As dog owners, it is natural to walk your dog each day. Walking forms part of your normal daily routine, but have you considered why those walks are so important? Do we really need them and what purpose do they serve? Well, It’s incredibly important to exercise your dog with regular walks because it’s vital for their physical and mental wellbeing.
There are lots of pitfalls and potentially dangerous consequences to not providing your dog with adequate daily exercise. Minor behavioral lapses can quickly become a much bigger problem. Let’s take a look at what to expect from an un-walked dog.
What Happens If Dogs Don’t Get Enough Exercise?
Missing a walk once is wildly different from regularly skipping walks for your dog. If you miss one walk you may notice that your dog is a little giddier than usual and may fuss more to play with toys or seek attention. When dogs don’t get the chance to exercise, they suffer a build-up of energy. Much like a toddler after too much sugar, a dog that is unable to run off his energy will quickly become hyperactive. To miss one day won’t have significant repercussions, any effects will be reduced by providing extra playtime at home.
However, problems can develop when a dog misses their usual walks on a regular basis. Playing fetch at home is not enough to burn off the level of excess energy that your dog is storing.
The longer he goes without being able to exercise, the more frustrated he will become. Frustration can manifest in a number of ways:
- Chewing – this could be anything. For a frustrated dog, nothing is safe! Doorframes, table legs, sofas, curtains … even people! Chewing is often the easiest way for a dog to release some pent-up energy.
- Jumping and mouthing – Dogs that are desperate for a walk can feel confused and anxious when left for long periods. The best way to get your attention is to jump up at you or grab your clothes and hands. Unfortunately, these actions are often misinterpreted as bad behavior. However, your dog is simply trying to let you know that they need to go out.
- Pacing – Much like animals in cages, dogs may use pacing as a way to soothe themselves. Especially if they have not been out for a walk. Movement burns energy, so your dog may pace around the house in an attempt to relieve themself of the urge to run.
- Urination – some dogs cannot cope when they are unable to run and play. This can sometimes lead to nervous or anxiety-related urination. You see this most often in puppies and young dogs. Older dogs are also prone to this behavior, especially if they have a submissive or nervous personality.
Can I Over Exercise my Dog?
There are lots of factors that affect a dog’s reaction to exercise. For most healthy adult dogs, it can be quite difficult to give them too much exercise. High energy breeds like Collies, Huskies, and Spaniels will happily run for hours without seeming to tire. Provided your dog is enjoying his walk and is not out in hot weather without water or shade, it should be safe.
Puppies are a completely different ball game. A puppy will spend at least the first year of his life growing and developing. As this is a sensitive time for a dog’s development, walks need to be carefully managed. The general rule of thumb is 5 minutes per month of age, starting at 12 weeks. This is because puppies do not receive all their vaccinations until this age.
can I over exercise my dog – Puppies
From 3 months – A 15-minute walk is plenty. Your furry little friend should be kept on a lead to prevent injury to their soft bones. With each month, you can add another 5 minutes and slowly introduce them to off-lead walking. Remember, a puppy’s skeleton takes a while to harden, and all the time their bones will continue to grow.
At this stage, high-impact exercise should be avoided. This is especially important for larger breeds such as Mastiffs, Rottweilers, and similar. Putting too much weight or strain on their joints can cause malformations. This can lead to painful joint problems as your puppy grows.
Can I Over Exercise My Dog – Senior Dogs
Senior dogs will gradually exert less energy during their walks. This will happen until you notice that they are happy to just plod along beside you, and sniff the occasional bush. As dogs age, they metabolize food differently and do not build up as much energy as a young dog. Therefore, they do not need to run or play as much to tire themselves. It is also quite common for older dogs to experience general stiffness in their joints and legs, which makes walks less appealing.
Can I Over Exercise My Dog – Heart Conditions
Dogs with heart conditions should not be taken for long off-lead walks unless a veterinarian deems it safe. For a dog like this, shorter walks are better with periods of play at home. Heart conditions are more dangerous during the summer months because the dog will be less able to regulate a safe body temperature. Walks should be kept to early morning and late evening.
Can I Over Exercise My Dog – Obesity
Overweight dogs are also at high risk for over-exercising. It is a common misconception that an overweight or obese dog should start with high-intensity exercise. In reality, doing this puts a lot of strain on their joints and heart, plus it puts them at increased risk of heatstroke. To keep them healthy and pain-free, dogs on a weight loss program should have their exercise increased gradually, starting with light, short sessions.
Effects of Over Exercising
There are lots of other effects of over exercising your dog:
- Damage to paw pads – If a dog receives lots of hard, high-impact exercise, it increases the chance of the skin over their pads tearing. Some dogs can get so engrossed in their walks, that they could continue running even with injured feet. Surfaces like concrete are abrasive and will wear down the outer skin layer. If your dog has injured paws, try to exercise on soft surfaces such as grass or sand.
- Lameness/limping – A common cause of injury for over-exercising is strained or stiff muscles. Muscles can tear easily and need time to repair themselves. Giving your dog lots of heavy exercise limits the amount of time for the body to repair any damage to the muscle tissue. This can be quite painful and you may notice your dog limping or appearing stiff when he moves.
- Heatstroke or exhaustion – It is tempting to take your dog for long walks in the warm, summer weather. However, be mindful of how much of that walk includes running or jumping. High-intensity exercise in hot temperatures puts your dog at increased risk of developing heat stroke. Dogs cannot regulate their body temperature like we can and are only able to sweat through their paws. The only other way they can cool themselves is by panting. On warm summer days, take active dogs for walks with access to water, such as a beach or lake. This provides them with a means to keep cool. It’s also a good idea to include short periods of lead walking to give your dog a chance to rest.
- Breathing difficulties – Certain breeds of dogs are naturally less effective at breathing. Brachycephalic breeds like the Pug, French Bulldog, Boston Terrier can struggle quickly. Other flat-faced or short-muzzled dogs breathing may also become stressed if allowed too much running or intense play. Their airways are much narrower than other breeds, and can quickly become out of breath. This puts them in danger of hyperventilating or developing more serious respiratory issues. Dogs with pre-existing respiratory conditions should also have their exercise carefully monitored. Shortness of breath can cause unconsciousness very quickly and would require immediate medical attention.
Do Dogs Need Rest Days?
The importance of rest days varies from dog to dog. If you take your dog for daily walks but don’t participate in other activities, then a rest day isn’t necessary. You may notice your dog is less active than normal the day after a long exercise session. In this case, a shorter walk would be fine, but you would not need to completely rest them.
Rest days are important when dogs take part in other canine activities such as agility or flyball. These competitions, whether casual or professional require a lot of exercise. Dogs will require a day of rest to allow their muscles to relax and repair any damage. Not doing this puts your dog at risk of developing muscular issues or painful joint conditions.
Generally, you should take each day as it comes. If your dog is acting normally, then there is no need to alter your routine. Should your furry friend be less active or a little stiff, maybe a shorter walk would be a better option. You could even add some play sessions at home. For dogs that regularly take part in canine sports, a day of rest is necessary.
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All information in the article is for educational purposes only and is not meant to replace your veterinarian’s advice.
Transforming anxious pups with her wealth of experience, holistic healing, and diplomas in canine anxiety & therapy.
Founder of Anxious Canine and proud CMA member.