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how much exercise does a dog need

The essentials

  • Exercise needs depend on a dog’s breed and health — Most dogs need anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours of daily exercise.  
  • Be careful to not over-exercise a puppy — Puppies need a lot of exercise, typically over short, frequent bursts. Adult dogs might prefer longer periods of play.
  • Mental exercises are just as important as physical ones — Mentally stimulating activities, like puzzles and interactive games, are a great way to engage with your pet.

Whether you’re contemplating getting a pup or you’re a new dog owner, you’ve probably found yourself wondering: How much exercise does a dog need? 

Most dogs benefit from having two to three walks per day. If you have a toy-breed dog or a less active dog breed like a bulldog, around 30 minutes of daily exercise is okay, unless it’s on a hot day. However, if you have a healthy, active dog, they will likely need 1 to 2 hours of daily exercise.

👉 Remember: How much exercise a dog needs depends on its age, breed, and overall physical health. Ask your veterinarian for tailored recommendations.

How much exercise do puppies need?

Exercise is critical to a puppy’s development. However, dog owners should be cautious to not over-exercise their pup. 

Dog joints are still maturing in puppyhood, and their growth plates need time to fuse before they are ready for high-intensity exercise or high-impact activities. You’ll want to wait until your pup is at least 18-24 months old before you start rough-and-tumble play. 

🚨 If a puppy has too much intense exercise at a young age, they can experience permanent damage to their joints and bones, with the potential for these issues to develop into arthritis or hip dysplasia. 

Puppy-appropriate exercises

Playing with your puppy can take many forms — whether it’s watching them run out their “zoomies” or socializing with other dogs. 

Here are a few puppy-safe exercises to introduce early, setting your dog up for a happy and healthy life with you:

  • Walking. Short walks (usually between 5-20 minutes each) are a great way to get your puppy some exercise and teach them how to walk on the leash. They can also help your pup explore the world safely, introducing them to new smells and sights. 
  • Playtime. Toy time is a great way to keep your new puppy physically active and mentally stimulated, and it can be done at home or outside. Check out our list of some of the top long-lasting puppy and dog toys.
  • Running around. Your puppy will love running around at home, outside in the backyard, or a dog run at an apartment complex. If you feel like mixing it up a bit, introduce toys to encourage more movement and stimulation for your furry friend. 
  • Training. You can leverage training sessions as a way to get your puppy some exercise. Teaching your pup some basic commands or simple tricks is a great way to keep their mind stimulated, and it can be just as tiring as a play session or going for a walk. Keep these sessions short (10-15 minutes) as not to overwhelm your pup.
  • Thinking activities. Mental exercises are just as important as physical ones. Keep your puppy’s mind active with tools like puzzle feeders and snuffle mats when you’re not out playing or running around.

Tips for safely exercising your puppy

Here are a few ways you can regulate your pup’s exertion in between sessions: 

Limit high-impact exercises  You can help prevent any damage to your pup’s bones or joints by limiting any high-impact exercises, such as jumping, skidding, or twisting.

Keep exercise sessions short — It’s best to limit exercise to 15-20 minutes for all puppies. 

Avoid long walks, hikes, long runs, or cycling  Puppies aren’t cut out for intensive exercise, as their bones and joints are still developing. As they mature, you can level up their exercise, but it’s best to keep it minimal while they are puppies. 

Cover slippery floors in your home — This step will help protect your pup’s joints, proactively preventing slips and falls. 

Allow (and encourage) your puppy to rest — Never force your puppy to continue exercising or walking if they’re showing obvious signs of fatigue like loss of appetite or acting uninterested in regular activities.   

🚨 Before you take your new puppy out, it’s best to vaccinate them before taking them into public spaces. This keeps them as safe as possible as they explore the world around them.

Exercise and adult dogs

How much physical activity an adult dog needs is primarily determined by two factors: breed and size. For example, high-energy breeds, like border collies, Australian shepherds, and Siberian huskies, require a lot more exercise than low-energy breeds — like bulldogs and Great Danes.

Exercise, stimulation, and senior dogs

We all slow down with age — dogs are no exception. Your senior dog may not be able to run as fast as they once did, but that doesn’t mean they don’t still need exercise. In fact, daily walks and regular exercise are crucial to making sure your dog’s joints and ligaments stay supple and healthy. 

Regular exercise is also important for keeping a dog’s mind sharp, too. In the same way Sudoku helps keep a human’s brain “younger,” mental stimulation can help prolong a dog’s life span .

👉 Regular exercise helps prevent or reduce pain and inflammation from arthritis, which is common in senior dogs. As your dog ages, reach out to your veterinarian for tailored exercise and lifestyle advice to give them the happiest and healthiest life possible.

6 exercises for outside

On average, pet owners should aim for at least five, 30-minute walks per week . However, there are lots of other exercises that you should also be doing with Fido in addition to baseline walks. 

1. Swimming

If your dog likes the water, swimming is a fun exercise and a great way for them to expend some energy. Swimming is also amazing for dogs that may have joint problems, as it’s low-impact and easy on the joints.  

👉 Whether you let your pet swim in a pool, the ocean, a river, or a lake, make sure you follow water safety advice to keep your them safe.

🚨 NEVER pull your dog into the water. Be patient with your pal, and always let them enter on their own terms.

2. Running

Going for a run is a great co-activity to keep both you and your pet pal healthy and active. 

Before you hit the pavement, though, remember: Running should always be introduced to dogs slowly and in small increments. If you’re starting out, try short bursts of gentle jogging throughout your normal walk, then gradually build up to longer periods of running. This helps to reduce cardiovascular strain for both you and your pet. 

👉 Remember that running can be hard on a dog’s joints —so if your dog has joint problems, skip this exercise and go for a lower-impact option.

3. Agility courses

If you have a super active dog, setting up an agility course in the backyard is a fun way to exercise your dog while providing them with some much-needed mental stimulation. 

There’s no wrong way to set up an agility course. Many parents use hurdles, tunnels, and even seesaws to keep their dogs engaged. Feel free to experiment and determine what your dog prefers. If you’re looking to save, you can find many pet-safe course additions in swap groups or from second-hand stores.

4. Hiking

Hiking and camping are wonderful ways to spend time with Fido and get out in nature. However, before you set off on any hikes, it’s important to make sure the route is suitable for your dog’s unique level of fitness and health. Hiking is often an activity that you need to build up to over time, training with short hikes and gradually working up to longer ones.

Before you set out on any hike with your dog, it’s always important to check how long the hike will take — avoiding any unsafe hikes that have overly steep sections or require scrambling over large boulders or rocks. 

👉 Remember to keep an eye on the weather, take breaks, and enjoy lots of water and snacks as you go!

5. Flyball

In flyball, your pup runs through an obstacle course — and when they reach the end, you’ll release a ball, which they then need to catch. This outdoor exercise is a great sport for high-energy dog breeds or those that have a super active brain.

👉 Remember that if your dog has joint pain, it may be best to skip this exercise since it tends to be harder on a dog’s joints or difficult for very heavy dogs or large breed dogs.

6. Cycling

Cycling is a great way to keep you and your pet friend active — and it’s perfect for high-energy dog breeds like pointers, border collies, dalmatians, or huskies. While you can cycle with smaller breeds, it’s best to take them in a carrier; as their stride is shorter and they might have a hard time keeping up. 

👉🏻 Remember that the speed and stamina a dog needs to keep up with the bike must be built up over time. When starting with cycling, take it slow, take regular breaks, and keep an eye on them throughout the ride.

🚨 Be sure to keep your dog at a safe distance from your bike and in your control. If they run ahead or get caught underfoot, they can suffer serious injuries.

4 exercises for indoors

Not every day is a day to play outdoors. If you find yourself stuck inside because of rain or cold weather, or you’re simply strapped for space, try any of these pet-safe indoor exercises.

1. Yoga

Many dogs love this low-impact activity! Yoga is a fun way to bond with your dog while you mentally and physically engage with them. “Doga,” or dog yoga, has become a popular activity in many cities, so you can try it out in a studio and socialize with other dogs. 

👉 You can also try it at home with your furry friend, thanks to this helpful guide.

2. Hallway fetch

Strapped for space? Hallway fetch can provide an accessible form of fun exercise. Just remember to do it on carpeted floors (or other non-slippery surfaces) so that your dog has proper traction.

3. Stairs

If you live in a split-level home or apartment, running up and down the stairs a few times is a great way to build muscle and expend some energy when you can’t get outside. Remember to only do this on carpeted stairs that offer your dog traction as this can be dangerous on wood flooring or other slippery materials. 

🚨 Take special care with dog breeds that have long backs and shorter legs, such as daschunds or corgis as stairs may prove more challenging for them.

4. Tug-o-war

A good old-fashioned game of tug-o-war can provide you and Fido with some solid exercise.

If you’re looking to build in some mental stimulation, add in commands and challenges for your pet. For example: You can command your dog to sit or go to “its place” before beginning the game if they know the command. 

👉 Remember: You set the tone and pace for your tug-of-war game. Make sure that gameplay doesn’t get too intense, and keep both you and your furry friend safe as you go. 3 mental exercises

3 exercises for mental stimulation

Dogs need mental exercise just as much as they need physical exercise. Here are a few ideas to help keep your pup mentally stimulated.

1. Play with puzzles and interactive toys

There are plenty of puzzle toys that you can buy for your dog, each with varying degrees of complexity.

Many puzzle toys have the same concept as hide and seek, engaging a dog’s critical thinking skills. While these puzzle toys tend to work best for high-energy dogs, nearly all dogs are motivated by a food reward — so these can be used as a “special occasion” treat opportunity and a game for your pet alike! 

👉 Puzzle toys are a great way to slow down dogs that eat their food too fast.

2. Play hide-and-seek

Just like with kids, dogs love a good old-fashioned game of hide-and-seek. This game works best for dogs who understand the command “stay,” or you can simply have another person keep your dog in another room while you hide. Once you’re hidden, call your pup to come find you.

Hide-and-seek games help engage a dog’s critical thinking skills and nose, which they don’t often use in that context at home. (Plus, let’s be honest — who doesn’t love a dog’s reaction when they finally find you?)

3. Munch on frozen treats

This may not seem like the most obvious activity, but frozen treats take a bit of work for dogs to enjoy — hence why they require mental stimulation. There are all sorts of “pupsicle” recipes you can make for your dog that incorporate yummy and healthy foods like meats, berries, and vegetables. 

👉 Frozen treats are also a great way to keep your dog occupied and keep them cool and refreshed during the hot summer months.

Each dog has unique exercise needs. Factors that affect this need include the dog’s age, breed, size, and overall health. There are plenty of ways to give your pet a workout, ranging from walks and agility courses, to puzzle feeders and hide-and-seek.

If you’re ever unsure if your dog should do a certain type of exercise, check in with your vet. They can work out an exercise plan that’s tailored to your pup’s unique needs.

Frequently asked questions

Is walking enough exercise for a dog?

Walking your dog is a baseline activity and something you should do two to three times per day. Most dogs will need more exercise and mental stimulation beyond daily walks, however. 

Is it okay to not walk your dog every day?

You’re not a failing pet owner if you miss a dog walk or two. Just be sure your dog is getting the attention and exercise they need daily, and that they have plenty of time to potty. 

Is a 20-minute walk enough for a dog?

A 20-minute brisk walk can be enough for a dog if they are relatively low-energy. However, higher-energy dogs will likely need more exercise beyond a 20-minute walk. As a pet owner, you know your dog and their exercise needs best; so feel free to experiment with your pet pal. 

If you’re ever unsure if your dog needs more, you can always consult your vet for more tailored advice. 

Which dogs need the most exercise?

Every dog breed needs a different amount of exercise and stimulation. However, these high-energy dog breeds are commonly known for needing high amounts of exercise:

How much exercise does a typical dog need per day?

If you have a toy breed like a Shih Tzu, or a less active dog breed like a bulldog, 30 minutes of daily exercise should be okay. However, if you have a healthy, active dog breed, they will likely need 1-2 hours of daily exercise.