Does My Dog Need a Rest Day?

I can’t believe I’m writing this but I give my dog rest days.

I’m the one who preaches “walk your dog EVERY day” and “never miss a day.” And I mean that. I believe in it strongly.

I believe it is important for a dog to get a walk every day or nearly every day. In general, most dogs need more walks and exercise than they’re getting.

Increasing a dog’s exercise is my #1 training tip, always. (See this post.)

But on the other hand … I have a canine athlete who does distance running and agility. By distance running, I mean he will run up to 18 miles while I’m training for ultramarathons (although most runs are much shorter).

Last weekend, we ran 18 miles on the Mickelson Trail in South Dakota.

After two days of almost 10 miles each, we took a rest day.

Found this iron chäir. Yes, we will rest.

My dog is a pet, but he is also a working dog in his own way. He gives 110% at all times to whatever he’s doing. He’s all drive.

And don’t forget mental exercise.

Agility class tires my dog out mentally. He also goes to dog daycare once a week (physical and mental exercise) and we have employees coming and going from our house on weekdays, which keeps Remy on his toes.

All of these things are great for my smart, active young weimaraner.

But while Remy has more energy than most, he still needs a break.

So on one weekend day a week, we rest.

And my dog embraces our rest days fully. Just as he gives 110% to pulling me up a hill or plowing through the agility course, my dog knows how to take a rest day seriously too.

And by that, I mean Remy vedges out on his back, sprawled out across his bed with all four legs in the air for pretty much the whole day.

And he sleeps HARD. Harder than he does during the week. And he yips and runs in his dreams.

Of course, my dog still has energy (he always does), and if I decided not to take a rest day he would be totally cool with charging up a mountain.

HOWEVER, I think a true rest day is a nice break for my dog and I both to recharge, with truly nothing going on.

We really embrace “work hard, play hard, crash hard.”

If we do a walk on our rest day, it’s a relaxing 1 or 2 miles on a leash around the neighborhood for “active recovery.”

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Does Your Dog Need a Rest Day?

That’s for you to decide.

I realize that true working dogs might rarely or never get an “easy” day. Remy is pretty pampered compared to a working ranch dog, police dog or guide dog.

Every dog is different with different “jobs” and we all do different activities with our dogs.

We also know most pet dogs are not getting enough exercise so we don’t want to give people yet another reason to skip a walk.

On the other hand … if you do walk your dog every single day, a rest day or a day of doing something else (like fetch or playing in the yard together or swimming) might be a nice change.

Or if you’ve introduced a new running or walking routine for your dog lately or if you’ve recently increased your mileage, he would absolutely appreciate a rest day. He might still have energy – most dogs do – but rest is still an important thing for all of us (mentally and physically).

My dog’s “schedule” looks something like this, depending on where I’m at in my own training:

  • Monday: 3 mile run + agility class
  • Tuesday: 5 mile run
  • Wednesday: 1/2 mile walk + full day of doggy daycare
  • Thursday: 1 hour walk + agility practice
  • Friday: 3 mile run
  • Saturday: Long run 5 to 18 miles
  • Sunday: Rest or short walk

I’m just using common sense and I know myself and my own dog pretty well by now. Obviously breed and age play a huge role. My dog is a hunting breed meant to run in the field all day, and he’s been slowly building his endurance all his life.

No matter what your dog’s “work” is, whether it’s obedience class, agility, therapy work, hanging out at your office or daily walks, he might appreciate a “day off” every now and then where he can mentally check out or just enjoy an easy stroll.

I believe in hard work and I love to push myself (100 miles, here I come!). However, because of this I also know the importance of rest.

My dog and I are the same in that way.

How about the rest of you?

Do you give your dog “rest days”?

Let me know in the comments!


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Related posts:

Distance running with dogs

How far can I walk my puppy

How to run with a dog

15 thoughts on “Does My Dog Need a Rest Day?”

  1. I take rest days! We walk off leash a couple miles about 4 times a week, agility practice and have doggie friends over a couple times a week to play. My papillon also gets chiropractor and underwater treadmill and they all get acupuncture on a regular basis. We play games, they get bones or hooves to chew outside. Sunday is our day to rest.

  2. I’ve been known to forego our walk days for playing ball. I think Charlie (Border Collie) likes it when I mix it up some. Otherwise, we have a fairly set run/walk/daycare/agility schedule.

    I will let her decide when to turn back on our recovery run days. Usually, we go 4 miles, but if she lays down earlier, that’s her cue to me that she’s not feeling it and we head home.

  3. I work off the idea that my dog needs mental and physical exercise, and on average she needs some kind of each in a day. We don’t walk every day and we don’t do intensive training every day. Some days we walk. Some days we hike (which can include zooming around and running). Other days we play fetch. I run tricks or brain games or obedience most nights, at least briefly. We have this week off, but we are doing two classes per week (Nosework one night, obedience or related another). I don’t think we ever take a full do-nothing day, but we vary the balance so that on average she gets what she needs. I think we both like the variety, and I also want her to be able to handle days with a little less and with a little more.

  4. I think I mix it up. I always feel what my sweetness just needs. Sometimes it is physical exercise, sometimes it is some mental employment. If the weather is fine we are trying to go outside every day, but if not we are having some rest days…

  5. We don’t do rest days where we do nothing, but we sometimes do less. My dog is an ex working sheepdog who would run all day and pretty much does every day. I am a dog walker and walk up to 30 miles some days with my dogs (also own a recently acquired 12 year old terrier who was dumped by his original owner after most of his life, and he has the choice to come on all our walks or not, but often does 20 miles a day). The dogs love it! Our rest days happen because I have Asperger’s and really struggle taking my dogs out when there are lots of people on our park eg sunny weekends or bank holidays. Also my sheepdog is extremely nervous (background of abuse) so he struggles if there’s lots of people around him too- we are the same! On days like this we walk about six in the morning for a couple of hours and then late at night and do things at home in the day instead like gardening, training and playing, but I always feel really guilty on these days thinking we don’t do enough, so this article has come at a great time for me- thank you! Always make an interesting read 🙂

  6. It sounds like Remy needs a good rest, what a lovely picture with him on his back – put a smile on my face, and on the other photos he does look tired in his eyes. he deserves a rest. I dont rest my dogs in the same way, but we just ‘plod’ along at a steady pace, everyday. I dont think its bad to rest a dog who works hard. if you are not doing right by the dog it will tell you (ie get behaviour problems). So as I see it, if your dog is well behaved, happy and content then your doing the right thing. There are no hard and fast rules, as with people, every dog is different and has different needs, although they do adapt to our way of life.

  7. Hi Lindsay! When do you know that Remy needs a rest day? I understand, you give him every week a rest day but are there moments throughout the week when he feels just tired? I get the idea, he’s agile and always full of energy and it’s no wonder with that exercise schedule but just curious if there are days when he just doesn’t seem that into it like he usually is and how we could spot that.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      It’s hard to tell when he’s physically worn out because he will just keep going. That’s why I just plan easier days.

      Remy gets mentally worn out, though, if we travel or if people visit us for a few days. For example, two weeks ago my parents were here for the weekend (who Remy LOVES) and then the following weekend we took a roadtrip to the Black Hills. He was very tired after these back to back “events.” So this week I took it easy on him since I could tell he was mentally worn out. I didn’t take him to the dog daycare this week and I ran some of my miles on the treadmill without him one of the days.

      Now he’s recharged!

      1. Lindsay Stordahl

        I guess now that I think about it, Remy is pretty good at sleeping hard when he needs it. He’ll just go to his bed earlier at night (like 6pm sometimes!) or retreat to a quiet spot if he’s really tired during the day. So while he’s “go, go, go” most of the time he does need some recovery time.

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