Dog exercise for every type of breed
The exercise needs of your canine friend depend above all on his age, health, breed and individual personality. Size per se, is not necessarily a good indicator of a dog’s activity requirements. In fact, many people think that small dogs don’t need a lot of exercise. While this may be true of some small dogs such as the Pomeranian or the Chihuahua, if you have ever witnessed a Jack Russell Terrier or West Highland White Terrier in action, you know that little compact dogs can be very high energy. Thus, depending on the breed or group they belong to (working dogs, herding dogs, toy or companion dogs, and sporting or gun dogs-to name a few), dogs tend to have higher or lower activity requirements. Most breeds fall into one of four categories including low, moderate, high activity, and hyperactive dogs. However, keep in mind that these are general guidelines rather than hard and fast rules. No matter what his breed, each dog has his own personality and inclination. So it is best not to assume that your toy dog always wants to hang out on the couch with you or that your working dog is necessarily crazy about running. Try to propose a level of activity that is recommended for their needs and then keep an eye on what they seem to really enjoy and are capable of doing. Here are some basic guidelines to help you.
Calm dogs with lower activity needs
Level of exercise: from one hour per day or more, for example walking on the lead or other low impact sports. Keep in mind that while your dog may seem to be doing fine with a fairly low level of activity, try to gradually increase his daily physical exercise by adding an extra 15 minute walk or play session, whenever possible.
Tend to be from the Toy or Pastoral Groups, and possibly the Utility Group.
Some examples: the Bichon frise, the Cockapoo, the Yorkshire Terrier, and the miniature Pinscher…
Low activity dogs typically:
- Enjoy a short walk each day
- Like to be picked up and carried when they get tired
- Love to sleep
- Have their own ideas about training
- Are prone to putting on a little weight
- Like lots of extra tender, loving, care
- Are very laid back and calm
Moderately active dogs
Recommended exercise: 1-3 hours per day, for example playing, off the lead
Tend to be from Terrier or Utility Groups, and possibly the Gun Dog group
Some examples: Airedale terrier, Scottish terrier, Cocker spaniel, English setter…
Moderately active dogs typically:
- Like to go for 2 walks each day to stretch their legs
- Enjoy being let off their lead to roam
- Fall asleep at home after they’ve been out and about
- Love to be trained
- Are confident but well behaved with strangers
High energy, active dogs
Recommended exercise: 3-6 hours a day, for example running, playing off the lead
Tend to be from Working or Hound Groups, and possibly the Gun Dog Group
Some examples: Border collie, Labrador, Golden retriever, Belgian Malinois, German Shepherd…
High energy dogs typically:
- Like to go for more walks than you do, preferably somewhere they can run free
- Are always ready to go
- Are active around the house, even after a lot of exercise
- Disappear into the distance when let off their lead
- Have a higher capacity than their owners for exercise
- Never get bored of playing ‘fetch’
- Tend to be a little underweight
- Might be a little over-enthusiastic when meeting new people
Very high activity dogs
Some so-called very high activity dogs can do sports and activities in extreme conditions. For instance, sled dogs are built for long distance work, sometimes hundreds of kilometers, exposed to very low temperatures. These somewhat special dogs require a lot of exercise both for their physical and mental well-being.
Tend to be from Working Groups
Some examples: the Siberian Husky, the Canadian Eskimo Dog…
High energy dogs typically:
- Have incredible endurance
- Need lots of mental stimulation
- Can’t get enough exercise
The benefits of exercising your dog
Getting enough regular exercise is essential to maintain your dog’s ideal weight and physical wellbeing but it is also vital for your dog’s mental wellbeing and happiness. Dogs, like people, need to be able to release the energy built up during the day, especially if they spend much of their time indoors or at home alone. Exercise is a vital means to release this energy, while stimulating your dog’s mental capacities and keeping him from getting bored. Different types of exercise and play are also important to give your dog, and in particular certain breeds, the opportunity to express instinctive behaviors such as swimming, tracking, retrieving or using his highly developed sense of smell, sight or hearing. Physical activity also allows your dog to actively engage with other dogs, people and his natural environment, teaching him lifelong social skills.
Health issues and exercise
Not all physical activity is appropriate for every breed of dog. For example, brachycephalic dogs which have flat wide skulls or shortened heads that make their faces look flat (e.g. the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, the Boxer, or the Shih-Tzu, among others), often have respiratory issues that prevent them from doing intense exercise. They may also be very sensitive to getting overheated, which can be dangerous for them. Certain breeds of dogs are also especially prone to arthritis or inflammation of the joints. Signs to watch out for are limping, panting or lameness. These breeds include Great Danes as well as some of the normally high-energy dogs such as German Shepherds or Labradors. Naturally if your dog has arthritis, it is not recommended to engage in a sport that requires lots of jumping. In any case, it is recommended to take your dog to the vet for regular checkups. He or she will be able to spot any health issues for your dog as well as advise you on the most appropriate exercise regime for him.
To each dog, his own activity
Apart from the age, overall health condition, or breed of your dog, don’t forget to consider his individual personality and inclination when it comes to exercise. So if your dog seems determined to herd your children off to school every day, then maybe you should think about signing him up for a dog sport where he gets the chance to do this more often. Or if on the other hand he makes a beeline for the nearest body of water (including your neighbor’s ornamental fish pond), then perhaps it is time to think about trying out paddle boarding or dock jumping with him. In fact, you might at first want to try out a wide range of activities with your buddy and observe what he seems to enjoy the most. Who knows? Perhaps you will both discover that he can’t get enough of agility or disk dog, and you may even find that you love it too! And remember the most important thing is to respect your dog’s rhythm and keep it fun for both of you!
Keep in mind that if you are choosing a dog, it is very important to think about whether he has higher or lower activity requirements and whether you have the type of lifestyle that can meet those needs. If you are the athletic type who thinks nothing of climbing a mountain followed by a relaxing “cool down” swim, you may want to consider choosing a bouncy, high energy dog more likely to enjoy your active lifestyle. On the other hand, if you prefer a quiet stroll around the block and still haven’t gotten around to trying out those new running shoes you bought last year, it is probably better to choose a dog with lower activity needs.