Just invested in a fantastic FitBark tracker, but not sure exactly what goal to set for your four-legged friend to truly make the most of it? No problem – follow this simple canine fitness formula to discover the perfect BarkPoints goal for Fido… trust me, he’ll thank you for it!
Understand What Determines How Much Exercise Your Dog Needs…
We all know that dogs need daily walkies and playtime to live happy, healthy and contented canine lives – but how much is enough? Generally speaking, every dog needs to spend at least 30 minutes a day actively exercising, however for some dogs the daily requirement for physical activity can be as much as two hours or more. To work out exactly how active YOUR best friend needs to be, consider the following factors…
Size and Breed
Don’t be fooled into thinking that a tiny dog requires less exercise, or that a giant dog needs to spend hours galloping across the fields every day. Instead, consider your dog’s breed, and think about the purpose they were originally bred for. Working dogs and herding dogs for example (think Border Collies, Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, etc.) were bred for high levels of endurance, energy and stamina to carry out working roles that lie in stark contrast to the levels of activity involved in the standard life of today’s domestic pet. To ensure their physical and psychological well being, these breeds require around 60-90 minutes of intensive exercise per day, alongside plenty of mental stimulation. So a typical day might entail an hour’s off-lead walk (take a tennis ball along to really rack up those BarkPoints!) plus 2 or 3 sessions of playtime, obedience training, or trick training at home. It’s important to remember that dogs bred to work alongside man (in pastoral roles, hunting roles, etc.) need just as much mental stimulation as they do physical activity to prevent them becoming bored and frustrated.
Hound dogs too require plenty of exercise, although some sight hounds, generally speaking, can cope with less than scent hounds. Greyhounds for example will sprint upon sight of prey, releasing their energy in small bursts, whereas scent hounds are bred for higher endurance, and have more in common with the working breeds.
Terriers, whilst typically smaller than the working breeds, still tend to be bouncy and energetic, and require around 60 minutes of active exercise per day. You could try breaking this into two 30-minute walks, and remember to include some playtime at home and in the garden. Terriers will typically enjoy ‘ratting’ games, since this is what they were bred for, so invest in some small squeaky toys which you can throw about, and your terrier will relish pouncing, grabbing and shaking them all over the place!
Even toy breeds like Poodles and Chihuahuas require daily exercise! Because they tend to be so much smaller than other dogs however, it is easier for them to earn the BarkPoints they need in a smaller area. Your Chihuahua would be more than happy with a daily 30-minute stroll on-lead, plus some off-lead play time in the garden and around the home. Don’t ever be fooled into thinking you can cut out the walk by adding in more playtime at home, however; daily walks are vital to allow dogs to engage in all the natural behaviours that make them dogs – exploring, sniffing new scents, meeting new dogs and people… if your dog does not get a daily mini-adventure, he’ll become bored and frustrated.
It’s important to remember that short-nosed breeds (otherwise known as brachycephalic), like pugs and bulldogs are slightly limited by their narrower airways, and therefore care must be taken not to over-exercise these dogs, particularly in hot weather. A gentle 20-30 minute stroll per day would be perfectly sufficient, but make sure to couple this with some interactive games at home and in the garden to help add interest to his day.
Age and Health
Whilst breed can be a great indicator as to how much exercise your dog needs, of course there are other factors to consider. One crucial factor is your dog’s age, and of course his state of health. As your dog reaches the later years of life, he may become affected by a number of age-related factors, like weight gain, arthritis, eyesight problems, and more. That’s not to say however, that he does not still require daily exercise – of course he does, but you must make sure it is appropriate to his condition and lifestyle. It’s worth noting that the right amount of exercise is beneficial to dogs suffering joint problems, as it’s important to keep the muscles and ligaments surrounding those joints in good shape – however high impact exercise (like running) would be better replaced with a gentler form of exercise, like swimming or walking. If you are walking a dog with hearing or eyesight problems, stick to regular routes that your dog will feel familiar and comfortable with, to reduce anxiety.
Conversely, we must be careful to pay attention to the amount of exercise our young puppies are getting, too. Whilst it’s crucial that puppies get plenty of daily activity and stimulation, it’s also critical that we don’t overdo it. Until they reach physical maturity, puppies are still growing, and it’s essential that we avoid damaging their delicate joints; the recommended rule of thumb is allowing five minutes of active exercise per one month of age, until the puppy is fully grown – at which point he can cope with plenty more. So for example, a three-month-old puppy should have 15 minutes of exercise per day, a six-month-old puppy should have 30 minutes of exercise per day, etc.
Whilst it can be tempting to try and exhaust that boisterous six-month old Labrador puppy who’s bouncing off the walls with an hour of long-distance fetch, this could contribute to early arthritis, and is not recommended. Try wearing him out with a few five-minute trick-training sessions spaced throughout the day – you’ll be amazed how well this can take the ‘fizz’ out of a young dog, as they pump their energy into their brains instead of their legs!
Signs Your Dog Is Not Getting Enough Exercise…
Not getting enough exercise quickly leads dogs to become bored and frustrated, and will result in the manifestation of a range of problem behaviours, which could include destructive chewing or digging, hyperactivity, unruly behaviour like jumping up at people and knocking things over, increasingly rough play, and attention-seeking behaviours like whining, howling and barking. If your dog seems at all antsy or frustrated, try upping his Daily BarkPoints Goal, and monitoring the effect this has on his resting behaviour at home. A tired dog is a good dog!
Signs Your Dog Is Working Too Hard…
Whilst we’re all in agreement that dogs are truly awesome companions, sometimes this can be to their own detriment! As an owner who is clearly out to get their dog the happiest life possible (otherwise you wouldn’t be here, reading a FitBark article!) it’s important to remember that most dogs have their owners’ best interests at heart too. So if you’re walking your dog, it’s likely that he’ll do his best to stick to your pace, even if he’s getting tired. If you’ve been playing fetch for half an hour and he’s more than ready for a snooze on the sofa, he’ll probably still chase after that tennis ball again, and again, and again… because he thinks that’s what you want him to do. Only when he is exhausted beyond his reasonable physical limit will he flat-out refuse to go on – so it’s crucial that you keep an eye on him, and look out for signs that it’s time to go home. Excessive panting or drooling can be an indicator that Fido needs a rest, repeated coughing, or a general slowing of pace or reluctance to move forward. If your dog is regularly exhausted like this before you get home, it’s possible that your Daily BarkPoints Goal is too high, or that your need to break up and shorten your exercise sessions.
Get It Right, With A Little Help From FitBark!
Use FitBark’s daily data delivery to help you perfectly fine-tune your dog’s everyday schedule; check in on how well he slept last night, how active he is compared to other similar dogs, view an hourly breakdown of his day and what he’s up to, and more. Having access to all this information allows you the insight you need to craft the ideal exercise regimen for you and your dog. Ultimately, every dog is an individual, and through careful observation, experimentation and Daily BarkPoints tracking, you will find the perfect Daily Goal for you… and your best friend will thank you for it!
Daily exercise helps to build and tone your dog’s muscles, encourages a healthy appetite and metabolic system, engages your dog’s mind, inhibits problem behaviours at home, improves your dog’s confidence, and enables you to build the kind of relationship with your dog that you dreamed of having when you first laid eyes on him… did someone say ‘Walkies?’
About the Author
Lisa Burton is a UK dog trainer and behaviourist who shares her life and love of all things canine with her long-suffering husband, two incredible sons, and two very wayward hounds. You can visit her website at http://listendogtraining.co.uk/