Walking your dog is a normal activity, but not all dogs require the same amount of exercise. Some dogs are fine with an occasional walk while others need long, regular jaunts around the neighborhood. Knowing why walks can benefit dogs and how often your specific dog needs to be walked can help you keep your dog happy and healthy both physically and mentally.
Benefits of Walking Your Dog
When you take your dog for a walk, you're providing more than just exercise to help manage its weight. Some of the benefits of walking your dog include:
- Maintaining joint health
- Providing mental stimulation
- Building muscle
- Helping with weight loss or preventing obesity
- Releasing excess energy
- Regulating the digestive system
- Increasing oxygen flow through the body
- Reducing boredom
- Providing fresh air
- Providing sunlight and vitamin D
- Providing a bonding opportunity with your dog
- Offering potential earthing/grounding benefits
Taking your dog for a walk can also provide you the same physical and mental benefits, so it is a great way for both you and your dog to spend time together.
How Often Should You Walk Your Dog?
Your dog's breed, fur, size, age, health status, and other factors will affect how much it should walk. Some dog breeds are physically not able to walk as much as others, so it's important to know what your dog needs and can tolerate. As a basic rule of thumb, a daily walk of 20-30 minutes is a good starting point to assess how much walking your dog can do.
Working and sporting breeds of dogs are bred to be very active, so daily walks are a must for German shepherds, Belgian malinois, collies, Labrador retrievers, and other athletic breeds. These dogs may require an hour or two of brisk walking or hiking each day. Breeds that aren't bred to work or compete, such as English bulldogs, pomeranians, chihuahuas, and shih tzus, don't need to walk nearly as much. These breeds are often content just being house dogs and may not need to be walked at all.
Dogs with dense fur or short legs may have a hard time taking long walks. Movement and breathing may be more difficult with these dogs so walks should be kept to 20 minutes or so if the weather is mild. Warmer temperatures will cause a dog to become overheated more quickly, so some summer days may not allow for a walk at all but cooler weather may allow for short jaunts. On the other hand, for dogs with short fur that can normally withstand long walks, extreme cold temperatures will limit the amount of time that they should spent outside.
Finally, age and disease may play a role in how much walking your dog can and should do. Older dogs may not be able to exercise as long as younger dogs and various diseases, like arthritis, heart disease, and obesity can greatly limit the length of your walks. Sometimes 10 minutes is all these dogs can handle at a time.
How Much Walking Is Too Much?
If you're not sure how long to walk your dog each day, monitor them for signs of tiredness during your next walk. Panting, slowing of pace, and trying to stop or sit down are signs that your dog has had enough walking for the time being. Their stamina may build after you regularly provide these short walks but continue to monitor your dog if you attempt to lengthen your walks. If after 30 minutes your dog is still happy and keeping a good pace, a longer walk is most likely needed. Alternatively, a second, or even third walk in the day may be necessary, or a more strenuous walk that includes going uphill or placing a dog backpack on your dog could help to exert more of its excess energy.
Too much walking can cause difficulty breathing, dehydration, overheating (in warm weather), frostbite (in cold weather), leg soreness, leg injuries, and paw pad trauma. If lengthy walks are demanded by your dog, make sure you are prepared for the elements, bring water, and protect your dog from the heat and cold by using paw protection and/or coats. Knowing how much walking is ideal for your specific dog can prevent these issues from occurring and help keep it fit and mentally stimulated.
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