Good pet owners know that owning a dog is not just about cuddles on the couch and belly rubs. Our fur babies need lots of care and attention, and most of all they need physical exercise and mental stimulation on a daily basis.
Dogs should be taken out for a walk at least once a day, in order to keep their body and mind healthy. They probably won't let you sleep past 9 in the morning without alerting you that it's time to go out anyway! Walking your dog is good for you too, as it keeps you in shape and helps you strengthen your bond with your pup.
But while it's common knowledge to walk your dog every day, do you know how long their walk should be? According to veterinarians that changes based on your dog's breed and size, you can read their advice below.
Taking your dog on daily walks keeps them healthy in many different ways. It decreases stress, strengthens their bones and muscles, and helps against cardiovascular disease too. But while you strive to keep your dog healthy, one mistake you want to avoid is taking it on walks that are too long and will make your pet excessively tired.
Dr. Kelly Diehl, a small animal internal medicine specialist and senior director of science and communication at the Morris Animal Foundation, told Newsweek that the length of your dog's walk depends on its age, breed as well as on the environmental conditions.
"Is it really hot or cold outside? Is it rainy? Or snowing? Or sleeting? All these factors need to be considered," she said.
Small-breed dogs boast less resistance than big dogs, so their walk should be proportioned to their body size and strength.
Dr. Grant Little, veterinarian expert for the question-and-answer platform JustAnswer, told Newsweek that what a Labrador retriever may consider a light jog may turn out to be felt as a full run for a smaller-sized dog like a Chihuahua. "A small dog may get more tired quickly on a long walk as they are having to keep up with the owner and run faster," he said.
Little suggested considering about 20 minutes of exercise at a time for small-sized dogs—those under 15 pounds. Dog owners should always contact their local veterinarian whenever they see that walks start becoming a problem, he added.
For larger breeds, Little suggested a 30-to-60-minute walk at a time, adding that more athletic breeds, like Labrador retrievers and Australian shepherds, can often go for long one-hour walks and feel little to no pain.
"Work on training early on, and be able and ready to identify if your dog is no longer able to keep up or they seem to be having pain/mobility issues," he said.
Another important factor that you should consider is the age of the pet. According to Little, a young healthy dog, up to 4 years old in age, is going to be much more energetic and able to go for long walks without much strain on its system.
"A young pet going for walks can be prone to exercise-induced diseases such as low blood sugar, and dehydration. Older dogs can have similar issues, especially if underlying issues are present as well," he said. "One way to combat these issues is to always build up to the desired result. If you have an older or younger animal that is not used to walking much, try short walks first, and then increase the time if no issues are being seen with the new amount of exercise."
You should also take into consideration any previous medical concerns your dog may have suffered from, Little warned. Arthritis, hip dysplasia, torn ligaments are just some of concerns that can cause significant pain and lead to major issues in the future, he said. Previous heart or lung diseases can also lead to difficulty oxygenating the rest of the body.
"When this occurs, the walks should be shortened, [and] the frequency can be changed, for example, 15 minutes of walking twice a day instead of one hour once a day," he said. "All medical issues should be actively addressed with your veterinarian's advice before strenuous exercise is done."
According to Diehl, you should never get yourself in a position where you've walked your dog for too long, and now it's extremely tired.
"If you're hiking and you're 4 miles from the trailhead and your dog collapses, this is a serious problem," she said. "As a veterinarian, I've seen dogs in the clinic who collapsed while exercising and it can be life-threatening. If your dog is tired, carrying the dog in a backpack or using a stroller might be necessary.
"Providing food, water, and shelter can help a tired dog. Allowing rest also can help but think of yourself—if you're tired, how much rest would you need to complete a long hike that you're now fit for. Avoiding these kinds of situations is really best—I can't stress this enough!"