Can a Dog Exercise Too Much?
All dog parents know that exercise is an important part of their pup’s daily routine. Exercise helps your dog fight obesity, improves their mobility, minimizes behavioral issues, and positively impacts their health and well-being.
Too much exercise, however, can have detrimental effects on your dog’s health. Read on to learn how much exercise your dog should have, and how to spot the signs of over-exercising in dogs.
How Much Exercise Should Your Dog Have?
How much exercise your dog needs will differ from dog to dog depending on their age, breed, health condition, and overall personality.
As a general rule of thumb, a healthy dog should have somewhere between 30 minutes and 2 hours of exercise every day, split between rigorous exercise and regular daily activity.
If your dog seems restless or full of energy at the end of the day, you may need to increase their current level of exercise.
3 Factors That Determine When and How to Exercise Your Dog
To determine how much exercise your dog should have on a given day, there are a few factors to consider.
1. Your Dog’s Age
Your dog’s exercise needs will change and fluctuate as they grow. As young puppies, their bodies are still developing, and too much exercise can be tough on the joints and muscles. Their growth plates need to fuse before they’re ready to handle higher-intensity long exercises.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, senior dogs may also have special exercise needs. While exercise is still important for your older dog, aching joints and muscle loss can add physical limitations to the amount of exercise they can handle.
Your senior dog will benefit from lower impact exercises and shorter outings than a young, healthy dog.
2. Your Dog’s Breed
Your dog’s breed will have a huge impact on the amount and type of exercise they can handle every day. Some dog breeds are naturally suited for long-distance running, while other breeds would do better with leisurely walks through the park.
Brachycephalic breeds, for example, have shortened noses that can make strenuous exercise difficult over long periods. Breeds like Pugs and Bulldogs should limit the amount of exercise they get every day – or supplement a daily walk with other forms of mental exercise.
In contrast, high-energy working and sporting breeds, like Labrador Retrievers, Huskies, and Collies, do best with more exercise in their daily routine.
3. The Weather
The weather, temperature, and time of year will also factor into how much exercise, especially outdoor exercise, your dog should have.
In the summer, temperatures can reach scorching levels that are dangerous to many dog breeds.
Brachycephalic breeds, for example, can have difficulty breathing when the temperature is too warm, so you need to limit their outdoor exercise on hot days. High temperatures can also be tough on breeds with thick coats, such as Huskies.
The summer can also pose a threat to your dog’s paw pads, which can get burned on hot asphalt. Before walking your dog, try the 5-second test. Place your hand on the sidewalk or pavement for 5 seconds. If it’s too hot for your hands, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws.
In the warmer months, it’s best to walk your dog during the coolest parts of the day, typically early morning and evening.
The winter can also put a damper on your dog’s exercise routine. Cold temperatures can be dangerous for even the hardiest dog breeds.
Dogs with thick, double-layered coats like Huskies and Newfoundlands will have an easier time as the temperatures start to fall. Dogs with thin coats like Greyhounds, however, will need to limit their outdoor exercise in the winter.
A good rule of thumb for outdoor exercise in the cold is that, if temperatures fall below 32℉, thin-coated and small breeds will need to limit their outdoor exercise. If the temperatures drop below 20℉, all dogs should limit their outdoor exercise.
Signs That You’re Over-Exercising Your Dog
Every dog is different, and their exercise limits will differ as well. All pup parents should watch for signs of overexertion in their dogs to make sure they aren’t exercising too much.
Here are the most common signs that your dog is over-exercising:
1. Paw Pad Damage
If your dog spends a lot of time running, especially on rough surfaces like the sidewalk or asphalt, their paw pads can become blistered after too much exercise.
Check your dog’s paws daily for signs of wear and tear, and watch their behavior for any sign of pain when walking.
2. Sore Muscles and Injuries
Over-exertion can lead to stiff, painful muscles, just like if you work too hard at the gym. After a long day of exercise, your dog may struggle to stand up, sit down, or walk up the stairs.
If your dog over-exerted themselves too much, they can even sprain or injure their joints – especially elbow and toe joints.
If your dog seems sluggish or shows signs of pain when they move, give them time to rest and recover and contact your veterinarian immediately.
3. Heat Exhaustion
Even on days where the temperatures seem appropriate for your dog to exercise outside, over-exertion can overheat their body, leading to heat exhaustion. This is especially true for brachycephalic breeds and older dogs.
Make sure that your dog takes plenty of breaks while they’re exercising, and keep them hydrated by providing access to fresh, cool water.
4. Changes in Behavior
Dogs that have reached their exercise limit will likely let you know through changes in their behavior.
If your dog loved to go running with you, but now hides when you reach for the leash, it’s an indication that something about running has made them uncomfortable.
Watch for signs in your dog’s behavior, and always work up to long intervals of exercise to help train and condition their body.
Is Your Dog Getting the Right Amount of Exercise?
The best way to know the right amount of exercise to give your dog is to talk with your veterinarian. They will have a better understanding of your dog’s health records and breed, and they can work with you to create an exercise plan that will keep your pup happy and healthy.