How Long and How Far Should I Walk My Dog?
In our previous blog post we mentioned the benefits for you of hiring a dog walker and why it’s good for your dog. This time, we want to address a common question we are asked by our clients: How long, or how far, should I walk my dog? The short answer to this question is: it depends! There is a plethora of factors that determines how long and far a dog should walk. Here are some of the big ones:
It’s probably obvious that a senior dog will not be able to walk as much as he did as a pup, but if he’s received lots of exercise throughout his life he’ll have better longevity. Old dogs’ fitness, like old peoples’, is determined by how active they were in their younger years. Puppies do not require as much exercise as fully grown dogs. The Kennel Club recommends that a puppy should receive 5 minutes of walking for every month of his age until he’s fully grown. So, for example, a 5-month-old puppy should receive a 25-minute walk. Walking too far with a puppy who is still growing and developing could lead to joint problems later in life, so make sure to be careful.
In general, smaller breed puppies will be able to walk their optimum distance sooner than the larger breeds. Once they’re adults, large breeds, especially working dogs—think brawny ones like Siberian huskies, German shepherds, and Alaskan malamutes—will require maximum exercise every day, being able to handle as long as 4-8 hours. That’s not to underestimate the little guys, though! Toy breeds like poodles, chihuahuas, and shih tzus still can hold their own for longer than you might think, and don’t necessarily want to spend all their days sitting at home on a cushion; they have energy to burn off, too! We remember walking Amigo, a toy poodle, for a whopping 10 miles along part of the North Downs Way. We were prepared to pop him in a pet carrier bag if he tired out early on, but he was determined to finish the whole walk!
A hot, humid day can sap the energy of just about any dog, regardless of age or breed. Part of why little Amigo was able to walk as long as he did along the North Downs Way had to be because it was a cool, mildly rainy autumn day when we went. We also have seen many large breed dogs who typically can walk much longer struggle in warm weather. Stitch, a husky mix in our pack, had a tough time finishing his usual 2-mile walk when the temperature got higher—good thing we always carry plenty of water for thirsty pooches!
It’s important to be cautious if your dog has any diagnosed health conditions, and we’re sure your registered veterinarian can give you guidance on what’s best for your dog’s individual needs. Hormonal changes in dogs, especially females, can also be a factor. For example, a female dog who is in season may experience bursts of extreme energy at some times but be very lethargic at others. Additionally, a dog’s diet can affect his energy level, so being overfed or given food that is too rich and caloric can make going on walks more difficult for him. If you notice your dog consistently having trouble walking, it may be a good idea to let your vet know in case there is something medical going on.
You might be wondering how you can consider all of these things to determine the best walk time and distance for your dog—after all, it’s a lot of information to weigh! In our experience, we’ve found that, as important as all of the abovementioned components are, the surest way to tell how much exercise your dog can handle is to let the dog’s behaviour be your foremost guide.
If you find on the walk that your dog is lying down on every block, panting excessively, or pulling back on the lead, he may be at his limit. Determining whether you are under-exercising your dog is a bit trickier. Many behavioural issues are the result of a lack of exercise (see our previous blog post for more on this). If your dog is excessively barking, chewing furniture or shoes, or acting aggressively towards other people or dogs, he may be frustrated due to pent up energy which needs to be burned off by a longer and more fulfilling walk.
We walk dogs depending on their ages, breeds, and energy levels. We never push dogs too far and will advise you if we think your dog’s walk time/distance should be adjusted. From young puppies to senior dogs, tiny poodles to giant German shepherds, we make sure every dog who walks with us gets exercise that matches his needs. But don’t take just our word for it—check out all the photos of happy pups on our website, and follow us on Instagram!