Walking your dog can be one of the most pleasurable parts of dog ownership, but it can also be the most confusing! You may be asking – How long should I walk my dog for? – and the honest answer is, it depends. In this blog, we'll breakdown the four factors that affect how long your daily dog walks should be.
There are large amounts of conflicting information available; every website and dog owner seems to have a different opinion on the matter.
Many owners acquire dogs envisioning themselves taking long strolls across valleys and over mountains, but there are a few important considerations owners need to think about before taking their dog on that ten-mile hike!
4 Things to Consider When Walking Your Dog
How long should I walk my dog? How often for? How Often? How much is too much? Does my dogs age matter?
These are all valid and important questions to ask when planning out your dog's daily and weekly exercise routines.
There is no one right answer for every pet. Instead, you have to consider what your unique pet needs. To help you find the right walking routine for your dog, we put together a list of the four most important factors in determining how long you should walk your dog for.
1. Age is Not Just a Number
At each life stage, you dog will have different requirements for energy, stimulation, and stamina. Keep their limitations in mind as they develop so you can ensure they are getting appropriate exercise for their needs.
Though puppies are full of energy, it is important not to over-exercise them. Overwalking a puppy while they are still growing can cause serious musculoskeletal damage, leading to conditions such as early-onset arthritis.
Once your puppy is vaccinated, you can start taking them on short walks. The general rule of thumb for walking puppies is to walk five minutes per month of age.
For example, if your puppy is eight months old, you should walk them for about forty minutes per day. This can be one long walk or split into multiple brief outings to better suit your schedule and their stamina.
Remember, the idea is to walk until they are tired, not until you are tired. As your pup matures, you can work to slowly increase their stamina and take them on the long day walks you’ve been dreaming of.
If your puppy is bursting with energy, even after your walks, try to supplement their exercise with enrichment training and games at home. These activities will teach your puppy some life skills, and help to tire them out, both mentally and physically.
A great of a simple enrichment activity for dogs is to use a puzzle feeder. Not only does this provide a fun and interactive way to deliver your puppies dinner, but it also teaches crucial life skills such as confidence and self-control!
Once your dog is coming into their golden years, you may wish to slow down and take more relaxed walks. Experts recommend thirty minutes per day for senior dogs, as this is just enough to keep arthritic and tired muscles moving!
For dogs showing signs of mobility issues, it may be better to break that 30 minutes into 2-3 shorter walks throughout the day, giving them a chance to rest in between.
Keeping to the same routes may also be useful for senior dogs who are suffering from some cognitive or directional issues. Familiarity will become your old dog’s best friend! Stick to your neighborhood, local parks, and similar landmarks to help keep your dog from getting confused, overwhelmed, or scared on your walk.
Over walking your dog can lead to injury, especially as they approach their senior years, but not providing enough exercise can be harmful too. If you aren’t sure of your dog’s limitations, start small and slowly work your way up to a more active routine.
Inactive pets often suffer from obesity and other weight-related issues. Prevent a pudgy pup by creating a moderate but consistent exercise routine.
2. Size & Breed Matter
Depending on the breed of your dog, their exercise requirements will vary greatly. A Chihuahua needs around thirty minutes of exercise daily, compared to the larger Border Collie, who can thrive with over two hours of exercise each day.
This variance will not just depend on size, but equally what your pup was bred to do. For example, Great Danes are the largest dog breed in the world, but they were not bred to be highly athletic, so they only need thirty to sixty minutes of exercise a day.
They are much happier stretching out in a sunny spot, watching the world go by.
3. Temperature Hazards
Temperature is another crucial factor when considering how long to walk your dog for! If you live in a warmer climate, it is important to factor this into your walking routines.
Try to beat the heat by walking early in the morning or late in the evening. This is especially important if you have a brachycephalic (flat-faced) breed, like a pug, as they can struggle more than your average pet to regulate their temperature in the heat!
If you must walk in the heat of the day, try to walk in shaded areas, away from pavement and other surfaces that retain heat, as this can burn your dog’s paws and lead to your dog overheating. A good pair of hiking boots can be beneficial on hot days and on longer outings, like hikes.
Check out How to Cool Down a Dog for more tips on staying cool in warm weather so that you and your dog can still enjoy your daily adventures.
4. Health Considerations
Before embarking on a long walk, it is important to consider if your dog has any health conditions that may influence their ability to enjoy it!
For example, a dog with hip dysplasia or arthritis may not be able to walk as far as they used to. Conditions such as hip dysplasia, although more prevalent in older dogs, it can be diagnosed in dogs as young as 18 months!
As a result, if you’re planning to take your dog on longer walks regularly, yearly health check-ups are absolutely essential for your pet. There’s no point going on a long walk together if you’re not both going to enjoy it!
Try not to push your dog beyond their limits. Overweight dogs, dogs with breathing problems, and dogs prone to overheating can be at risk. Dogs often don't know when to slow down or take a break, so you have to regulate his activity.
Too Much or Not Enough?
Walking your dog doesn’t have to be complicated. Make sure you know his limitations and find a routine that works for both of you.
If you like to be more adventurous and like to explore the wilderness with your dog, make sure you have the right hiking or camping gear to keep your dog safe, and plan down time and breaks into your trip.
If your dog can't keep up on your hike or run, then don't bring him along. Instead, stick to a more casual daily walking routine that better suits his age, health, and energy needs.
Too much exercise is just as risky as not enough. So make small changes to help your dog build stamina, and keep an eye out for signs of dehydration, exhaustion, and overheating. Encourage a cool down period as needed to break up exercise.
How long do you walk your dog for? Let us know your struggles, successes, and tips in the comments below!
Posted by John Woods
This article was written by John Woods, the founder of All Things Dogs. John has had two rescue dogs himself, and also has plenty of experience in training and rehabilitating rescue dogs.