As a historically nomadic species, canines require more exercise than the average pet owner may realize. While domestication has largely reduced this need from 6 – 8 hours per day to 3 hours or less (based on breed), the fact remains that dogs are not made to be sedentary. How much exercise does a dog actually need? The answer may surprise you!
In general, exercise needs can be estimated based on breed, age, or certain characteristics. For instance, Brachycephalic breeds (i.e. ones with short noses, such as pugs or bulldogs), have minimal exercise requirements, since they are physically hindered in their ability to cool themselves. These dogs, along with seniors aged 12 and older, require approximately 30 minutes of walking per day.
Dog breeds which have origins as companion animals, as well as giant breeds, also require less exercise than their hunting or herding counterparts. The Great Dane, Bull Mastiff, Saint Bernard, Chinese Crested, and Maltese all have lower energy levels and therefore 30 – 45 minutes of exercise per day is typically sufficient.
Terriers, such as the American Staffordshire Terrier, Wire Hair Fox Terrier, and Jack Russell Terrier are all energetic dogs with a lot of spunk. These pets do best with a minimum 60 minutes of daily exercise.
Dogs from the herding, sporting, and scent hound groups, such as Australian Shepherds, German Shorthaired Pointers, German Shepherds, beagles, and Siberian Huskies have the highest energy levels and require much more exercise than other dogs. For these pets, a minimum of 1 – 2 hours per day of vigorous exercise is recommended, preferably provided in multiple 30 – 45 minute sessions. Without proper exercise, these dogs can become quite the household nuisance!
If your dog is not receiving the proper amount of daily activity, introducing a walking routine can be extremely beneficial. Adequate exercise lowers the risk of numerous diseases, such as diabetes, kidney and liver malfunction, arthritis, cancer, thyroid disorders, and obesity. Walking is also a great socialization activity, as experiencing new sights, smells, and sounds helps your pet learn better coping mechanisms for new stimuli. Exercise also results in better behavior. One of the main causes of disobedient dogs is boredom and lack of an outlet for excessive energy. Receiving enough exercise can help eliminate behaviors such as barking, digging, whining, chewing, and separation anxiety. Walking your dog more can also have huge benefits to you. Read more here about the health benefits of having a pet.
Many owners incorrectly assume that leaving their dogs free to roam the backyard or garden is an acceptable form of exercise. However, being left outside can actually be more detrimental and lead to inappropriate behaviors such as barking and digging because dogs easily become bored when left in the same environment for extended periods of time. Just like humans, dogs crave interaction with other animals or humans, which also makes the yard a poor alternative to being walked. All dogs, especially those with the highest exercise needs, such as Siberian Huskies or German Shepherds, have an innate desire to work which means exercising in a structured and controlled manner is most suitable for proper mental and physical stimulation.