How Often Should You Walk Your Dog?

Find out if you are doing enough dog walking for your pet.

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Consider your dog’s size, breed, energy level and sensitivity to weather when deciding how much to walk your pet. Gina Cioli/I-5 Studio
Jennifer Mauger

I can’t tell you how old I was when I walked my first dog. As far back as I can remember I have walked a dog. I was probably 7 or 8 when I would walk our dog, Frisky, by myself with my mom or dad keeping an eye on us as we walked around the cul-de-sac. All of our dogs loved going for a walk. I don’t remember one that did not. In fact, even though they had a large, fenced-in backyard, if they got bored with the same old routine they seemed to have a way of letting us know that they wanted to go. At our home there was a closet next to the kitchen where the leashes were kept. My sister’s dog, Candy, took the cake. If she wanted — or should I say demanded — a walk, she sat by the closet door and barked. Nothing would give her solace until the door opened up and the leashes came out. How often did we walk our dogs? As often as our mom told us to!

Veterinarians Weigh In On Dog Walking
Short of calling Mom, how do we know how much to walk our dog? For that answer I decided to ask some experts. According to Amy Moore, DVM, of Creekside Animal Clinic in Norton, Ohio, walks are frequent.

“In general, it is best for your dog’s physical, mental and social health to have at least one to two regular walks per day,” Moore says.

Natalie Ede, DVM, of Buckeye Veterinary Clinic in Akron, Ohio, says, “If you walk your dog for bathroom breaks as well as exercise, dogs should be walked three to four times per day.”

Charlotte Cummings, DVM, practice owner of Buckeye Veterinary Clinic, says that you should walk your dog at least once a day, separate from bathroom breaks.

Finally, Carolyn Lincoln, DVM, of Play to Behave, LLC, veterinary behavior counseling in the Cleveland area, mentions that, “Owners often forget that dogs need both mental and physical exercise. Walking is a wonderful way to provide both. It also gives you another way to bond with your dog.”

Benefits Of Dog Walking
Most dogs love going for a walk. How do we know? Just like Candy all of those years ago, they find a way of telling us. Grab your leash and watch what happens. Most dogs get very excited at the prospect! But what if you are not so thrilled? Walking our dogs can seem like a real chore when our dogs are out of control or pulling on the leash all of the time. With consistency and some basic training, however, your dog can learn to walk with manners.

“One of the best ways to improve your dog’s behavior at the end of the leash is to make some stops along the way and practice commands in a fun, playful way,” Lincoln says. “It improves your bond and adds to the fun, all while reinforcing behavior you want in a more distracting environment.”

What if we are unable to walk our dog? You can hire someone to do it for you. There are trainers who offer walk and train sessions in which they come and not only walk your dog, but take a couple of breaks to get some training in, too. Pet sitters and dog walkers can be found in just about every city, town, suburb or countryside throughout the United States. They offer services from walking your dog every day to filling in when your schedule doesn’t permit or you get called out of town.

How Much Dog Walking To Do
So, now the question is, how long should we walk our dogs?

“The length of the walk will vary greatly on your dog’s particular size, breed, energy level and sensitivity to extreme weather conditions, heat or cold,” Moore says.

My Rottweilers can walk all day long, every day, rain or snow. But when it is hot outside and the sun is beating down on their black coats they can overheat in no time. I mentioned my high-drive dogs to Moore.

“Yes, high-energy dogs, such as sporting, herding or working dogs or any dog that needs mental stimulation, should definitely be walked as much as their humans can keep up,” Moore says.

So what if your dog doesn’t fit that description? Cummings says that senior dogs or puppies should be walked just as needed. She also cautions against walking puppies until after they are vaccinated to avoid exposure to disease. Moore says that people should be aware that not all dogs fit the above recommendations for high-energy dogs.

“Other dogs, such as toy breeds and brachycephalic — smooshfaced — breeds like Bulldogs and Pugs, should definitely get veterinary approval before walking,” Moore says. “Even then, discretion is needed, as these dogs can tire quickly and are just not built for extended exercise.”

Ede also cautions against walking dogs with any pre-existing health conditions or dogs recovering from injury or surgery.

Not all dogs fit the above recommendations. My sister had a Toy Poodle who loved to hike. When he was in his prime, he could march out smartly for several miles. He couldn’t wait to go for his daily walk. In bad weather he used to pout by the door hoping my sister would give in and take him anyway. A good friend of mine had a Boxer with a very short, smooshed face. He, too, loved going for walks. Even in hot weather he still did very well going on a long walks, and never seemed to tire out.

Moore recognizes that there can always be exceptions to the rule. “It is always important,” she says, “to discuss walking your dog with your veterinarian who knows your dog personally and is aware of any potential health issues that might change our recommendation.”

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Dogs · Health and Care