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The Benefits of Regular Exercise for Dogs

Updated: May 21

Dog running throuigh water

Regular exercise is essential for the overall health and well-being of our dogs. Just like humans, our pups also need physical activity to maintain a healthy weight, improve cardiovascular health, and prevent various health issues. We'll discuss the benefits of regular exercise for dogs and how it can contribute to their happiness and longevity.

Always consult your physician and veterinarian before any strenuous and/or high-risk activities. This content is not medical advice and should not replace consultation with a physician or veterinarian.

The Benefits of Exercise for Dogs

Dog howling on a hiking trail

Physical Benefits

·Maintains optimal body weight which helps prevent obesity and related diseases

·Enhances muscular strength and flexibility

·Improved agility and physical performance

·Regulates blood pressure, improves circulation, and strengthens the heart

Mental Benefits

·Can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression by producing endorphins ·Stimulates your dog's mind and aids in promoting mental sharpness and cognitive health ·Can help mitigate behavioral problems as it drains excess energy that may be directed toward destructive behaviors

By engaging your dog in regular exercise, you're not only enhancing their physical well-being but also nourishing their mind, improving their mood, and bolstering their overall emotional health.

How Much Exercise Do Dogs Need?

The amount of exercise a dog needs can vary greatly and is influenced by several factors, such as breed, size, age, and health status. Different breeds have diverse activity levels; for instance, working breeds like Border Collies or Australian Shepherds require more exercise than less active breeds such as Bulldogs or Basset Hounds. Age also plays a significant role, with puppies and young dogs typically requiring more physical activity than older dogs. Moreover, a dog's health status can influence their exercise needs. Dogs with certain health conditions may require modified exercise routines, while healthy dogs may benefit from more vigorous activity. Therefore, it's essential to consult with a veterinarian or a canine exercise specialist to understand the specific exercise needs of your dog and devise an appropriate exercise regimen.

Exercise Guidelines for Different Types of Dogs

Exercise Guidelines for Small Breeds

Small dog cooling off on a log after exercise

  • Small breed dogs, despite their size, are often active and require a good amount of exercise to stay healthy and content.

  • Typically benefit from at least 30 minutes to an hour of physical activity each day

  • Exercises include short walks/hikes, play sessions in the yard, or indoor games

NOTE: Small breeds can be susceptible to over-exercising due to their size, so it's important to monitor their stamina and provide plenty of rest periods during exercise.

Exercise Guidelines for Large Breeds

Woman and her dog relaxing on a trail after hiking

  • Large breed dogs, particularly active and working breeds, require a significant amount of exercise

  • Typically benefit from up to two hours each day

  • Exercises include walks/hikes, jogs, playtime, or even doggy sports such as agility training or fetch

NOTE: Large breeds are also prone to certain bone and joint conditions, so it's crucial to balance their need for activity with the potential risk of injury.

Exercise Guidelines for Senior Dogs

An older, large Husky dog relaxing ager his exercise routine

  • As dogs age, their exercise needs tend to decrease, but physical activity remains important for maintaining a healthy weight and mobility

  • They may not require the intense activity that younger dogs do, but they still benefit from regular, gentle exercise

  • Exercises may include shorter, more leisurely walks, light play sessions, or guided exercises like swimming

NOTE: It's essential to closely monitor your senior dog during exercise to avoid overexertion, and as with all dogs, any changes in exercise habits should be discussed with a veterinarian.

Types of Exercises for Dogs

Man walking his dogs

Walking or Hiking

-One of the simplest and most effective forms of exercise

-Provides physical activity, but it also allows dogs to explore their environment

-Stimulates senses and enhances mental well-being

-Can be adapted to suit the fitness level and needs of your dog

Dog swimming in a pool


-Low-impact activity beneficial for dogs with joint problems or those who need to lose weight

-Works out the whole body and helps improve overall strength and endurance

-Great way to keep your dog cool during the hot summer months

Man using a Frisbee to play fetch with his dog

Playing Fetch

-Involves both physical exercise and mental stimulation -Can be played almost anywhere: backyard, beach, park, and even indoors with smaller toys -Versatile for most dog breeds and sizes

Man running with his dog


-Running can be excellent exercise for more active and athletic dogs

-Helps burn off excess energy and keeps your dog's weight in check

-Start with shorter runs and gradually increase the distance as your dog builds stamina

Varying Exercise Routines

It's essential to mix up your dog's exercise routine to prevent boredom and keep them mentally stimulated. Like us humans, our dogs thrive with variety in their day to day. By introducing different exercises from time to time, you'll not only challenge different muscle groups but also engage various cognitive skills. Simply, this could mean alternating between walks, runs, fetch, and swimming, or incorporating new doggy sports and activities into their routine.

Woman getting her dogs ready for a run

Also, varying the environment in which the activities are performed — different parks, trails, or neighborhoods — can provide new sensory experiences and opportunities for exploration, adding a layer of mental stimulation to the physical activity. Always tailor the changes to your dog's breed, age, and health status, and remember, any new exercise should be introduced gradually to ensure your dog enjoys it and doesn't get overwhelmed.

Read Our Guide for More Information

Woman walking her Pomsky at dog beach and wearing matching dog and owner beach shirts

Check out our online adventure guide for more in-depth information on these exercises, plus many other outdoor activities you can try with your dog.

Tips for Exercising with Your Dog

Woman in the park with her dog sitting on a bench wearing matching dog and owner shirts

To make exercising with your dog both enjoyable and safe, consider these practical tips:

Tailor Exercise to Your Dog's Preferences

Start Slow and Gradually Increase Intensity

Always Warm Up and Cool Down

Stay Hydrated

Watch for Signs of Exhaustion

Prioritize Safety

Remember, the aim is to make exercise a fun, shared activity that benefits both you and your dog. Always consult with your vet or a canine exercise specialist if you have any concerns about your dog's exercise routine.

Bonding with Your Dog Through Exercise

Man and dog stopping for a break while hiking in the woods

Exercise offers a fantastic opportunity to strengthen the bond between you and your dog. Not only does it provide necessary physical stimulation for your pup, but it also creates dedicated time for interaction. As you engage in exercises together, your dog will associate these fun, positive experiences with your presence, strengthening trust and affection. Furthermore, regular exercise routines establish structure and predictability, elements that dogs thrive upon, and which foster a sense of security. Training exercises, such as fetch or agility tasks, also promote communication and understanding between you and your dog.

Man running with his little dog

I've had my fair share of injuries from serving in the military and some of them really set me back in my running to the point where I quit it completely for about 2 years. I noticed on our frequent hikes, that one of our dogs, Snoopy, would always try to bolt at certain sections of the trail. After being away from it so long, I wanted to get back into running and enlisted Snoopy as my running buddy. At night, he'd cuddle on the couch with my wife; however, since running with him, he'd cuddle with me! So I guess you can say we bonded through our exercise.

Exercise: A Key Component in a Healthy Relationship with Your Dog

Little white dog leaping through the air

We cannot overstate the importance of making time for regular exercise with your dog(s). It offers numerous benefits for all of us by impacting our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. It not only nurtures the dog-owner relationship but also significantly enhances quality of life. Whether it's a gentle stroll in your local park, a vigorous game of fetch, or an adventurous hike, there's something for every dog and owner to enjoy. When you invest time and energy in exercising with your dog, you're not just promoting their overall well-being; you're also nurturing a bond of love, trust, and companionship that lasts a lifetime.


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