - it depends on the dog.
As a general rule, an average dog in good health should be able to tolerate a 20-minute walk each day. If you have a more active breed, your dog may tolerate up to a 60-minute walk. With an older dog or with a breed that is more sedentary, a 15 to 20-minute walk may be best.
We all want the best for our dogs. That means you don't want your dog to get overweight. The risks associated with excess weight include diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, kidney disease and a reduced lifespan. Lack of exercise is one of the big reasons so many dogs are overweight. Walking is a good exercise for your dog - and for you. To learn more about obesity in dogs, go to 5 Ways to Combat the Pet Obesity Epidemic.
How Do I Know When My Dog Has Had Enough?
So, how much should I walk my dog? Begin with a 30-minute walk. You don't want to wear your dog out, especially if he has been sedentary for a while, so you may have to work your way up to that half-hour mark. If you have an active breed, your dog will need an outlet for all that energy. And size doesn't matter - some of the most active breeds are smaller breeds. With one of these dogs, 30 minutes should be considered the absolute minimum amount of time to walk. You'll want to work yourself up to a 60-minute walk to provide your dog with enough exercise and mental stimulation. Dogs who are very young or old should never be walked for more than an hour. The amount of distance you walk depends upon how fast you walk and the size of your dog. Your dog may display signs like panting, hesitation and a slow gait when he is tired.
While pushing through some fatigue can help you become stronger, at other times you simply need a break to rest and rehydrate before you cause an injury. Start slowly and build up to your desired walk time. Don't overdo it. Too much exercise will leave your dog sore and less willing to walk the next time.
When deciding how far you should walk your dog, you should think in terms of time, not distance. Dogs are of different sizes. So a one mile walk for a Great Dane is a lot different than a one mile walk for a Chihuahua. Keep in mind how far you are from home because you will need to retrace that distance to get back home. Always be conservative when deciding how far to go in one direction. Remember if you want to add more to the walk you can always retrace your steps when you get back to the beginning of the trail. Also remember that if your walk is mostly downhill at the beginning, it will be mostly uphill at the end when your dog is more tired.
If your dog is having a hard time tolerating a full walk, start by breaking the walk into two smaller walks. Shorter, more frequent walks are a good idea for puppies and older dogs.
Also, let the weather determine how long you will walk. If it's a particularly hot day, cut back your walking time, especially when you are walking on a hot pavement. If it's a cool day and your dog seems to be frisky, you may want to add on an additional five to ten minutes.
How Frequently Should You Walk Your Dog?
A minimum of two 15 minute walks are recommended for most dogs, however there are many variables to consider when determining how frequently you should walk your dog.
- Breed - Some dogs have small bladders and will need to go out more often.
- Size - Smaller dogs may not need to walk as long or as far. They just need the chance to go to the bathroom and to get some exercise.
- Diet - Grain-free foods reduce the amount of waste your pet produces, so some diets may lead to more or less need for the dog to eliminate.
- Water - Some dogs drink lots of water while others drink less frequently. Bigger drinkers will need to go out more often.
- Age - If you have a puppy who is just learning bathroom habits, or an older dog, he may need to go out more often.
Many dogs will be happy with two walks a day while other dogs may need to go out more frequently.
To learn more about walking a dog, go to The Pet Owner's Guide to Walking a Dog.