Taking your dog on a walk is by the far most popular way to give your dog some daily exercise and stimulation.
However, a lot of dog owners actually try to walk their puppies too far, and on the flip side, expect their young adult dogs to be tired after a walk that simply wasn’t long enough.
Which brings us to the core of this article, How far should I walk my dog? and How long should I walk my dog?
As you can imagine, the answer to this question will vary based on your dog’s age, health, and breed. But there are some overarching guidelines to help you decide what’s safe or necessary for your dog’s needs.
Humans and dogs alike benefit from daily walks, but deciding just how far to walk your dog isn’t easily answered. You see, different breeds have vastly different exercise needs and even tolerance levels.
The range tends to be between 30 and 120 minutes of exercise per day, with the highest needs being for athletic, working breeds, and the lower range being low-energy dogs like Basset Hounds and English Bulldogs.
Every dog benefits from daily exercise and a walk can be a key component to meeting those needs. For dogs with low exercise needs, a 30-minute walk is a perfect way to get them moving, socialized, and keep them mentally stimulated.
For a dog with higher exercise needs, a few 20-30 minute walks a day are a great component to their daily activity; however, they’ll likely need some more vigorous activity in the mix, too. Things like a chance to run and wrestle at the dog park, a long-distance game of fetch, or a run with their owner will keep them happier than a few walks alone.
Age will also play a big factor, a young adult dog (think 1-4 years old) will need a much longer or further walk to feel content and satisfied than an older adult or senior dog.
The same idea applies to when and how often you do your daily walk(s). Most experts agree that your dog should get one exercise session first thing in the morning. This is especially true if you will be gone for any length of time. Starting the day with a brisk walk meets so many of your dog’s needs and will help them behave during the day.
What’s more, even with a long walk first thing in the morning, most young, active dogs will need more exercise sessions later in the day. For this reason, breaking up the goal of 120 minutes of daily exercise over the course of the day may actually keep your dog more content, healthier, and less likely to exhibit unwanted behaviors, than if you do it all first thing in the morning (or worse, only on the weekends).
Another thing to consider as you think about how far to walk your dog is the intensity of the walk. If you’re doing a challenging hiking trail for 30 minutes (especially if your dog is off-leash), that’s going to count for a lot more of their walking needs than a slow stroll around the neighborhood.
When I took one of my first dog training classes with a family dog many years ago, I remember the trainer saying your dog’s walk needs to be brisk because they have four legs to our two. Keep the pace up and your dog will get so much more out of the experience!
By keeping a quick walking pace, you’ll also have more success with loose leash walking.
You can help make a simple dog walk more satisfying for your dog by adding in a mental component. I highly recommend this if you have a large, working breed dog like a German Shepherd or Border Collie. These dogs need mental stimulation just as much as a ton of physical exercise.
By making your walks into a task or adding in lots of training and opportunity to work and please you, they will be far more content during downtime.
While too many adult dogs aren’t walked (or exercised) enough, we often see the opposite problem with puppies—owners think their pup can handle more than they can. Puppies are only babies after all, and really don’t have much endurance! In fact, over-exercising your puppy can result in irreversible bone and joint damage.
Puppies, much like human babies, do best with shorter play and exercise sessions with lots of time for naps and downtime in between. There’s no set chart or guidelines to know exactly how far to walk your puppy, but the Kennel Club of the UK recommends five minutes of exercise per month of age, twice per day. So, your two-month-old puppy can get two 10-minute walks in addition to playtime and training sessions at home.
For puppies, not overexercising is important, especially with large and giant breeds. For that reason, it’s so important to learn about your dog’s breed and ask for specific guidance from your vet.
So many of us have more than one dog at home but walking two dogs at once isn’t always an easy task. Here are some tips to help you succeed with the double walk:
Adult dogs love to go for walks. It’s the perfect way to help them get the exercise they need. In general, walks that are 20-30 minutes long are perfect for most dogs. If your dog falls into the high exercise needs category, try to do a few walks per day along with some more rigorous activities.
You can make a regular dog walk more engaging by adding in a training component like stop, go, heel, wait, run, walk, wait, and more. Looking to kick it up a notch? Don’t miss our guide to running and jogging with your dog!
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