The Basics of Pet Exercise

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Why Exercise your Pet?

Dogs are naturally active animals.¹ For thousands of years, they’ve worked alongside their human counterparts by herding, hunting, and protecting. Even before they were domesticated, dogs spent the entirety of their days in an active search for food or defending their territory and pups.

Today, however, there is a strong tendency for companion dogs to fall into lazy (and unhealthy) patterns. As companion animals, the primary role that most dogs fill is “couch potato”. Even dogs kept outdoors in fenced-in yards seldom get enough daily exercise and stimulation.¹  


If your dog is overweight, or exhibiting negative behaviors like destructive chewing, digging, or scratching, then your dog is likely not getting enough exercise. Other behavioral indicators of this include hyperactivity, investigative behaviors, unruliness, and excessive rough play.¹

Dogs (like humans) benefit greatly from daily aerobic exercise. Walking a mile or more each day will likely result in dramatic improvements to your dog’s (and your) overall health and attitude. Exercise can help to eliminate behavior problems, socialize and build the confidence of timid dogs, manage weight, and leave your dog feeling sleepy instead of restless.¹


Considerations for Exercise

The optimal exercise will depend on your dog’s age, breed, and physical condition. Talking to your veterinarian is the best way to ensure that your pet is getting the correct amount and type of exercise. Generally speaking, all breeds will benefit from 30 minutes to 2 hours of moderate activity every day.²

All pets are different and therefore have different medical needs which should be considered when developing an exercise regimen. For example, brachiaphylic pets, or pets with shortened, flat snouts may have difficulty breathing if the exercise is too vigorous. Small or short-legged dogs typically don’t need to be walked as much as much or for as long as their larger counterparts.¹ Some large sighthounds, such as greyhounds and whippets, are bred for short-distance sprinting rather than long distance running. Young dogs, whose bones have not completely formed, should also not be made to run for long periods of time.

Unlike you, your pet cannot sweat, so exercising in the afternoon when the temperature is at its highest is not a good idea.² Save exercise for the cooler hours of the morning or evening, and be sure that your pet is properly hydrated before and after exercising. If you notice your pet panting excessively or hyperventilating, or if their gums and tongue turn bright red stop, exercising immediately and seek veterinary care; your pet may be experiencing heat stroke.¹


Ideas for Exercise

Exercising does not need to be complicated. For older dogs and toy breeds walking a mile or more a day will suffice.³ All dogs benefit from time on the leash. The new sights and smells provide a lot of excitement and mental stimulation. For this reason, it is best to change up your walk path every so often, to ensure that your pet does not grow bored of the same routine. For healthier pets, jogging and interval running can provide extra exercise. This is also really great exercise for you! Dog parents are said to have significantly more active time each week than non-dog owners, resulting in healthier and happier lifestyles.³

Playing fetch with your dog is a good alternative for days when you don’t exactly feel like breaking a sweat.

Some breeds love the water and swimming, while others may require a period of training to become acclimated to it.² Regardless, swimming is an excellent form of exercise that helps your dog stay cool while tiring themselves out. To acclimate your pet to water, start when they are puppies and make it a very happy experience filled with positive reinforcement. Never force your dog to get into water, as it may cause undue stress and result in your dog having a fear of water.

Another type of exercise to be considered is mental exercise.¹ You may have all of your dog’s basic needs accounted for, but are you providing mental enrichment for them? Puzzle toys, especially those that require your dog to hunt/work for their food, can keep your dog mentally stimulated, therefore suppressing some of their more destructive urges.

Most pet parents will tell you that their dog is like their child. Not just for the bonds of love and attachment they form with their pet, but also because of their pet’s behavior. In order to keep your furbaby behaving appropriately, make sure to give them the daily exercise they crave.


Takeaway Points

  • Exercise routines can vary depending on the breed of your pet.
  • Don’t think of exercising your pet as a chore; exercise alongside them and get fit too.
  • Walking for 30 minutes to two hours every day should be enough to suppress your pet’s destructive behaviors.
  • Mental exercise—enrichment—is just as important as physical exercise.
Sites Referenced
  1. “Exercise for Dogs.” WebMD, WebMD,
  2. “10 Ways To Exercise With Your Pet.” Prevention, 12 Feb. 2015,
  3. “10 Fun Ways to Exercise Your Dog.” Animal Planet, 26 Feb. 2015,




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