Updated: Feb 26
Exercise is a must for all dogs. It helps keep them in shape but is also really important for their mental health. A recent poll in the UK showed that thousands of dogs are never walked at all, which really makes us sad. It is SO important that dogs get a daily walk to keep them happy and healthy.
Many of us feel guilty when we're too busy to take our dogs out for a walk. But what does science say about how much exercise your dog really needs? It may not be as much as you think!
A small study in Sweden measured the activity levels of 12 dogs, and the results might surprise you! Here are the numbers of steps walked per day for these dogs.
As low as 4,500 steps a day
16,000 steps per day on average
40,000 on the high end, just over 5 miles!
WHAT? 16k steps is SO MUCH? I walk my dog EVERY DAY and that seems like a lot to me, how can 16k steps be average?
First of all… Don’t Panic! Remember that your dog only has little legs and paws, and they actually take at least twice as many steps as you to cover the same distance.
I walk my dog twice a day, plus play fetch in the garden. My dog seems to enjoy walking and gets excited when she sees me grab her lead, maybe she actually needs that much exercise!
It may seem like I'm nitpicking but I think that it's important to question everything you read, especially when it comes to your dog. I'm not saying that the average for a Golden Retriever is 16,000 steps a day but what if your dog was a bloodhound which typically has much shorter legs? That could be as little as 5k steps per day.
I'm going to stop preaching now and get back to the facts, (I promise).
Your dog's breed is one of the main factors in how much exercise your pup needs. The average Golden Retriever weighs about 28kg so if you adjust 16k steps for size you get roughly 2200 steps per kilogram of weight.
Now just remember that these are averages based on statistics from all kinds of people with different lifestyles - it doesn't mean that YOU have to walk 16k steps every day (although it would look great on your activity tracker!). It just means that, depending on what type/age/sex/breed of dog you have, they need to move around a lot, to get their step count in. This of course involves all of the fetch they play, running around the garden and zoomies around the house.
Getting out and about keeps your dog's brain active and is great stress relief for them. Dogs love to sniff and explore so make sure your dog has plenty of opportunity to just... well... be a dog!
Please note that this is based on US statistics and not everyone agrees with me! Some people say that puppies shouldn't walk more than 50% of their daily step count until 16 weeks of age and then only up to once a day until 6 months old - but remember: We are just sharing our opinion here and everything in this article is just our opinion and not to be used as professional advice.
What's your dog's age?
How many steps should your dog take per day? (remember this is a rough guide and all figures are suggestions and estimates).
0-4 weeks - Puppies need their mommy! They will move around as much as they need to, no need to worry about walkies at this age. They're just babies!
5 weeks-10 months - About 3,500-5,000 Steps. If you have the time then three short walks will do the trick or if you can't walk that often then maybe two slightly longer walks would be better. Don't worry if they get a few steps less, they will make it up later!
11 months-1 year - About 5,500-7,000 Steps.Your pup should have settled into a good routine by this age and will be super adventurous. Remember they are still growing though, while there might be lots of excitement and adventure on your walks, there will also be a lot of rest and recovery afterwards.
2 years+ About 8,000+ Steps. By this age they should be very active. Not to mention full of energy ... so if you have the time, go for it!
Not getting enough exercise can cause health problems, such as obesity, but can also lead to behavioural problems. Bored dogs are unhappy dogs – they can show their frustration by chewing furniture and shoes, excessive barking, accidents in the house and excessive grooming & paw licking.
If you’re worried about their behaviour, speak to your vet for more advice. But more exercise may be exactly what they need.
How much exercise does your dog need?
How much exercise your dog needs depends on their breed, age, health and personality. Our infographic gives a rough guide to how much each dog breed needs, but every dog is different and the actual answer could be different to other dogs of the same breed. If you are unsure on how much exercise your dog needs, it’s best to speak to your vet for advice.
My dog doesn't like walks
Just like people, not all dogs love to exercise. Different dogs have very different exercise needs. You can often find dogs of the same breed will be completely different, with one being full of energy all of the time and one much more content to have snuggles and nap the day away. Listen to what you dog likes, and don’t push them to go on massive hikes, if a short stroll and sniff around the neighbourhood is what they like.
If this is the case, and you find yourself with a lazy dog on your hands, you can make up for their lack of motivation in other ways, for example, through playtime, running around the garden a lot and having lots of fun interactive games.
Let them have a good sniff around. This is how dogs explore their surroundings and it’s a form of communication between the neighbourhood dogs. If they feel rushed they’re less likely to enjoy the walk and may become stubborn on particular routes if they don’t think they are fun.
What do you think about dog walkies? Have you got a lazy pup or and over excited adventurer who wears you out? Let us know in the comments below.