While it’s true that your dog’s physical health depends on getting enough exercise, it’s the benefit exercise poses to her mental health that will likely have the biggest impact on your day to day relationship. Dogs that don’t get adequate exercise are likely to forget their manners. They’ll jump on you and your guests, they’ll bark, and more than likely, they’ll try to release their pent up energy in forms of destruction - chewing on a couch or a table, digging up the carpet, etc.

In other words, not giving your dog the exercise she needs can be disastrous to any training plan.

If you went through the process of picking a breed that fit your lifestyle, one of the primary decisions you had to make was how much exercise you could offer your dog. Some breeds, like Weimaraners, have high exercise requirements. Others, like French Bulldogs, are relative couch potatoes by comparison.

So what does it mean to exercise your dog and how much do you need to exercise her?

How Much Exercise Does Your Dog Need?

The amount of exercise your dog needs will vary by breed, age and any medical conditions particular to your dog. Of course your veterinarian can give you guidance, as can other dog owners with similar breeds.

Here are some general rules to follow:

  1. Every dog needs DAILY exercise.
  2. Most dogs benefit enormously from daily aerobic exercise (exercise that makes them pant, like fetch, tug, running and swimming), as well as at least one half-hour walk, and ideally, at least 2 walks.
  3. If your dog is a short nosed breed, like a Bulldog, for example, he will not need a lot of daily exercise. A casual walk around the neighborhood will be sufficient.
  4. Breeds in the hunting, working, or herding groups (such as Labrador retrievers, hounds, collies and shepherds) will need the most exercise. If your dog is in one of these groups and is in good health, she should be getting at least 30 minutes of vigorous exercise along with her 1-2 hours of daily activity.

What are some ways to exercise your dog?

You may not have access to a big fenced in area, and even if you do, some days the weather might make it difficult to get outside. As you will soon learn if you don’t already know, you do not want to go even a day without exercise if you have an active breed. Also, just letting your pup out in the backyard doesn’t mean he’s getting any exercise.

Here are some ideas for exercising your pup both inside and outside:

Vigorous Outdoor Exercise

  • Jogging with your pup alongside you - Since this isn’t a detailed how-to, you should research the particulars of how to safely jog with your dog given his breed and age. Also, see below in “Other Things to Consider” for more tips on jogging with your dog.
  • Fetch - Anything you can throw and have your dog retrieve constitutes as fetch. Sticks, balls, and frisbees are all suitable examples.
  • Swimming - If your dog has a love of water, you probably don’t need to provide him any incentive to tire herself of swimming. Nevertheless, fetch in water is a game she’s sure to love
  • Dog parks - Why work to exercise your dog when other dogs can do it for you? If you learn how to safely visit the dog park and follow dog park etiquette, this can be a great exercise routine, not to mention the socialization benefits for your dog.
  • Playdates - Similar to dog parks, getting your dog together with a friends’ dogs can provide a great outlet for pent up energy.

Indoor Exercise

An important thing to remember with indoor exercise is that exercise isn’t just physical. Mental exertion can lead to physical exertion. With that in mind, here are some ways to give your dog exercise indoors:

  • Run your dog up and down the stairs - You’ll need to exercise your own good judgement when deciding if this activity is safe for your dog and something that you’re okay with your dog doing, but a stairs workout can be fun and provide a good amount of exercise.
  • Set up obstacle courses - Design a path for your dog to run through in your house and put obstacles in his way. Give him things to jump over, dunk under, squeeze through, and go around.
  • Hide his treats - Hide treats around the house and train your dog to find them. The mental stimulation helps compensate for the lack of sprinting or aerobic stimulation.
  • Playdate indoors - This is really no different than a playdate outside. Invite friends and their dogs over to socialize with your dog.
  • Tug of War - Some pet owners are leery to play tug with their pets lest their pup starts tugging on everything and gets overly aggressive. Others, including famed dog trainer Susan Garrett swear by “tug” as the ultimate reward for good behavior- even better than treats. Wherever you land, tug can be a great way to exercise your pup. Just be sure to choose a safe toy for your dog to tug on.
  • Food puzzles - There are a lot of toys out there that make your dog work to get a treat. Some popular ones include KONG® Toy, the Buster® Cube, the Tricky Treat™ Ball, the Tug-a-Jug™, the Twist ‘n Treat™, the Atomic Treat Ball™ and the TreatStik®
  • Chew toys - These are also great for occupying your pups mind. They don’t tend to provide that much aerobic stimulation though, so your success with this as an exercise activity may be minimal if you have an active breed.
  • Fetch - if you have the space, this can be played indoors as well.
  • Hide and Seek - Don’t just hide your dog’s treats. Hide yourself! Do this with a partner or, if your dog is great at the stay command, have him stay while you go hide. Call him to you when you’re in your spot and give him the thrill of finding you.
  • Treadmill - This isn’t meant to prepare you to use a treadmill with your dog, but you should know that many pet owners do exercise their dogs on treadmills. Do your research to learn how to train your dog to use the treadmill and this may become one of his favorite activities.

Beyond Walking

Indoors and outdoors, vigorous and more laid back, here are some other options for exercising your dog:

  • Hiking - Most dog’s love the mental stimulation of a hike. Depending on the hike, this can be a vigorous exercise or more laid back. Be sure to check the rules of your local hiking trail to make sure it allows dogs.
  • Flirt Pole - This is essentially a tool for playing keep away. Put a toy on the end of a rope or a pole and dance it in front of your dog. Be sure to let him win once in a while to keep his enthusiasm up.
  • Bubbles - Let your dog chase bubbles for his workout. Make sure you’re using bubbles that are safe for dogs. You can even purchase bubbles that are specially formulated for your pet.
  • Doggy daycare - This is a great option if you don’t have time every day to exercise your dog yourself. Doggy daycares exercise your dogs in lots of different ways.

Other Things to Keep in Mind

Here are some other things to keep in mind for safely exercising your pup:

  • Breeds that are prone to bloat (those are deep-chested, narrow-bodied breeds, such as German Shepherd dogs, Doberman Pinschers and Great Danes) should not be exercised right after meals.
  • Breeds with short or flat noses (brachycephalic breeds) can have trouble breathing when exercised vigorously.
  • Sustained jogging or running is not recommended for young dogs whose bones haven’t finished growing. Because large dogs are more prone to cruciate ligament injuries, arthritis and hip dysplasia, sustained jogging can be hard on their joints and bones too.
  • Sighthounds, like greyhounds and whippets, are built for short-distance sprinting, not long-distance runs. Find someone else to run your 10k with.