How Much Exercise Does A Dog Need Everyday?

While one can attribute obesity to dietary issues and excessive table scrap feeding, the big culprit is still lack of exercise.

July 23rd, 2019

If you had to estimate the number of overweight dogs in the world, what would you guess?

A million? 10 million? 25 million?

One estimate by vets in 2016 claimed that nearly 27 out of every 50 dogs were overweight in the US. This came out to around 42 million dogs.

Over in the UK, apparently thousands of dogs don’t even get a single walk!

These are alarming figures. If more than half of all dogs in the US are considered overweight, we have failed our canine companions…

While one can attribute obesity to dietary issues and excessive table scrap feeding, the big culprit is still lack of exercise.

In fact, lack of exercise is a leading cause of destructive behaviors in dogs.

It also just isn’t healthy!

To take the best care of your dog, you need to find that sweet spot between underexercising and overexercising them.

So how much exercise does a dog need everyday? We’ll help you figure that out in this article.

A dog striking a weird pose while another dog looks on.
Can you beat Yuna's awkwardness?

The Short Answer

You’ve likely seen a figure out there that suggests dogs should get anywhere between 30 minutes to 2 hours of exercise a day.

This is the most general, conservative estimate. It’s not wrong, but it also isn’t satisfying.

The truth is, your dog’s own circumstances will determine where they fit within this huge range. Factors include breed, activity level, age, weight, and other conditions.

We’ll dive into each of these factors soon.

But first of all, a note.

When we mention “time spent exercising” in this article, it refers to the total amount of time spent in a single day doing casual walking.

More demanding exercises, such as agility training, obviously take up more of your dog’s energy.

Just keep that in mind. We don’t want anyone to interpret “60 minutes of exercise” as 60 minutes of intense uphill jogging with Fido.

In addition, we recommend that the total time spent exercising in a day be broken into two walks during the day. So 60 minutes of exercise effectively means two 30 minute walks per day.

How Breed Impacts Exercise

Dogs come in all wonderful shapes and sizes. It’s important to understand how your dog’s breed impacts the amount of activity they should get daily.

Many articles like to interlink breed and activity level.

But honestly, a jumpy, energetic eight year old Golden Retriever would need more exercise than a calm, three year old Golden.

Moreover, there are so many beautiful mutts in the world! Determining exercise needs based on breed alone doesn’t make much sense.

In the end, you can definitely fit breeds on a general activity level spectrum. But, don’t discount the fact that activity level for specific dogs within a breed can vary significantly.

Just take our sweet Yuna for example. Most docile Lab I’ve ever met–I’d definitely classify her as a low to medium activity level dog, despite her breed’s reputation for being very rambunctious

A cute dog lying lazily on the grass.
You wouldn't believe it, but Yuna's a pretty low energy Lab.

In the discussion about breed that follows, we’ll refer to the breed’s physical characteristics and genetics, and not activity level. Two main factors here are snout length and size.

Snout Length

All dogs deserve a boop on the snoot!

Due to the structure of different dog’s snouts, certain breeds can be more tolerant of exercise than others.

The most obvious example would be pugs or other short-nosed breeds (brachycephalics). Flat-nosed dogs generally require less exercise, because too much heavy exercise can make it tough on their breathing (6).

30 minutes is a good start for flat-nosed dogs.

Mesaticephalic (medium-snout) breeds such as Beagles and most retrievers can start at 60-90 minutes per day.

Dolichocephalic (long-snout) dogs such as Collies can also start at around 60-90 minutes.

Size

Size definitely affects exercise as well.

A toy breed will usually do well on just 30 minutes of exercise.

In general, dogs that are short in the legs department tend to tire more easily! You could probably start a corgi off at 45 minutes per day, for example.

For larger dogs, it’s even more important to exercise daily so they don’t get overweight. Obesity can cause joint problems which are all the more dangerous the larger the dog.

Exercise needs vary wildly for larger dogs, with breeds all over the traditional activity level spectrum.

For example, where an adult Retriever breed may require 60-90 minutes daily, an adult Great Dane may require just 30-60 minutes.

How Activity Level Impacts Exercise

So we’ve just covered how breed characteristics affect exercise requirements.

Now let’s look at the metric that plays perhaps the biggest role–activity level.

Activity level varies so wildly among dogs that it’s pretty much a personality trait!

Again, just remember that while we’ll list energy levels of breeds as a whole, it’s entirely possible to have a friskier French Bulldog or a lazier Labrador Retriever! It is dog-specific.

We’ll start off with lower energy dogs. The most general recommendation is that they need between 30-60 minutes of exercise in a day.

If we’re talking general breed, Purina lists the following as low-energy dog breeds: Basset Hound, Bichon Frise, Bulldog, Chow Chow, Great Pyrenees, Havanese, Papillon, Pekingese, Pug, Shih Tzu.

Healthy, medium energy dogs should get between 45-90 minutes of exercise in a day.

Purina’s medium energy breeds include: Bernese Mountain Dogs, Corgis, Dachshunds, English Cocker Spaniel, French Bulldog, Golden Retriever, Italian Greyhound, Maltese, Pomeranian, Saint Bernard, Welsh Terrier.

High energy dogs can should get between 60-120 minutes of exercise in a day.

Purina’s large energy breeds include: Australian Shepherd, Beagle, Border Collie, Dalmatian, German Shepherd, Greyhound, Labrador Retriever, Poodle, Rottweiler, Russell Terrier, Samoyed, Shiba Inu, Siberian Husky, Yorkshire Terrier.

A dog retrieving an old tennis ball.

For very high energy dogs (think those that practically only know how to run and not walk), aim for at least 90 minutes a day.

I once heard of a Border Collie who needed 30 minutes of fetch along with two 3-mile runs in a single day.

Finally, here’s me becoming a broken record. Remember that while breed does play a role in activity level, this is a dog-specific trait. Observe your dog to figure out their activity level.

How Age Impacts Exercise

It’s no surprise that puppies, adults, and senior dogs have varying exercise needs.

The previous figures we’ve listed in this guide all pertain to healthy adult dogs. What about puppies and our senior canine citizens?

Puppies

Whereas many adult dogs are underexercised, for puppies the opposite is often true.

Puppies have an underdeveloped skeleton. If overexercised too early on, they can develop arthritis.

In addition, puppies have a harder time efficiently delivering oxygen to cells due to underdeveloped lungs and heart.

All this means that you need to be more mindful of exercising a puppy.

If we’re talking pure exercise requirements for puppies under six months of age, regular 10-15 minute sessions of play in the house should suffice.

However, it’s also paramount to socialize your dog at this stage of their lives. That means getting out and experiencing the world!

Here’s a stricter regimen for puppies six months or younger to avoid overexercising them.

The general rule of thumb is 5 minutes of outdoor walking per month of age.

This simply means that if your puppy is 4 months old, they should be getting 20 minutes of outdoor exercise per day (two 10 minute walks).

6 month old puppy? 30 minutes a day.

Note that you’re probably taking your dog out to potty train them anyway. This is simply time you spend outside of that, where the purpose is specifically to walk your dog.

In general, exercises that are short and sweet work best for puppies. Short wading/swimming sessions, games of fetch, and just goofing off in the house with your pup are wonderful options.

After six months, most dogs are still considered puppies both physically and emotionally.

However, some still choose to follow the 5 minute per month rule up to about 1 year of age. This is a perfectly good ramping up schedule for your dog, provided they can handle it.

If during the first year of ramping up you do feel like you’ve reached a good amount of exercise for your dog, just cap it there and continue that through adulthood.

So it’s really just a simple rule. If your dog often gets too rowdy, ramp up their exercise. If they seem content, keep doing what you’re doing.

By the time your dog fully matures into an adult (usually between 1 to 2 years of age depending on breed), they should be able to handle a healthy adult’s exercise load.

A dog looks up in the middle of a nice walk.

Senior Dogs

As your dog begins to enter seniorhood, you’ll probably be the first to notice the lack of bounce in their step (sadly…).

This is usually when a dog reaches the age of 6 to 8 for larger breeds, and 9 to 10 for smaller breeds.

As you ramped up their exercise when they were young, it’s equally as important to scale down now that they’re older.

A good recommendation is to reduce their exercise by around 15 to 30 minutes from the adulthood phase to start, and continue scaling that down if necessary.

For example, if your toy breed was previously getting around 30 minutes, 15 minutes will do.

For a senior Retriever, if they previously had 60-90 minutes, 30-60 minutes is a good new time to aim for.

How Weight Impacts Exercise

Your dog’s weight matters. If your dog is currently overweight, perhaps your first instinct would be to increase their exercise load to get it down.

No!

You should, in fact, do the opposite. One recommendation is to reduce the normal exercise amount by 20-30% or even more, depending on how obese your dog currently is.

The extra weight on the joints can cause serious problems in the long run, which is why you want to avoid putting too much strain on them.

If your dog is overweight, you’re best off consulting with a vet to craft a specific diet and exercise plan to get your dog back in shape.

What about dogs that are underweight?

First of all, make sure they’re not underweight because of a disease or parasite.

All things considered, you shouldn’t scale back on exercise just because your dog is underweight. There is likely something else at play–lack of nutrition or picky eater.

Basically, check in with a vet on your dog’s diet and condition.

How Other Conditions Impact Exercise

Health issues are never fun. Perhaps two of the most common exercise-impacting conditions are arthritis and hip dysplasia.

When dogs have these conditions, they are still capable of exercising, but please do it with caution!

Arthritic Dogs

Swimming, swimming, swimming. One of the best options for arthritic dogs.

The water supports most of their body weight while also serving to impede any sudden motions that could worsen achy joints.

In general, shorter, low-impact walks are recommended.

Start it off with a warm up phase where you slowly get your dog up to walking speed. End it with a cool down phase where you might give your dog some sore muscle massaging.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia… ouch. I feel for all the dogs who have to suffer through this.

Dogs with hip dysplasia still need to exercise to keep their weight down, otherwise their condition just gets worse.

An underwater treadmill is an option (hydrotherapy).

Take extra care if you decide to go for a walk. You’ll need to choose an area with level ground, and walk extra slow, at your dog’s pace.

Your vet will be able to recommend proper steps.

Side Note: Weather Matters Too

And of course, “other conditions” can refer to exterior conditions such as the weather.

If it’s extremely hot and humid, scale your exercise back and also take care not to burn your dog’s paws on the burning concrete.

Instead, put that leash on after the sun sets.

A dog on a ferry in front of a beautiful sunset, wind messing up her ears.

How You Exercise Matters

Not all exercise is made equal. As we’ve noted, in the above time estimates, these refer to casual walking time.

However, walking is considered lowest in terms of intensity.

Want something more challenging for your dog? Check out our article where we highlight 22 ways to exercise your dog at varying intensities (20)!

Just know that many of these are likely to tire your dog out much quicker. So if you plan to use these new exercise methods regularly, be sure to scale down the time to something that makes more sense!

Listen To Your Dog! Signs of Underexercise or Overexercise

How much exercise does a dog need everyday, you ask? Well, your dog is giving you the answers! Are you paying attention?

The classic signs of underexercise include:

  • Destructive behaviors, such as chewing on furniture
  • Excessive barking
  • Digging
  • Zoomies
  • Weight gain

Some signs of overexercise include:

  • Excessive panting
  • Lagging behind in walks, or laying down completely
  • Lameness

Based on what your dog shows you, adjust their exercise levels accordingly.

Remember, your dog should be “happily tired, not exhausted!”

A dog smiling widely, enticed by a treat hanging in front of her.

Conclusion

In this article, we’ve given you some guidelines to narrow down the range of exercise your dog might need to start with, depending on breed, activity level, age, weight, and other factors.

Experiment within this range! Scale up if your dog requires it, and down if they don’t.

As with many things related to dog care, your dog will let you know if they’re getting too little or too much exercise. It’s up to you to notice the signs and respond intelligently!

We hope you found this article helpful. Be sure to check out Yuna’s Instagram where we post more helpful tips regularly.