‘Are we there yet?’ How much walking does your dog need?
We all know how important it is to exercise your dog, but there is wide variation in breed and age requirements. Our ‘How Many Miles’ Calculator provides guidance for owners to discuss with their vets.
Walking is so much more than just physical exercise for dogs. Every dog should have the opportunity to exercise outdoors daily, unless you need to revise your recommendation for health reasons. Walking provides a great opportunity for both training and bonding and both dogs and their owners can benefit from fresh air, play and positive learning experiences.
Athlete vs. lap dog – how does breed affect exercise requirements?
Centuries of selective breeding has led to a great diversity of breeds with wide variation in size, appearance and exercise habits. Dogs bred to work all day will require a much greater degree of mental and physical stimulation than those bred for quiet companionship. Our ‘How Many Miles’ calculator gives breed specific guidance to owners on how long and how far they should be walking their dog daily.
Bouncy puppy vs. old timer – the influence of age on exercise
For puppies, walking is especially important for socialisation after they have had recommended vaccinations and anti-parasite treatments. It also provides great opportunities for learning about the world around them, training and bonding with the owner. Meeting different people, animals, noises and objects on walks with positive reward-based training will help to reduce fear behaviours in later life.
As dogs age, they are more likely to suffer from arthritis, heart disease and other medical conditions, which may affect their comfort and ability to walk and play. Owners often describe them as ‘slowing up’ due to old age, when in fact there is underlying pain or pathology. Owners of senior dogs are encouraged to seek veterinary advice and need to be reminded of the physical and mental benefits of regular exercise. Our calculator includes the need to look at the recommendation in the light of these considerations.
What else do owners need to be aware of when dog walking? Weather conditions are an important consideration in safe dog walking and extreme conditions should be avoided. It is advisable to use a weatherproof coat in cold or wet weather, especially in smaller breeds, lean animals or those with a less dense coat. Snow and ice can stick to the hair in between the toes, leading to chilblains and ice burns. The irritation this causes to the pads can lead to itching or biting of the feet. Placing the feet in tepid water to melt the ice, then drying thoroughly after walking will alleviate the symptoms.
The hotter the weather, the greater the risk of heat stroke and burns to the pads. Walking early in the morning or in the evening at the coolest part of the day is recommended. Fresh water and shade should be accessible at all times, and hot surfaces (e.g. tarmac paths) should be avoided. Dogs with compromised respiratory function (e.g. Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome breeds) are at increased risk of overheating, as their respiratory heat exchange is less efficient.