And when is it too much exercise?

Exercise is an extremely important aspect of a dog’s life. It is a way to bond with your dog and it can enrich their lives, but sometimes we can overdue it! There are many dogs that do not show signs of being in pain, and continue to be active even when they are hurting. So, it is important for you to recognize the signs, and to notice when it is time to stop and take a break. Read on to learn more about how much exercise a dog needs and when can it be too much.

Listen to their breathing

If a dog is panting heavily, just take a break. High respiration rates should start to go down within minutes. If the panting does not seem to stop, please contact your local veterinarian. Some dogs that have squished faces, also known as Brachycephalic, have more trouble getting enough oxygen when exercising. Make sure you are setting a good pace for both you and your dog. Some dogs are built for running, while others are not. So keep that in mind when you are looking for a companion for your lifestyle. 

German Shepard dog laying on a large grey dog cot in front of a lake
@wiffles

Worn Paw Pads

Take a look at your dog’s paw pads after or during exercise. Some dogs with pink skin and feet are much more sensitive to the hot pavement and friction. Always do the “5-second test” to check if the pavement is too hot. Take the back of your hand and place it on the pavement; if you have to withdraw it before five seconds have passed, then it is too hot for your dogs paws. 

Even if it is not too hot, too much exercise in one day can tear the paw pads and make it very painful for them to walk. Watch closely at your dog’s gait and look out for any limping. Some will show no signs of pain whatsoever, so check the paw pads often. If the pads seem to tear easily, look into a dog friendly wax that can be applied before rigorous exercise. 

Weight Loss

If your dog is getting too much exercise, it may start to lose weight. Veterinarians use the body condition scale to score dogs. An ideal body condition is at a four or five (see image below), being able to feel the ribs, but not necessarily see them depending on the breed. If you are worried that your dog may be too skinny, ask your vet if you should feed your dog more food or tone down the exercise. They can decide a healthy balance between exercise and food intake. 

dog body condition scale image for idea weight from side and upper view of a cartoon dogs body
CattleDog Publishing

Pay attention to your dog’s response to exercise. Are they jumping off of the couch when you reach for the leash? Younger dogs need much more exercise, but that does not mean that senior dogs will not need any. One walk a day is great for preventing arthritis and other medical issues.

In general, exercise is a wonderful thing for both you and your dog, so here are some suggested times that you can strive for each day.

Small dogs (1-15 lbs): 30 mins 2x day
Medium dogs (15-30 lbs): 45 mins 2x day
Large dogs (30-80 lbs): 1- 1.5 hours a day
X-Large dogs (80+ lbs): 1.5 hours a day

Depending on the breed, your dog may need more. After the exercise becomes second nature, their stamina will build and you both can go further!

Author

Caitlin is originally from Vermont and has been working with animals since she can remember. She studied Behavioral Neuroscience and is now Mastering in Animal Shelter Management in Colorado. Her hobbies include horseback riding, fostering animals, and hiking in the Rocky Mountains. She has volunteered at five different animal shelters and worked in three different vet hospitals. Her passions include animal health, behavior, and enrichment. Caitlin also spends time taking high-quality photos of shelter animals to help them get adopted faster.

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