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.
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.
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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