Tips for dog exercise

Turning Points 4 min read

Exercise for dogs is a must to keep them healthy and happy. Your dog’s breed and current health condition will affect how and how long your dog should exercise. Consult your veterinarian about your dog’s exercise plans and build up any new exercise routines gradually. Engaging in aerobic exercise means your dog will pant, so they’ll need lots of water and appropriate rest breaks. And compared to adult dogs, puppies and seniors need shorter and less intense exercise sessions.

How much exercise does a dog need daily?

Every dog has unique exercise needs, and your veterinarian can help you determine exactly how much yours needs. These factors affect how much exercise a dog needs, how often, and what kind.


Rather than one long exercise session, puppies need a few short sessions each day at their own pace. Their bodies are still developing, so try to minimize strain and impact. The same applies to senior dogs — it’s better for them to exercise with less impact and intensity in shorter, more frequent sessions of around 15-30 minutes. Learn more about adopting and caring for a senior pet.


Some dog breeds typically have high energy levels, and others don’t. This will affect how much exercise you give them. For example, dog breeds with shorter snouts or flatter faces like pugs and French bulldogs may have more difficulty breathing, particularly when exerting themselves, so regular but gentle exercise may be healthier. Some dogs like to sprint in quick bursts, while others could run all day long if you let them. Not that you should — two hours is a healthy limit.

Health and condition

If your dog is overweight or has underlying health conditions, take it easy with them to start. Your vet can recommend healthy exercise options for your pet’s medical issues. No matter the age, breed, or health of your dog, it’s best to start exercising them slowly and build up the duration and intensity over time. Steady and progressive conditioning is better than long, infrequent exercise.

How to exercise your dog outdoors

Consider bringing your dog to different places and mixing up the pace as appropriate to their age, breed, and condition. If your dog is well-behaved around others, they can also exercise in dog parks. Other activities that give you a break include obedience training, doggie daycare, flirt poles, and bubble play — a dog needs mental and physical exercise. And don’t neglect the classics, like a game of fetch or tug.

Here are some outdoor dog exercise options to try.

  • Walking, jogging, running
  • Hiking, cycling, swimming
  • Skating (roller blades, roller skates, skateboards)
  • Agility training and dog-specific sports like flyball
  • Draft work (where your dog tows you, like skijoring)

Exercising with your dog during weather extremes

Take it easy on your pup in the summer when it gets hot and humid. To keep your dog safe in the heat, stay in the shade, watch out for hot pavement, and exercise earlier or later in the day when it’s cooler. In the winter, talk to your vet about whether your dog would benefit from a cold-weather jacket or vest when exercising outside.

You might consider dog boots as well. If your dog exercises or plays barefoot in snowy or icy weather, clean their feet when they come back inside to remove snow, ice, and road salt. Exercise can help ward off illness, so don’t avoid it altogether. Learn about common winter illnesses for pets.

How to exercise your dog at home or inside

Sometimes, you don’t have the opportunity or option to get outside with your dog. If your dog could benefit from a change of scenery, a pet store or dog-friendly café can mix things up. Dog exercise at home and indoor dog exercises can be a fun and easy way to get your dog more active.

Indoor dog exercise activities include:

  • Food puzzles and snuffle mats
  • Food dispenser toys
  • Slow food bowls
  • Hide and seek
  • Stairclimbing and chase
  • Walking or running on a treadmill
  • Bathtub swims
  • Doggie play dates

If you live in a small space, get more tips for apartment living with pets.

Why is exercise for dogs important?

The benefits of exercise for dogs are behavioral and health related. Behavior-wise, keeping your dog active means they’ll be less likely to get bored and engage in excessive barking, inappropriate chewing, and other destructive habits. Daily mental and physical exercise also provides some of the best stress and anxiety relief for pets.

A well-exercised dog generally sleeps better, has improved digestion, and experiences fewer issues with movement and agility. Without enough exercise, your dog can get overweight. If your dog is already overfed, exercising can be one way to help your dog lose weight.

And if you choose exercises for your dog that also get you some exercise, you’ll enjoy similar health and mood-elevating benefits — not to mention quality time with your pup.

Should I exercise my dog?

Dogs need motivation. Unless they get a case of the zoomies, it’s more likely than not they won’t exercise on their own – even if they have a nice backyard. And if they don’t get the necessary exercise, they may put their pent-up energy into unhealthy, bothersome, or destructive habits.

Ultimately, you’re responsible for providing that exercise motivation. You get to be their partner in exercise and play. So, what do you like to do? Think about the dog-friendly kinds of exercise you enjoy and gradually try those activities with your pup.

If you notice a change in your dog’s exercise behavior, don’t push them to perform. If they’re injured, you may make the situation worse. When you have an injury concern, take them to the vet. Additionally, having the right pet insurance coverage can help reimburse your costs if the issue is due to a covered injury. Find out how pet insurance works.

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