According to the AKC, 32.3% of Americans walk their dogs as a primary form of exercise. The walk is an important activity for you and your dog, both as exercise and as an opportunity for training and bonding. Walking together goes back to our roots with our dogs, back to a time when we spent our days wandering the earth together. Walks build mutual trust between you and your dog and teach your dog to depend on you to tell her how to interact with the world.
In this post, you will learn how often, how long, and how far to walk your dog depending on her breed, and discover some fun activities and useful tools to vary your walk and provide more exercise for your dog.
How Long Should You Walk Your Dog Every Day?
You want to make sure that your dog gets enough exercise and stimulation, but how do you know for how long you need to walk your dog? It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the amount of time that your dog needs to spend walking depends very much on your particular dog, but in general most healthy dogs need a minimum of 30 to 60 minutes of walking every day. Puppies should have 5 minutes of exercise per month of age until they are grown. Older dogs should not be pushed to exercise, but should be encouraged to get out and move around for at least 10 to 15 minutes every day.
Breed is a big influencer in how much exercise your dog needs, since some breeds have much more energy than others. Size is also an important consideration. A small dog will get a lot more exercise from a walk than a large dog would, since small dogs need to trot to keep up with the average human gait, whereas large dogs walk at about the same pace as a person. Another consideration is the other things that your dog does. If your dog loves to run for hours at the dog park, she may be able to have a shorter walk.
How Many Walks a Day for a Dog?
The decision of how many walks to take a day is up to you and your dog. Your dog may prefer one longer walk in the morning or evening with free play or another activity when you don’t walk. This is often true of dogs that like to travel, like hounds, pointers, and huskies. Dogs that get bored easily, like herding dogs and some terriers, may prefer several walks, so that they can get out and see what is going on a couple of times a day. Older dogs and puppies benefit from shorter, more frequent walks that don’t stress their joints and bones.
How Often Should You Walk Your dog?
Does your dog really need to go on a walk every day? Isn’t running around in the yard enough on some days? Experts agree that a daily walk is good for your dog, and for you for that matter, but it is not always practical to walk your dog. If it is raining or too hot or cold for a walk, you can choose an indoor activity from my ideas for exercises to do with your dog.
Older dogs may also be less enthusiastic about a daily walk. If your dog is slowing down, it is a good idea to alternate the walk with lower impact activities on off days. Small dogs may also be able to get enough exercise with indoor activities and play in your yard, but make sure to get your dog out at least a couple times a week, even if your dog is very small or older. It is important that dogs get the stimulus and bonding of a walk with you regularly.
If your dog is having behavioral problems or seems overly energetic, it is likely she needs more walks, longer walks, or a higher intensity activity than walking.
Let’s say that you have determined that your relatively high energy dog needs about an hour and a half of walking a day. Is it better to take her on one long walk, or break up the time into several shorter walks throughout the day? The answer depends on you and your dog. If your healthy young dog has other outlets for her energy, it shouldn’t matter much whether you break up the walking time or not. Do what works best for you and your schedule. If you have an older or young dog, walks should be broken up into smaller segments so that dogs don’t become exhausted. Puppies, especially, tend to have bursts of energy between nap times.
If you have a smaller, high energy dog, one long walk may serve her needs better, since it will let her get her heart going, providing some cardio exercise. Dogs bred to cover a lot of ground, like hounds, pointers, and Huskies also may prefer a long walk that mimics a journey, rather than several neighborhood strolls.
How Far Should You Walk Your dog?
The distance that you and your dog cover when you walk will vary dramatically depending on your pace. If you are slowly strolling along with an older dog or a small dog you won’t cover much ground, but if you are walking briskly with a larger dog, you may cover a lot of ground before your dog is tired. Incline, terrain, and weather can also affect how long you need to walk your dog. Keep in mind that if your dog is on a long leash or flexi-lead, she will be able to cover a lot more ground than you do on your walk.
Most dogs will be happy with a walk of one to three miles, but if you have a dog that likes to cover ground, she may end up walking up to 10 miles or more. A puppy shouldn’t cover more than a couple of miles until she is grown. Let your puppy set the pace, and concentrate more on time than distance.
Here is the estimated distances your dog will walk compared to how far you walk, assuming your dog is active and takes advantage of the long leash by circling, running forward and backwards, etc. If your dog sticks by your side or stays consistently ahead or behind you, the distance that she covers will be closer to the distance that you cover. You can encourage your dog to cover more ground on the walk by throwing a toy short distances for her to fetch or using a flirt pole.
|Distance you walk||Dog on Short Leash||Dog on Long Leash|
|1 mile||1 mile||1.5 to 2 miles|
|3 miles||3 miles||4.5 to 6 miles|
|5 miles||5 miles||7.5 to 10 miles|
Keep in mind that if you have a small breed dog, she will already be exerting more energy than you by trotting instead of walking.
Will Your Dog Get Enough Exercise by Walking?
Whether a walk, even a long walk, will be sufficient to exercise your dog depends on your dog and your walk. A large dog that is walked on a short lead will get much less exercise than a small dog bouncing around on a Flexi-lead. A good rule of thumb is that if your dog is still pulling on the lead at the end of the walk, and especially if she still displays behavioral problems and over-excited behavior after a walk, she probably needs more exercise. If your dog strolls beside you and takes a nap after the walk, it is more likely that her needs are being met.
Dog Walking Needs By Breed
|Breeds||How often?||How long?||How far?|
|Cattle Dogs, Shepherds, |
|Two or three times a day. These clever dogs like to get out a few times so they don’t go stir crazy.||At least 120 minutes plus additional activities for larger breeds, 60 minutes for corgis.||8 to 10 miles minimum, up to 20 or more for larger breeds. 5 to 8 miles for corgis.|
|Twice a day. These dogs like a good solid walk but also may get bored inside after a long walk.||At least 100 minutes plus additional activities for larger breeds, 60 minutes for smaller spaniels.||10 to 12 miles minimum, up to 30 miles for large breeds, 8 to 10 miles for smaller spaniels.|
Coonhounds, Foxhounds, Dachshunds,
Rhodesian Ridgeback, Wolfhounds.
|Once a day. These dogs are usually happy to take it easy after a good long walk, with outside play and other activities as well.||At least 120 minutes for larger breeds, 30 to 60 minutes for smaller breeds||12 to 15 minimum, Up to 20 miles for larger breeds. 5 to 10 miles for smaller breeds.|
Rat and Small Game Terriers
|Twice or more a day. These active little dogs like to get out and see what is going on a couple times a day.||60 minutes for most breeds, up to 120 for larger breeds.||3 to 5 miles for most breeds, 8 to 10 minimum and up to 20 for larger breeds.|
Large Terriers and Working Group
|Once a day. These dogs would rather a good long hike with another activity in the morning or evening when they aren’t walked.||60 to 80 minutes for most breeds, up to 180 for high energy breeds like huskies.||5 to 10 miles for most breeds, up to 20 miles for active breeds.|
Non-Sporting and Toy Group
|Twice a day. These dogs thrive with a couple of strolls morning and evening.||30 to 60 minutes for most breeds, Dalmations and schipperkes need up to 120.||2 to 5 miles for most breeds. Dalmations should cover up to 10 miles a day, while schipperkes need up to 8.|
How Do You Give Your Dog More Exercise During a Walk?A daily walk can be a pleasant activity for both you and your dog and is the primary activity that most people do with their dogs. If your dog doesn’t seem to be getting enough exercise on the daily walk, you may be frustrated, and worried about what you can do to make sure that your dog gets enough exercise, without devoting a lot more time to your daily routine. There are a few simple things that you can try to increase your dog’s workout without putting in a lot more time or effort.
1. Pulling Weight
Pulling a load is one of the jobs that dogs of many breeds have performed for their long history with people. In fact, pulling on walks is one of the most common complaints against family dogs. Instead of working hard with a trainer or using walking tools to teach your dog not to pull, why not let her pull, exhausting her energy and letting her do a job?
Whether you let your dog pull you on a skateboard or bike or you attach her to a weighted cart or sled, you can introduce a great new element of exercise to your dog’s walk without doing more work or spending more time.
A high quality pull harness, like the FrontPet Explorer Dog Pulling Harness, lets your dog comfortably pull without putting a strain on her neck. The well padded harness rests comfortably across your dog’s chest and over her back. Three attachment points offer versatile use. This harness comes with a flexible leash, which reduces sudden tension and strains on either you or your dog.
2. Wearing a Backpack
Wearing a backpack may not seem like it would change much about your dog’s walk, but in fact it can do wonders to change your dog’s mentality about her walk as well as providing greater physical exercise. Putting the backpack on can help your dog go into work mode, making her calmer and more serious, therefore less likely to pull or act wildly on the leash.
You can weight the backpack with things you’d like to have on the walk, or using weights. Adding weight while your dog is young and healthy can build muscles that will prevent joint problems as she ages. Carrying more weight also takes more energy, so that your dog’s walk will be more effective at burning energy.
Choose a high-quality backpack like the Mountainsmith K-9 Dog Pack that won’t shift around on your dog’s back. This backpack is also equipped with mesh air panels that rest against your dog’s body so the backpack won’t feel hot. A handle at the top lets you grab your dog if necessary.
3. Incline or Shallow Water
If your dog seems bored with her walk and isn’t worn out after it, you can try walking her over more challenging terrain, enabling more mental and physical stimulation. Inclines and rough terrain let your dog work more muscles as she balances and picks her way. Whether you have wilderness areas to explore where you live or an urban jungle to explore, you can find ways to challenge your dog on her walk. Try asking your dog balance on a curb, retention wall, or low tree branch. You will both have more fun on your walk.
Walking through shallow water is another great way to wear out your dog’s energy without putting a strain on her joints. It takes more effort to wade than it does to walk, so your dog will get tired quicker. This is a great choice for older dogs and hot climates.
The Flexi New Classic Retractable Dog Leash really is a new industry standard, having become very common among dog owners everywhere since its invention. Flexi-leads automatically extend and retract as your dog pulls, allowing her much more freedom on the walk while not requiring you to continuously let out and gather up the leash. Choose lengths from 10 to 26 feet, for far more freedom and exercise than a standard five-foot leash without much more effort on your part.
Flex-leads don’t allow you to pull your dog back in quickly. You will need to haul your dog in by clicking the brake, hauling on your dog, taking in the slack, and doing it again, much like pulling in a fish. This can be a time-consuming an embarrassing process on the walk, as well as leading to dangerous situations if you lose control of your dog at the wrong time.
Flexi-leads are great for dogs that are well-behaved on a leash and have a good call back. If your dog can be unpredictable or is still in training, it is better to stick to a shorter leash that gives more control for some time.
How Do You Train Your Dog During a Walk?
Too often people have a tendency to compartmentalize walking time and training time, but in fact, dogs benefit greatly from being trained on the daily walk. Dogs need to relearn training in a variety of situations in order to internalize the command and perform dependably. Training your dog on the walk, especially when she is distracted, makes it much more likely that she will respond to your commands in future situations.
Clicker training can be very effective on a walk, since it ties a reward to a specific sound. While your dog may be too focused on something she sees on the walk to notice your voice or commands, she is likely to remember and respond to this distinct sound which always means a treat.
NewNewStar Pet Training Clicker with Wrist Strap are very affordable, costing less than a new rawhide for your pup, and come with a convenient wrist strap so you will always have it conveniently on hand on your walk.
How Do You Stop Your Dog from Pulling on a Walk?
Pulling on a walk is one of the most common problems dog owners experience. If you and your pup are struggling through your walk instead of walking together, there are several things that you can do about it.
As I discussed above, letting your dog pull you on a bike or skateboard, or having your dog pull a weight, can be a great way to add more exercise to your walking routine. If your dog pulls all the way through your walk, chances are she isn’t getting enough exercise. Give your dog the exercise she needs by giving into the battle and letting her pull you.
There are some great walking aids available to keep your dog from pulling you on a walk. You don’t need to use harsh, punitive training tools like choke or prong collars, because there are tools that are gentle, effective, and easy to use.
The PetSafe Easy Walk Harness has rapidly become a go-to training aid for dogs of all shapes and sizes that need some help resisting the urge to pull on a walk. The martingale chest strap tightens when your dog pulls, causing her to turn towards you and preventing her from putting her weight into the leash. This secure and clever design won’t let even small dogs slip out, but is strong enough to work well with powerful breeds.
If you want even more control over your dog on the walk, consider the PetSafe Gentle Leader Head Collar. This walking aid fits over your dog’s face much like a horse’s halter. Just like a person can control a horse that is much larger than themselves by controlling the face, you can control even a large, powerful dog with minimal effort. Most dogs don’t like wearing this head harness, so it is best used when the chest harness doesn’t offer enough control.
What if your dog barks at other dogs on a walk?
It is very common for dogs to bark at each other at first meeting, especially when they are on a leash. Dogs feel safe with their “pack” and are quick to tell other dogs so. If you take your dog for frequent walks from puppyhood, she is unlikely to be very reactive to other dogs.
Don’t worry about a couple of barks that soon stop, as this is very normal, but if your dog barks continuously or very aggressively it is a good idea to work on this behavior so that it doesn’t escalate dangerously. Work with your dog by rewarding for calm behavior far from another dog, and gradually working towards being nearer the other dog without reactive behavior.
Can You Walk Your Dog Off-leash?
There is always a risk when you walk your dog off-leash in an unfenced area. No matter how remote the location or complete your dog’s training, there is always a chance that your dog will take off. That said, many people do choose to let their dogs walk off-leash. Many activities with dogs, like hunting, require that dogs be off-leash in an open area.
If walking off-leash with your dog is a goal, there are steps that you can take to get closer to doing this with your dog, but remember that there are risks in having any dog off-leash, and there are some dogs that will never be safe off-leash, due to high prey drive or other powerful instinctual drives that will override training. Before you attempt off-leash training, assess your dog’s prey drive. If she simply can’t control herself you may not be able to walk off leash with her.
Besides perfecting your dog’s recall, which is, of course, essential to walking off-leash, there is another important behavior your dog should learn. It is very important that your dog can down-stay at a distance. If you end up separated from your dog with a danger like a road between you, a down-stay can protect your dog while you get to her. If your dog is struggling with impulse control, a down-stay may be more effective than asking your dog to come.
Some tools can make it easier and safer to walk off-leash with your dog. A GPS tracker like the Whistle 3 GPS Pet Tracker & Activity Monitor can tell you where your dog is no matter where she is, anywhere in the US. This means that even if your dog takes off running, you will eventually be able to track her down. This monitor can also alert you if your dog leaves a designated area, which can be nice if you want your dog to run off-leash but don’t want her to go too far.
How Do You Walk More Than One Dog at a Time?
If you have more than one dog to walk, you may find it challenging to walk them all at once. It is exhausting and time-consuming to take multiple walks, and a group walk is a great bonding opportunity for you and your dogs, but how can you comfortably walk your dogs together? There are some great products available to help you walk two or more dogs at once without losing your mind or throwing out your shoulder.
The U-picks Dual Dog Leash has a 360 degree swivel so that your leash won’t get tangled as dogs move around. A shock absorbing bungee leash keeps you from feeling jerked around by energetic dogs. Because the leash that you hold connects about halfway down to both dogs, the dogs end up pulling on each other instead of you, helping to keep everyone going the same direction.
Tips For a Safe Dog Walk
Walking your dog is generally one of the safer and more leisurely activities that you can do with her, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t things you can do to make sure that your walk is as safe as possible. I’ve already discussed some useful training tools for the walk. Here are some tools and tips to make your daily walk safer.
It is essential that your dog has plenty to drink on the walk, especially in hot weather. Dogs can overheat quickly in hot weather, especially if they have thick coats or short noses. Having plenty of water on hand and taking breaks in the shade to let your dog cool down and drink is essential to a safe and pleasant walk.
A portable water bowl like the IDEGG Collapsible Silicone Dog Bowl lets you share your water bottle with your dog. This bowl is inexpensive and collapses flat so you can carry it in your pocket or bag. It also has a clip attachment so you can conveniently clip it to your bag or your dog’s backpack.
If you’d like to carry water and bowl together, the M&M Dog Water Bottle for Walking may be the choice for you. This convenient product comes in several sizes so you don’t have to carry more water than you need. The container is watertight until you press the release button, allowing water into the attached bowl for your dog to drink. Release only as much as your dog needs at a time so you don’t waste water.
2. Foot Protection
Dogs have their own “shoes” of sort, in their pads, but these pads are not indestructible, nor were they evolved for the harsh urban terrain that dogs now traverse. If you are walking with your dog over hot pavement or freezing snow, you will need some dog boots to protect her feet.
Muttluks Original All-Weather IB Dog Boots are well-respected for being high-quality boots that are great for hot or cold weather. The treated leather soles are flexible enough to give your dog full mobility but tough enough to protect against ice, hot pavement, rough terrain, and burrs. If your dog needs some foot protection year-round, these boots are a good choice.
If your older dog is developing some mobility concerns as she gets older, slipping on slick surfaces or dragging or knuckling her paws and causing injury, she may benefit from socks to protect her entire paw, not just the pad. Pawz Water-Proof Dog Boots are a pet industry standard for dogs with mobility concerns of all kinds. The entire paw is protected by the durable rubber, and these socks are affordable enough to discard when they get worn down.
3. Night Dog Walking Safety
If you work a 9 to 5 job, you may find that it’s hard to find time in the day to walk your dog. Furthermore, in hot weather night time safety is much more pleasant for you and your dog. It is a good idea for both you and your dog to wear bright, reflective clothing so that motorists will be able to see you clearly. Even if you are on the sidewalk, a person or bike may try to pass between you and your dog if you aren’t both clearly visible. Keep in mind that whatever kind of reflective or lighted vest you choose, it will not be effective if it is hidden beneath your dog’s coat, so trim her coat or choose a model that lays over it.
If most of your walking is urban and there is lots of ambient light, you may be happy with a reflective vest to illuminate your dog in the headlights. A high quality vest like the SafetyPUP XD Dog Reflective Vest makes your dog clearly visible at day or night, with a bright orange material for daytime visibility and broad reflective strips to make your pup pop in headlights.
For those who walk their dog in very dark, less urban areas, you may not want to wait until headlights are on your dog to make her visible to motorists. The noxgear LightHound – Revolutionary Illuminated and Reflective Harness glows brightly in the color of your choice, or flashes or fades, so that your dog will be the brightest thing on the road. It recharges quickly for 12 hours of illumination, and is suitable for summer or winter use.
Safety Before and After the Walk
Before you ask your dog to perform any kind of physical exercise you should be assured by a veterinarian that your dog is healthy and able to engage in physical activity. Your dog is willing to put herself through pain and suffering for you, so make sure that you don’t’ ask her to do so.
How long after your dog eats should you wait to walk?
Wait at least 30 minutes after feeding to exercise smaller dogs and wait longer, at least an hour, for large breed dogs. Exercising too soon after a meal can lead to indigestion or even bloat, which can be life threatening. It is a good idea to always exercise before feeding so you don’t have to be concerned about the possibility of bloat or indigestion. Dogs that are well exercised before their meal will be more likely to relax and digest after their meal.
Bloat is a very serious condition in which a dog’s stomach flips partially or fully around, obstructing entry and exit and endangering your dog’s life within minutes. There are many possible causes for bloat, but it is a agreed that there are some things you can do to help prevent it. Bloat is much more common in large breed dogs, especially giant breeds.
One of the most important things to do to prevent bloat is to avoid exercise for several hours after your dog eats. Therefore, take your dog on her morning or evening walk before breakfast or dinner, so that she will be willing to relax and digest after her meal.
Another important way to prevent bloat is to use a slow feeder to prevent your dog from eating too quickly or ingesting lots of air when she eats. A quality slow feeder like the Outward Hound Fun Feeder Slow Feed Interactive Bloat Stop Dog Bowl prevents your dog from gulping down her food, dramatically reducing the changes of bloat.
If your dog has ever had a serious allergic reaction, and especially if she is allergic to common things like bees, it is a good idea to take an Epipen that matches her size, in case she has a reaction far from help.
Monitor for Lameness
The best time to spot lameness or pain in your dog is right after a walk. Watch your dog after the walk to see if she is favoring any limb or joint. If your dog has trouble getting comfortable in her bed after a walk, this may also be an indication of exercise induced pain. If you see any signs of discomfort in your dog, have your vet check to make sure joint disease or arthritis isn’t the culprit.
Walking with your dog is one of the most basic and essential activities that you will do with her. Walking with your dog is essential to keeping her healthy and happy, and is an important bonding opportunity for both of you as well. Whatever kind of dog you have, in whatever stage of life, you can enjoy a daily walk. If your dog is bored of the usual walk, try using some of the ideas in this article to vary her routine. Make sure you keep safety in mind on your walk, and enjoy this enjoyable activity with your dog.
Walking shouldn’t be the only thing you do with your dog. If your dog needs more exercise than walking alone, which most dogs do, learn 26 fun indoor and outdoor workout ideas to vary your dog’s exercise routine.