Taking your dog for daily walks provides numerous mental, emotional, and physical health benefits to nearly all dogs. Walks provide exercise, which is good for your dog’s body. Walks are also mentally stimulating for your dog, who can sniff interesting smells, meet other people and dogs, and simply explore the great big world outside. Walks can break up long days in the house, alleviating boredom and leading to a happier, more relaxed dog overall. Walking your dog is great for you, too. Like dogs, people reap all the benefits of walks outside, including exercise and mental stimulation.
A small number of dogs shouldn’t go for walks. Dogs that shouldn’t take long walks (or possibly any walks at all) include those with health issues or physical problems that prevent them from safely and comfortably enjoying a walk. Some dogs simply don’t enjoy going for long walks because of fear or anxiety, or for other reasons. If you are not sure whether walking is good for your particular dog, check with your veterinarian.
Let’s explore some of the most common dog-walking questions, including how long walks should be to the best times of day for walking, and more.
How Long Should You Walk Your Dog?
The answer to this question depends on your dog’s age, breed, and other factors.
Puppies need shorter walks than adult dogs. Puppies have a lot of energy, but not a lot of stamina, so they tire easily. Puppies do best with frequent, short walks, something that also helps with potty training and leash training. Aim for short walks of about five to 10 minutes, and take your puppy out for a walk three or more times day.
Senior dogs can usually walk longer than young puppies, but many seniors need shorter walks than they did as young adults to prevent injuries to their joints and muscles. Depending on how old your senior dog is, it might also have less stamina and tire out more quickly than a young adult dog.
For seniors, aim for one or two walks per day, of around 20 to 30 minutes. You can go a little longer if your senior dog is in excellent shape, wants to keep going and doesn’t suffer from limping or excessive stiffness after going for longer walks.
Adult dogs can go on longer walks than puppies and seniors. Your walks might be longer or shorter depending on your dog’s breed, body type, and personality. Most adult dogs are happy to go on as many walks as you’ll take them on. Aim for at least two walks a day, and don’t be afraid to throw in an extra walk or two if you have the time.
Small breeds, such as Chihuahuas, Maltese, Papillons, Pomeranians, and Yorkshire Terriers, usually need shorter walks. Those little legs have to move a lot more to cover the same distance as a bigger dog with longer legs.
Brachycephalic breeds—those with pushed-in faces, such as the boxer, bulldog, French bulldog, and pug—may also require shorter walks. This is because those adorable short snouts can make it harder for the dog to breathe, especially during exercise.
Dog breeds with long backs and short legs like the Basset hound, Dachshund, Pembroke Welsh corgi and Scottish terrier—might need shorter walks, though this will depend on the breed and individual dog. Some short-legged dogs do just fine with longer walks, so talk to your vet and gauge your dog’s abilities accordingly.
For small dogs, flat-faced dog breeds, and dwarf dog breeds, start out with walks about 15 to 30 minutes long, twice a day. Start these walks in cooler weather to make it easier for your dog. If your dog enjoys walking, and seems happy to walk longer, you can gradually stretch the length of the walks, always stopping before your dog becomes overtired.
Medium to large breeds, such as the beagle, English springer spaniel, golden retriever and Labrador retriever, can usually go for longer walks, provided the dog is in good health and in good shape physically. These breeds are usually able to go for moderate and long walks with ease.
Athletic breeds, such as the Australian shepherd, border collie, Siberian husky, vizsla, and Weimaraner are built for speed and stamina. Not only can such breeds enjoy longer walks, they may demand them (plus other exercise) in order to be calm and happy at home.
For medium and large breeds, and especially athletic breeds, start out with walks about 30 to 60 minutes long, twice a day. Increase the duration and frequency of walks as much as your dog seems comfortable and excited about.
What Times of Day Are Best for Dog Walks?
Although many dogs are up for a walk at almost any time of day, morning and early evening are generally good times for walks. These times allow you to exercise and potty your dog before leaving for work and upon returning home. These are also the best times of day during the summer, when midday heat makes walking dangerous. Take advantage of the cooler temperatures in the early mornings and later evenings when it’s not quite as hot out.
Safe Dog Walking
Always tailor dog walks to your individual dog. If your dog is overweight or has a health condition, talk to your vet before starting a new walking routine. It is generally best to ramp up the length of your dog's walks gradually. Start with shorter walks and increase the length by a few minutes every few days if your dog is handling the activity well.
Always end walks before your dog becomes overly tired. Signs that your dog is getting too tired include slowing down, heavy panting with the tongue extending far out, refusing to walk forward, or lying down. If this happens, give your dog time to rest, then head home and make the next walk a short one.
Avoid walking your dog in hot temperatures. In the summer heat, keep walks to dawn and dusk, and reduce their length of frequency, if necessary. Walking on hot pavement can burn sensitive paw pads, and exercising when it’s too hot out can lead to overheating or even heatstroke, which is an emergency. Signs of heatstroke include excessive panting and/or drooling, bright red, blue or purple-colored tongue or gums, shaking, vomiting, diarrhea, and collapse. If you think your dog is suffering from heatstroke, get it out of the heat as soon as possible, wet its body with cool (not ice-cold) water, and call a veterinarian immediately.
It’s a good idea to always bring water for your dog if you will be walking for more than 30 minutes. Even in milder temperatures, your dog can become thirsty and overheated, especially if it has a long, thick coat or is not used to walking longer distances.