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Dogs need more exercise

If you have to ask whether or not your dog is getting enough exercise, the answer is no, he is not.

Most of us realize and admit our dogs don’t get enough exercise, not even close. We accept that and live with the consequences. That is, we live with hyper, anxious, bored, loud, whining, obnoxious, territorial and unruly dogs. We’re OK with that, we settle for it.

Plus, if we aren’t getting enough exercise ourselves, how can we possibly make sure our dogs get enough exercise?

One of the easiest and most obvious things to do is get out there and walk more.

How far should I walk my dog?

Just as an example of how much exercise the average dog can handle, my 65-pound black lab mix has no problem running 20 miles while wearing a dog backpack.

I am of course tired after running even 10 miles with no pack while Ace comes home eager to play a game of fetch. Obviously it wouldn’t be healthy for the average pet to run that far every day, but once or twice a week would be no problem for some breeds.

Ace is the most content whenever I’m training for a marathon because he goes along on all my long runs. I brought him to a weekly training group and I’d get comments like, “Can he really run this far?” My response would be, “If I can do it, he can.”

Josh and I take our dog on backpacking trips, and Ace easily covers the 10 miles or so each day while carrying his own gear.

Josh and I are usually about to fall over. But most dogs can easily run as far as any person. So if you are thinking a 6- or 8-mile walk or run is too far for your dog, think again. You might get tired, but he probably won’t.

Obviously the length of walk a dog needs depends on each individual dog, taking into consideration his breed, age and health. We’ve all heard the phrase “a tired dog is a good dog,” but most of the time our dogs are not tired after a walk because they haven’t been walked far enough.

Black lab mix Ace standing in the snow in the woods

In general, dogs need a 30-minute walk every day just to get by.

But 30 minutes is nowhere near long enough. A 60-minute run every day would be ideal for most dogs. Keep in mind if you go running with your dog for an hour, he is only trotting at your side while you huff and puff.

I can cover about 6 miles an hour when I run with Ace. That’s why in the summer I like to bike with my dog so he can move at the speed he wants – fast!

And this mutt is no border collie, springer spaniel or Jack Russell terrier. Some breeds have way more energy and endurance than others. I consider Ace pretty mellow as far as labs go. If you bike with your dog, you might be interested in a bike leash for dogs.

Exercise does more than anything to improve a dog’s behavior. When he’s had enough exercise, Ace is content to lie around the house and chill out.

If my dog has a job to do (a structured walk), then he doesn’t feel the need to find other jobs such as guarding me, following me around, “supervising” the cats or barking at every sound that resembles a knock.

The best training tool is not showing leadership, enforcing rules, teaching commands or enrolling in an obedience class. The best training tool is to provide a dog with enough exercise.

Create mental challenges for your dog.

My black lab mix Ace needs about a half-hour walk every day

The walk itself is challenging for your dog if it is structured. Many people like to use the walk as a time to practice formal obedience like training your dog to heel and practicing random sits, stays, switching directions, etc. That is a great way to make your dog think.

Mental challenges for Ace include wearing his dog backpack or carrying something in his mouth. He likes to pick up random pieces of garbage – beer boxes, Mountain Dew bottles – and bring them to a garbage can.

If he is off leash, I make him heel before he’s “free.” Then I make sure to call him back to me randomly so he keeps checking in and watching where I am.

What do you do to challenge your dog?

Plan walks with your dog into your schedule.

My schedule with Ace varies from week to week, but I try to run or walk my dog for 20 minutes every day in the winter. That way he at least realizes how cold it is and won’t mind when we go inside. Dogs don’t understand time, so I doubt Ace knows the difference between a 20-minute walk and a 60-minute walk. Unfortunately, I see a big difference.

That’s why at least once a week I take Ace out for an hour or more in a quiet park where I either run with him or let him run and explore off leash while I walk. In the photo, Ace and I are at Gooseberry Park in Moorhead, Minn. Besides our walks, Ace gets an hour of agility a week and at least an hour of obedience training.

Is this enough exercise for my dog? No, but we manage. Between my Solana Beach pet sitting and dog-running business, I don’t always have enough time to walk my own dog.

Ideally, I would like to exercise my dog for an hour every day. In reality, that doesn’t happen.

Obviously in North Dakota when it’s -20 for days at a time, it’s not always possible to be outside as much as we’d like. It’s also easy to use the cold – or the heat – as an excuse not to walk when really it’s life, not the weather, that’s in the way.

How do you provide exercise for your dogs? When was the last time you and your dog walked for more than an hour?

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Yogi Mills

Thursday 28th of September 2017

Our 3 Havanese are registered therapy dogs that visit cancer, heart & cancer patients at our Regional Hospital. They walk a lot there. Also we take them for a 30 minute walk daily unless the weather is bad. During inclement weather, they take turns on our treadmill for about 20 minutes. I think that 20 minutes on a treadmill is at least equal to a 30 minute walk outside. There is no stopping to sniff etc. on a treadmill.

Laura

Friday 4th of November 2016

Thank you! I walk my 11 month maltese \ shitzu mix twice a day for 45 minutes to an hour each. If she keeps stopping we head home. Most of the time she really seems to enjoy it! She is well behaved, quiet, and seems to be content. She has been such a blessing to me, so it's important to me to make her happy. I just wanted to be sure I wasn't over exercising her.

David

Monday 28th of March 2016

I love walking my dogs, Cokapoo & Jack Russell we go everyday at least 1/2 mile upwards (depending on weather, it can get hot) to 5 miles. Instead of having mine & my dogs minds full we are more mindful & their additude, behavior, listening, bathroom issues in the house, barking, bonding, & connection with us & nature has been amazingly better. It has & is the best thing not only for them but me too! I organize my schedule & day & always everyday before we go they know & get so excited like they never have been on a walk before, the whole experience makes my day & when we get back its a treat then a nap till dinner lol. When we started a few years ago all of us were overweight, issues, & now were happy endurance athletes!

Karen

Wednesday 31st of December 2014

My 71# am staff/boxer runs 3-5 miles a day with me near sunset. He loves to run in the sand so i let him do that. We try to get 1-5 one block sprints if its clear of people and animals. I can't take him for runs in the morning since i need to go to school. Id need to wake up at 5, get home by 6, shower and be out by 7. School for me starts at 745. Hes really lazy indoors unless i make him excited with toys or his food. In the mornings he goes outside, does his business, and comes back inside. He has it down. He knows in the mornings he doesnt have time to play or run around. Until i get back.

Lindsay Stordahl

Friday 2nd of January 2015

He sounds like such a great dog!

dick

Saturday 30th of August 2014

geeze. equating the time you walk your dog to the amount you love your dog and the amount of love you show your dog is bull. Yes, your dog needs exercise. You need exercise, but to brag about how great you are about how long and far you wall your dog is obnoxious. It doesn't HELP anyone. Play with your dog inside of the house if you can't get outside. "my dog runs along side my bike for 4 miles" or "my dog walks for 6 hours" just discourages us who can't do that. So shut up and stop throwing it in our faces.