Getting enough regular exercise is essential to maintaining your dog’s ideal weight and physical and mental wellbeing. Whether you have a puppy, an adult, or a golden oldie; it is important to consider the appropriate level of exercise for your dog. Going for walks is one of the most fun aspects of dog ownership and allows your dog to actively engage with other dogs and people but can you walk your dog too much?
The first consideration when exercising puppies is the closure of the growth plates; growth plates are soft areas that sit at the ends of the long bones in puppies and young dogs. Until the growth plates close, they are soft and vulnerable to injury. In puppies, this closure is normally completed by approximately 18 months old and until this time, exercise should be carefully monitored. This is important as, unlike a sprain, injuries to the growth plate may not heal properly and are likely to be problematic for life!
One rule of thumb that is used is that puppies should have 5 mins of exercise, per month of age twice daily. So, a 5 month old puppy can enjoy 2 x 25 minute walks a day.
Adult dogs can go for longer walks, if they are fit and healthy; 45 mins to 2 hours exercise will be sufficient for most adult dogs. This can be done as a single daily walk or split into multiple times a day depending on your routine.
The weather will also play an important role in when you walk, remember, on a pleasant 25C (77F) day, concrete or asphalt can reach 52C (125F). Synthetic grass can also reach extreme temperatures.
Exercise frequency is also very important. At the Company of Animals Pet Centre, we see many injuries that come as a result of shorter, less strenuous walks and then a spontaneous 10 mile hike at the weekend. The key is to keep the exercise consistent with slight increases to improve fitness over time.
Senior dogs (those over 7 years) may naturally start to exercise less by walking rather than running and playing. It may be helpful to break up your older dog’s exercise into smaller sets so for example 2 x 30 min walks rather than going out for an hour.
It is important to remember that dogs will often keep walking and playing regardless of whether they are tired or not, so it is up to us to ensure our dogs activity levels are appropriate. Look out for signs that your dog is struggling with the level of exercise you are giving him, these may include:
- Excessive panting during or after exertion
- Extreme thirst
- Lagging behind when they are normally in front raring to go
- Any lameness, limping or a reluctance to exercise or continuing to exercise
- Appearing to be overtired after the exercise, or sleeping or laying down more than normal
Ultimately, if you are unsure about how much exercise to give your dog, then check with your veterinary surgeon.