Is my dog exercising enough?

Worried about how much exercise a dog needs and whether your dog is getting enough exercise?  Don’t.

As a nation, generally speaking our dog exercising habits are too extreme if anything.  Of course there are a few exceptions to this rule, and you do see overweight dogs, but more often than not this is due to overfeeding, rather than under exercising.  Yet many owners suffer with dog exercising guilt and worry that they aren’t doing enough…

How much exercise does my dog need?

In general terms, if you have a puppy then less is more.  Don’t do much more than 15 minutes a day for the first 6 months.  This doesn’t mean that you have to walk them every day for 15 minutes.  Just that you shouldn’t do more than that!  Puppies get plenty of exercise through play anyway, they are constantly being mentally stimulated. Their bones are growing at a rapid rate and there’s quite a lot of damage that can be done through over-exercising, so please don’t do it.

Think in human terms.  The older you get as you develop, the more exercise you can handle, and then the amount you want to do reduces as you get into later years of your life. Personally, as a child to the end of my teenage years I was capable of intense exercise 4 times a week or more.  As someone in my 30s I’m happier with moderate exercise 3 times per week.  I exercise to keep myself healthy, rather than to be at the fittest that it is possible for me to be.

Think about what you are wanting to achieve for your dog through exercise.  If your dog moves around regularly during the day at home, and it gets a chance to engage in something of higher intensity, e.g. bursts of exercise in games, or a bit of off lead running at the park, a few times a week, then it will be a very healthy dog.

good recall for your dog
Dog exercising through recall training.

What about the effect of exercise on hyperactivity?

The more your dog exercises, the fitter it gets, therefore it will be capable of remaining active around the house for longer!  Hyperactivity is not the result of a lack of exercise.  Hyperactivity comes from a dog feeling responsible and not quite knowing what to do about it.

I call this “party host syndrome”. Imagine that you are holding a party. You would spend the duration of the party rushing around making sure that everyone was okay, and when you weren’t rushing, you’d be worrying.  This is how a hyperactive dog feels, rushing around the house from person to person, trying to check they you are okay and worrying what to do about it.

Now imagine that you are at a party which has been hosted by someone else. Quite the different situation isn’t it?  You’d relax and enjoy yourself. This is how your dog would feel if they didn’t feel that they were responsible, they would just relax.  This is regardless of whether they’ve had exercise that day or not.

“But my dog loves running and will run and run…!”

Does your dog know that the running is for fun/exercise? Or are they running because the pack is running or they feel that there must be something that urgently needs doing?  The truth is that we don’t know for sure, but my money would be on the latter.  Personally, I hate running.  I find it boring, it makes my legs hurt and it gives me a stitch. When I go for a run, all I’m thinking about is whether it’s okay for me to stop yet. I haven’t ever had to run for my survival, and I hope a day for that never comes. If it did though I’d hope that I could run through the stitch and the boredom and the shin splints.  I’m not going to put myself through unnecessary pain though.

Please read this article about overexercising if you want more information on this.

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