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9 Ways to Get Your Dog More Exercise

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Dog Care By Gem Sheps 11 min read March 9, 2021

How to get your dog more exercise

Have you ever heard the old adage “a tired dog is a good dog?”

It’s a popular sentiment for a reason. Regular exercise is a key component of maintaining a happy, healthy and well-rounded pooch.

But some owners have trouble figuring out fun ways to make sure their pup burns off enough steam. Don’t worry!

We’ll share nine great ways to get your dog a little more exercise below.

But first, let’s start by explaining some of the important reasons to get your dog more exercise and share a few safety tips to ensure your dog doesn’t suffer an injury while running around.

Why Is Exercise Good For My Dog?

Even couch potato breeds like Chihuahuas and mastiffs need regular exercise to stay healthy. Something as simple as a daily walk can keep your pup’s joints, muscles, and heart in good condition.

But exercise does more than just keep your dog in good physical health — it also lowers her stress levels and provides mental stimulation so she doesn’t get bored and destructive. 

Understimulated dogs are frequently labeled as “bad dogs,” but this isn’t entirely fair. Much like a bored person, a bored dog will go out of his way to find something interesting to do.

To your dog digging, chewing, ripping, and exploring are very interesting activities, so if she hasn’t had enough exercise those are the actions she’ll gravitate toward

dog walk exercise

How Much Exercise Does My Dog Need?

While some dogs are satiated after a brief walk, some need far more exercise to burn off their energy. So how much exercise does your dog need?

We’re so glad you asked!

Exercise Needs for Puppies Under 6 Months Old 

Young puppies have a lot of energy, but they burn a lot of it off by simply being a puppy! The world is exciting, stimulating and exhausting, so a walk and a healthy dose of playtime will probably cover your puppy’s exercise needs.

In fact, young puppies can suffer from joint damage if they exercise too strenuously before their bodies are ready for it (this is especially true of large breeds, who are susceptible to hip dysplasia and similar ailments). So, hold off on serious exercise until your pup is at least 6 months old.

It’s also a good idea to swing by the vet’s office, and get his or her blessing to start an exercise regimen.

Exercise Needs for Senior Dogs  

Older dogs may have energy levels ranging from low to high, but no matter how enthusiastic they are about exercising, their health should be taken into account.

If an older pooch exercises too much or the exercise involves a significant amount of impact (such as running, bikejoring, etc.) it can harm their joints and increase the risk of complications like osteoarthritis. 

Exercise can also wear senior dogs out more than you’d like, so be sure to take things slowly and observe your dog for signs of exhaustion. And, as with young puppies, it is a good idea to ask your vet about exercising your senior pet.

Exercise Needs for Healthy Adult Dogs 

Healthy adult pooches have widely varying exercise needs that depend on their breed and temperament:

  • Toy breeds (like Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Chihuahuas, Shih Tzus, etc.) are often low to medium energy dogs with modest work drives. Half an hour of exercise is usually plenty for these little pooches. 
  • Sporting, non-sporting, and working breeds (like golden retrievers, German shorthaired pointers, Great Danes, Cocker Spaniels, dalmatians, huskies etc.) can range in energy from low to high, and they often have medium to high work drives. One to two hours of exercise a day will typically keep these pups happy, but some may want even more time to run, jump, and play.
  • Terriers, hounds and herding breeds (like pit bulls, Jack Russell terriers, border collies, Australian shepherds, corgis, beagles, bloodhounds, etc.) tend to have medium to high energy levels as well as a high drive to work. They can require anywhere from 2 to 4 hours of exercise per day to be fully mentally and physically tired. Simply put, it can be challenging to wear these puppers out on a consistent basis.
  • Brachycephalic breeds (like French bulldogs, English bulldogs, pugs, boxers, and any other breeds with squished faces) may range between low to high energy, but the difficulty they have breathing means that they have to exercise more carefully than other healthy adult dogs. These pups shouldn’t exercise for more than 20 to 30 minutes at a time, and you’ll want to provide them with plenty of water and watch their body temperature to prevent them from overheating and hyperventilating.

Every dog is different and breed and size don’t necessarily determine how much exercise your pooch will need. Just be sure to consider your pooch’s specific abilities, health status, and needs, and don’t be shy about asking your vet for advice.

9 Ways to Get Your Dog More Exercise

A lot of dogs have more energy than a simple jaunt around the block can diminish. Don’t worry — we’ll share nine different ways to get your furball some more exercise below!

1. Hire a Dog Walker

Don’t have the time to take your dog on extra walks because of work or school? Consider hiring someone to walk her for you! 

On-demand dog walking services like Wag! and Rover help choose an appropriate walker for you and your pup and offer walks ranging from 15-minute potty breaks to 60-minute treks.

hire a dog walker

Alternatively, finding an individual outside of a service is also an option. Just be sure you select someone experienced with dogs and capable of keeping your canine under control. When possible, try to pick someone that your four-footer already knows.

2. Visiting the Dog Park

If your pooch gets along with just about everyone, a trip to the dog park could be the perfect way to get her more exercise!

Socializing and playing with other dogs provides physical and mental stimulation, which makes it a great way to tucker out young, high-energy dogs. As a bonus, you won’t have to do much during this time — just monitor your pooch, brush up on your dog park etiquette, and enjoy watching her shenanigans!

dog park for exercise

However, it’s important to keep in mind that the only dog you can control at the dog park is your own, so you should pay attention to your dog’s whereabouts the entire time. If another dog is making you or your pooch uncomfortable, just leave and come back some other time. 

It’s also worth noting that some dogs just don’t like the dog park – it can be overwhelming for many pups, so consider your dog’s disposition before you toss her in the ring.

There are plenty of dog park alternatives that can allow your dog to get exercise and socialization without the stress of dog parks!

3. Doggie Daycare

Doggie daycare is another great option for social dogs with lots of energy. What could be better than spending a half or even the whole day playing at camp with other dogs?

Doggie daycare is only an appropriate option for dogs who are truly dog-social. Dogs who guard resources like water and toys, dislike dogs of certain sizes or energy levels, or have difficulty responding to commands when excited aren’t great candidates for doggie daycare. 

Being packed into a room with up to 14 other dogs can be stressful for dogs that don’t love other dogs. But, for those who do get along well with others, doggie daycare is a fantastic way to get your pupper some extra exercise. 

4. Playing with a Flirt Pole

Herding breeds, terriers, and other breeds with high prey drives — meaning, a strong desire to chase small animals like squirrels, bunnies, birds, and even cats — will often get a kick out of playing with a flirt pole.

A flirt pole is like a gigantic cat toy, but instead of a feather, they feature a lure on the end that your pooch will enjoy chasing.  

Flirt poles are fantastic for owners with disabilities or others who find that make exercising alongside your dog too difficult or painful. They also work well for owners with limited yard space who can’t play fetch or chase. 

You don’t have to shell out big bucks for a flirt pole either — you can even make one yourself!

5. Give Her Time with an Interactive Toy

Got a ball-obsessed dog? Get her even more excited about them by getting her an interactive toy, such as a treat-dispensing ball! 

Playing with a ball is already great physical exercise, but making it so that your dog can work to get treats out of it makes it great mental exercise too.

You can even play fetch in the yard with a treat ball and your dog can search for treats in the grass, too!

See our favorite treat-dispensing balls in the video below:

There are also other types of interactive toys, including those designed to simulate tug-of-war games. These are great for dogs who love to pull on things rather than chase around a ball.

6. Try Bikejoring with Your Buddy

If you love biking as much as you love spending time with your dog, there’s a great activity you two can do together: bikejoring. 

Bikejoring is different from just taking your dog along on the ride — in bikejoring, your dog is pulling your bike.

Bikejoring with dog
Photo from Wikipedia.

Just be aware that you can’t just launch into this activity; your dog has to be in good shape already. This activity is especially beneficial for dogs who are natural pullers, like Siberian huskies, Alaskan malamutes, Bernese Mountain dogs, and other drafting (cart- or sled-pulling) breeds. 

7. Play Fetch with a Ball or Similar Toy

For retrievers and other ball-obsessed pooches, there’s nothing as good as a classic game of fetch. Fetch not only serves as a good exercise, but it’ll keep your pupper’s brain busy too.

getting dogs exercise

Don’t have a yard or other enclosed space to safely play fetch in? Check out nearby dog parks early in the morning or late in the evening — chances are the parks will be close to if not completely empty before and after daylight hours.

And if your dog gets along well with other dogs, she may also enjoy letting the other four-footers get in on the fun

There is one tricky part of playing fetch with your dog: Your dog may demand that you continue throwing the ball long after your arm turns to jelly.

But this is easy to fix. Simply pick up a tennis ball tosser, which will let you launch the ball a country mile with relatively little effort.

8. Fling the Frisbee

Balls are great and all, but not every dog loves them. Bird dogs, like German short-haired pointers and Cocker Spaniels, might prefer something that flies — like a Frisbee!

You can use a regular human Frisbee if your dog is able to catch it, but a soft Frisbee is better for beginners.

exercises for dogs

Also, note that some puppers have difficulty picking up a frisbee while laying flat on the ground. This can frustrate some dogs, which is part of the reason we discuss this activity separately from conventional fetch games (which usually use a ball). 

Of course, one of the biggest challenges many people have is learning to throw a Frisbee well! But don’t worry — your dog won’t mind chasing down errant throws while you learn how to fling a disc with precision.

9. Take Your Pooch Swimming

Whether your dog takes to water like a fish or needs a bit of encouragement to get her paws wet, swimming is a great intensive but low-impact exercise.

This makes it suitable for older dogs, as well as those with physical ailments, as it eliminates the wear-and-tear they may suffer from running around. 

For extra fun, try teaching your dog a “touch” command. This will require your pup to boop her snoot against your hand. This is a great way to get your dog to swim laps and enjoy some additional structured exercise at the lake!

dog swimming exercise

You may also want to bring along some fun dog water toys when heading to the pool or beach. This is especially fun for dogs who like playing fetch.

One last thing: While most dogs are good swimmers, some struggle to stay afloat while dog-paddling. In such cases, you may want to fit your dog with a canine life jacket to ensure she stays safe.

***

And that’s not even all there is – there are plenty of ways to get your dog more exercise indoors too, which can be handy if you’re not very mobile or for those colder months when extended outdoor time isn’t really possible.

As you can see, exercise is an important component of your dog’s overall care. Additionally, it is a great dog-management technique, which will often help put an end to some of your dog’s problematic behaviors, such as destructive chewing or incessant barking. 

So, check with your vet to make sure your dog is healthy enough to begin an exercise regimen, and then get started. Just pick the one listed above that sounds like the most fun for you and your specific pooch!

Do you and your dog have a favorite exercise that isn’t listed here? Tell us about it in the comments!

teaching dogs to hand target
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Written by

Gem Sheps

Gem is a Denver-based animal industry professional and up-and-coming content creation specialist. They have experience in dog training and behavior, sheltering, and they currently work for a veterinary clinic.

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