Some dogs appreciate lengthy walks, while others prefer to have a stroller carry them most of the way. And whichever walker your pup is, there are some physical cues to pay attention to that indicate when they’ve had enough.
Dr. Evan Antin, a practicing small animal, exotics and wildlife veterinarian at Conejo Valley Veterinary Hospital and member of Fetch by The Dodo’s Veterinary Advisory Board, shares the formula for how far you should walk your dog and other activities if they’re opposed to getting their steps in.
Just like people, dogs benefit mentally and emotionally from being stimulated in new ways outside of the home. During walks, dogs really get to be dogs, smelling everything in sight, including all the pheromones of other dogs and animals about your neighborhood. And, of course, it’s great exercise.
Almost all dogs appreciate going on walks to some degree. Athletic and high-drive breeds, like German Shepherds and Australian Cattle Dogs, love longer and more frequent walks compared to couch potato breeds, like my Chihuahua Henry.
Weather, especially extreme heat or cold, should be factored in before any walk. Your pet’s age and health are important, too. Many older dogs have some degree of osteoarthritis, and excessive walking or any exercise can actually make things worse off for them.
This really depends on the individual. Young, healthy, fit dogs are more than happy to walk several miles, whereas a geriatric dog with some degree of arthritis should have walks limited to as many as a few blocks.
Outdoor temperatures also play a huge factor. On hot summer days, any dog is vulnerable to overheating and heat stroke, especially brachycephalic breeds (aka “smush” faced pups). During the hot summer, I discourage any walks from mid-morning through the afternoon. Heat stroke is very real and often very fatal.
For a healthy dog in comfortable 70-degree weather, 1 to 2 miles (or more) is great. But again, there really isn’t an “average” number here. Always take into account the variables at play: your dog’s age, health condition and ambient temperatures.
Overall, puppies shouldn’t be walked as far as adult dogs.
For very young puppies, less than 4 months, it’s discouraged to walk them off your property, but that’s because of infectious diseases. Puppies are vaccinated for things like parvovirus and other severe diseases, but the vaccination process and puppy immune systems aren’t ready for full-on exposure until about 4 months old.
The factor of weather matters every bit as much for puppies. And young puppies, especially small-breed dogs, are prone to hypoglycemia, aka low blood sugar. So if your puppy looks floppy and unstable, they could have low blood sugar. It’s a good idea to bring food or treats on walks for that reason.
Young, healthy dogs appreciate at least one walk a day, but two or maybe three is great for most healthy dogs.
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If you’re going more than a few blocks, then bring a collapsible water dish and water to take drinking breaks. And if it’s really hot outside, then bring water for any length of walk. Of course, don’t forget a leash and disposable doo-doo bags, too.
Keep a close eye on your dog at the beginning of a walk and notice the general enthusiasm. They’re probably pulling you at the leash and trying to smell everything, and, for certain individuals, they also want to urinate on everything, too — my dog, Henry, sure does.
This behavior will likely wane slightly and become more of a steady state degree of sniffing, peeing and leash pulling. Once these behaviors decline even more, then your dog’s probably telling you they’re finished walking.
If your dog isn’t leading the walk anymore, isn’t smelling anything and is just following you, facing down or straight ahead, without looking around or taking in the experience, then they’ve been ready to go home before the walk is over. Some dogs will even stop walking altogether and just sit down along the way.
And if your dog is too exhausted to continue, then you’ll see excessive, deep panting, loopy walking and potentially collapsing. These more-severe signs can be indicative of heat stroke and should be treated as an emergency — make sure to call or visit your vet as soon as this happens.
This really depends on the individual. For some, yes, having another pet with them makes the experience more exciting and motivates them to stay engaged. For others, no, particularly if one of the dogs has the potential to be aggressive towards dogs or other animals.
Perhaps if there’s something in it for them, they can make that connection that if they walk, they get treats. Otherwise, alternative physical activities may be in your dog’s best interest.
Playing with toys at home, including classic fetch. Some dogs love chasing laser pointers like cats. Playdates with friend-or-family dogs are great ways to be active, too.
The Dig, Fetch by The Dodo’s expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too. Fetch provides the most comprehensive pet insurance and is the only provider recommended by the #1 animal brand in the world, The Dodo.
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Photo by Dr. Evan Antin and Erik Mclean on Unsplash