If my Border Collie was writing this article, she would answer the question with “forever!”
Most dogs absolutely love going on walks and will get excited when you start showing the signs that they are about to go on one. Grabbing a leash, putting shoes on, or saying the word “walk” can signal to them that they are about to go explore outside and spend time with you!
But this begs the question… how long should you actually walk your dog? It all starts with the benefits and considerations of going on walks to decide just how long is enough.
Benefits of Walking Your Dog
Dog walks provides your pooch more than just exercise! Below are some of the benefits of taking your furry best friend on a stroll around the block.
- Lowers blood pressure
- Builds muscle
- Weight control
- Owner and dog bonding
- Meeting new people
- Meeting new dog friends
- Improves joint health
- Helps aid in digestion
- Improves mental health
- Healthy for the owner, too!
There are tons of reasons to fit a good walk in your schedule every day that will benefit not just your furry friend, but will also benefit you!
Factors to Consider
There are many things to consider when deciding how long and how often to walk your dog.
Older dogs may need less exercise than their younger counterparts. Although senior dogs still benefit from exercise, their aging joints and bodies will not be able to handle the same level of exercise and play as they did when they are younger.
When dogs start to reach about 8 years old (even younger for breeds that live shorter lives, such as Great Danes), their level of exercise should be reduced.
Speak to your local veterinarian about what level of exercise they think your senior dog should be at!
High energy breeds require more exercise than lower-energy ones. Breeds such as Border Collies and Dalmatians will require more energy outlets than Bulldogs and Pugs.
Higher energy breeds need around two hours of exercise a day to promote better health and a happy pup. Lower energy breeds should get around half an hour of exercise a day. Although every dog is different and someone may end up with a low-energy Dalmatian and a Bulldog that can run circles around them! Know your dog’s abilities and take note of what kind of energy level they are at.
Injuries and Health Issues
Some dogs are more prone to health issues, such as Golden Retrievers and German Shepards having hip issues, and those issues need to be taken into consideration when deciding how far of a walk to take. Injuries can also impact how long of a walk to go on. If your dog has any kind of joint issue and bone problem that causes them pain, talk to your veterinarian before deciding how long of a walk to take them on to prevent putting them in extra pain.
Overweight dogs may struggle to keep up on a walk due to the excess weight they are carrying. Helping your dog lose weight can improve their day-to-day life and actually improve their long-term standard of living. Your veterinarian weighs your dog every visit and will call attention to dogs that begin to creep up into the level of being overweight or obese. You can help by monitoring at home and recording changes in weight.
Overweight dogs need shorter walks due to becoming tired faster, though they can still reach their exercise goals by going on shorter but more frequent walks.
Remember that weight loss also involves what you feed them both in their bowl and treats! Speak to your veterinarian if you believe your dog may be overweight to get the best care advice.
So How Long Should I Walk My Dog?
Alright, so the question everyone has been waiting on. How long should these walks be?
Just like humans going to the gym for the first time need to start with lower weights, dogs who are not used to walking or are overweight, need to start with shorter walks.
A 30-minute walk should be your goal, that’s the rule of thumb, but starting out at 10 minutes and slowly building up can help your dog get in shape for longer walks and better playtimes! Pay attention to signs that your dog is tired, such as slowing down and increased panting. This should signal to you that it is time to head home or take a break so your dog can rest.
A good example of building up your dog’s body for going on longer walks could be to take them on 10-minute walks every three days for a week, then increasing the time by 5 minutes every week until you are at your goal!
How Often Should I Walk my Dog?
Your dog may also need to work up to walking every day, starting with walking three times a week and increasing it to every day could take time but you will see a drastic change in their behavior and health! Just as people can get sore after workouts, dogs can also become sore. Their body needs time to recover and for their muscles to adjust to the exercise. Ensure they have plenty of water throughout the day to allow their body to fully recover after walks. Soon enough, they will be ready to go on daily walks that are at your goal time.
Walking your dog every day may seem like a lot, but there are other energy outlets that you can take your dog on other than walking around the neighborhood!
Other Energy Outlets
If you don’t have the option to walk your dog or want to switch up their activities, below are some other ways you can allow them to release extra energy.
- Playing fetch
- Going to the dog park
- Taking them on your run
- A car ride to the pet store
- Game of tug of war
- Invite over a doggie play date
- Run around the backyard
- Treat toys (such as a Kong)
- Mental stimulation toys
- Playing hide and seek
- Working on new tricks
Remember Walking in Their Potty Break, too
Not only is going on walks good for their exercise, but this also serves as a chance for them to use the restroom. Dogs should go no longer than 8 hours without being given a potty break outside. This will prevent them from having accidents in the house or getting a UTI from holding their pee.
Walks can be a relaxing time if both you and the dog are engaged with each other. Making sure to leash train your puppy will make the walks more enjoyable for both owner and dog. This is also prime time to work with your dog on other tricks and their overall discipline. Working on sit, stay, heel, down, and other tricks will make life with your dog more enjoyable when you are able to better communicate with them.
Unplugging and not looking at your phone during your walk is a perfect opportunity to take some time for yourself and focus on your dog and their wellbeing. They are a member of your family and deserve nothing less than the best!
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is a 20-minute walk enough for a dog?
If 20 minutes is what you can fit into your schedule or as much as your dog can walk without getting tired, then yes! Try to find other areas that your dog can release energy during the day, such as mental stimulation toys or car rides.
2. Is it OK not to walk your dog every day?
It is okay to not walk your dog every day, but they should still be receiving some sort of energy outlet! Lower energy dogs require less exercise a day and will not be impacted as much as higher energy dogs if they do not receive exercise every day. Long term, not letting your dog release their energy can create health and behavioral problems, such as ripping up pillows and obesity.
3. How long of a walk can I take my dog on?
Walking at a 20-minute pace (imagine just the average walking pace for most people) you will walk about a mile and a half during a 30-minute walk. If you are just starting to take your dog on walks, start with smaller goals! Start at 10 minutes a day and work your way up to a full 30-minute walk or longer!
4. Is a 30-minute walk enough for a dog?
For most dogs, yes! After 30 minutes they should have found tons of new smells, peed on some neighbor’s yard, hopefully, taken a poop (that was picked up), and worked out some of their extra energy. Some dogs, such as the high-energy dogs we talked about above, need more time to release energy so make sure you take your dog’s breed into consideration when planning walks.
5. How will I know if my dog starts to get tired on our walks?
You can tell if your dog begins to get tired while walking if they start to fall behind you during the walk from slowing down, start to excessively pant, want to lay down, or start to whine. Pay attention to these signs because pushing your dog too hard can hurt them. Make sure you bring water for them on long walks and check the temperature of the ground (especially on blacktop pavement) to prevent their paw pads from getting burned.
6. What if I don’t have time to walk my dog?
Walking your dog every day is something that can be hard to fit into a schedule for some families. Walking them early in the morning can be a good wake-up before work or walking them at night after work can be the perfect time to reflect on how your day went and relax before bed. You can also look into getting a dog walker, installing a doggie door with a fenced-in yard, or giving them plenty of toys to play with during the day.
7. Can I walk my dog too much?
Yes, the same way someone can overwork a muscle in the gym, you can overwork your dog on a walk. Walking during the cooler parts of the day can help prevent them from heat exhaustion and dehydration. Again, pay attention to signs in your dog that will communicate to you that it is time to head back home.