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How far should I walk my dog?

How long should I walk my dog? How can I be sure my dog is getting enough exercise, how much is enough, and what happens if he doesn’t get it?
_ Amit Tewari, Lucknow

This is a frequently asked question, especially by new dog owners. The answer to this is not a one-response-fits-all solution, as it depends on many factors. For example, the size and age of the dog and even its fitness level will help you to determine how long to walk your dog. Let’s start with what happens if your dog doesn’t get enough exercise. Just like people, dogs can become overweight without physical activity. But it can create other problems for our furry friends and you, including:

the house, getting into the trash, destroying items in the household, or increased aggression toward people or other pets can be caused by lack of exercise. However, there are other things that can also cause this type of behaviour.

Some dogs will become withdrawn when they’re not getting enough physical stimulation. If your dog was very social, and no longer runs to the door in anticipation of a walk or acts disinterested when you enter the room, they could be depressed. Again, there are other things that can cause this behaviour.

Hyperactivity when they are on a walk. If your dog gets over-excited when you take out their leash or when you’re about to head out the door, it may be a sign of restlessness and a need for more physical activity. Excessive leash pulling can also mean that your dog needs to burn more energy. That being said, leash pulling can be caused by other things, so consult a trainer.

Your dog may bark and whine a lot if they aren’t getting enough exercise. Coming to your original question, how do you know how long a walk your dog needs. Every dog, just like every person, is unique, but what breed (or breeds, in the case of mixed breeds), age, size and overall health can tell you a lot. Also, a general rule of thumb is that your dog should spend between 30 minutes and two hours being active every day.

A general guide for exercise per breed size is:

Small breeds. This group includes dogs from the Chihuahua to the Bichon or Shih Tzu. They have moderate exercise needs with a daily walk of 20 to 30 minutes. The exception would be the toy and miniature poodle which are more active and also intelligent, so require a little more physical activity and plenty of mental stimulation.

Giant Breeds. The Giant breeds include the Great Dane and Saint Bernard. They have moderate exercise needs because they have to move such a large frame. However, it is important to still be moderately active to keep their joints and bones strong and for weight management. A 30-to-45-minute walk is sufficient. Also, many of the giant breed dogs are keen swimmers, so swimming is a great exercise for them because it’s low weight-bearing.

The dogs who need the most exercise – 60-to-120 minutes daily – are:
Sporting breeds, like Retrievers and Springer Spaniels, Standard Poodles.
Working breeds, such as Dobermans, Huskies and Rottweilers.
Herding breeds, like Sheepdogs, Collies, Shepherds, Cattle Dogs, and Corgis.

Others need 60-to-90 minutes per day:

Terrier and Vermin Breeds, which include Bull Terriers, Airedale Terriers and smaller terriers such as Jack Russel, Yorkshire Terriers and Westies.

Scent Hounds, like Beagles and Basset Hounds.

Dogs that need little exercise are brachycephalic dogs – those with a squashed face like Bulldogs and Pugs.

Because they have pushed-in faces, they are prone to overheating. They require a 20-to-30 minute walk a day.

The Bottom Line: All dogs need daily exercise to stay happy and healthy. If you’re just starting a walking routine with your dog, start slowly. Observe their responses, and add longer walks as they get stronger. Your dog should be happily tired and not exhausted. And remember that increased activity doesn’t mean they need more food! If you have any concerns about whether your dog can handle a long walk or whether you should implement a dog exercise plan for her, talk to your vet and get expert advice. Keeping up with routine veterinary care visits is arguably the most important part of responsible pet ownership. Routine veterinary check-ups can provide insight into any changes in your pet’s health, and give you an opportunity to ask any questions you may have about your dog and their current life stage.