How Much Exercise Should a Dog Get

Making sure your dog gets enough exercise is important both for their mental and physical health. But how do you know what the “right” amount of exercise is?

While there is no one right answer to the question “how much exercise does a dog need every day?” there are some steps you can take to figure out what amount of activity is right for your individual pup’s needs.

In this article, we will look at the different factors that play into a dog’s exercise requirements as well as how to calculate exactly how much time your pup needs to spend running around based on those factors. We’ll also take a look at some of the best ways you can exercise your pup to get the most out of the time you spend with them.

Factors that Play Into Exercise Need

There are certain factors that play into how much activity any one dog needs. While all dogs are a little different, spending time considering each of these factors can help you get closer to understanding how much exercise it will take to keep your dog fit and content enough to be well-behaved.

pic 1 puppy with stickMost people think of puppies as being a lot of work. But the truth is, it is adolescent dogs that require the most activity and who tend to have the most behavioral issues–especially if they don’t get enough activity. Expect to have to ramp up your doggy’s walk frequency as they get closer to their “teenage” years.


Everyone knows that puppies are more active than older dogs, but the topic of age and exercise is far more complicated than this dichotomy.

Young puppies, newborns to about 16 weeks of age, sleep much of the day and don’t have the stamina for long bouts of activity. As a dog enters their fifth month of age, however, this begins to change. Suddenly, they are pulling you on walks instead of the other way around.

This increase in activity needs tends to continue until it reaches its peak around adolescents. Depending on your breed, this may be anytime between 9 months and 20 months of age.

This is the time period most owners begin seeing troublesome behaviors in their pups–things like excessive barking, chewing, lapses in housetraining, and even aggressive behavior. Oftentimes, these behaviors indicate your pup isn’t getting as much exercise as they need.

Once a dog reaches adulthood–around 2 years for larger breeds and sooner for small dogs–their exercise needs tend to level out and stay stable for a number of years.

As they reach their golden years, most dogs tend to slow down. But even at this point, exercise is important for helping your senior dog stay trim and stimulated.


It should come as no surprise that a dog’s activity needs vary based on their breed.

Working breeds, such as cattle dogs, border collies, and pointers, tend to require a lot of exercise and a ton of mental stimulation to be happy. Companion and toy dogs, on the other hand, need less activity in their lives.

Similarly, the size of your dog can play into how much exercise they require.

Large dogs like Great Danes and Newfoundlands may have been bred to work, but their huge size means they tire out quickly and tend to age faster. Teacup dogs, even those breeds bred for the sole purpose of sitting on your lap, tend to have a lot more energy than their giant cousins. Luckily, those short legs mean it takes less to wear them out than a larger dog.

pic 2 greyhound
Greyhounds are often seen as some of the best athletes in the canine world, so you might expect them to need a lot of activity at home. But the truth is this breed is one of the lazier ones you are likely to find. Huskies, on the other hand, are well known for their athleticism and their constant need for mental and physical activity.

According to the AKC, some of the most active dog breeds are:

Some of the least active dog breeds include:

If you haven’t acquired a pup yet, it is worth taking the time to consider each breed’s activity needs and how that might fit into your lifestyle before you choose your next dog.

Of course, if you have a mixed breed, it can be more difficult to determine your dog’s activity needs based on looks alone. Some dogs may be more or less active than the breeds that went into making them and with some dogs, you simply can’t know what their genetics are. In this case, it is best to take notes from the dog themselves on how much exercise they need.

Daily Routine

How your dog spends their day outside of exercising can also play a huge part in determining how much exercise they will need.

A dog that is crated or kenneled for eight hours a day while their owners are at work will have a lot more pent up energy that they need to burn off.

On the other hand, a dog that has free access to the backyard or is getting constant stimulation from a stay-at-home parent throughout the day, won’t have quite as much energy to burn.

While the ability to move around during the day is an important factor, mental stimulation also plays a huge role in tiring out your dog.

If your dog is frequently provided with chew treats, stuffed Kongs, puzzle toys, and other activities, even if they are crated, they will be more tired at the end of the day then a dog without these items.

pic 3 dog behind fenceKeeping your dog in a crate or outdoor kennel while you are away may be necessary to keep them safe and avoid coming home to destruction, but you should expect these dogs to need more exercise than their free-roaming counterparts. 

Individual Needs

Of course, all dogs differ in how much activity they need–even dogs of the same breed and age. Sometimes these variations are due to simple personality differences, and sometimes it has to do with the dog’s overall health.

Obviously, dogs who are not feeling well will not need (and should not get) as much exercise as a healthy dog. If your dog has an injury or is recovering from surgery, their activity should be limited, even if they look like they can go-go-go just like they used to.

Overweight dogs aren’t as active as trim pups, though, they can benefit from an increase in exercise to help them get back to a healthy weight.

In the end, you will need to take your dog’s age, breed, lifestyle, and individual quirks into account before you can truly understand how much exercise they need every day.

How to Calculate How Much Exercise a Dogs Needs

Once you have given some thought to how different factors play into your dog’s needs, you can work to calculate how much time you should be spending exercising them each day using the three steps below.

pic 4 jack russel and ownerMost people are surprised to find out just how much exercise their dog should be getting a day. If you think you don’t have enough time to spend with your pup to get them tired out, consider hiring a dog walker or taking them to doggy daycare to help tire them out. 

1. Start with the Typical Exercise Needs for an Adult Dog or Puppy

In general, dogs need about 30 minutes to 2 hours of exercise each day.

If you have an adult dog, it is a good idea to start with a baseline amount of 1 hour per day. For older puppies and adolescents, start with a baseline of 2 hours per day.

2. Add Exercise Time Based on Breed and Routine

If you happen to own a working dog such as a shepherd, terrier, or retriever, add an extra 30 minutes to your baseline amount. If you know your dog is active even for their breed, it may be worth adding on another 30 minutes.

If your dog is crated or left alone for a large portion of the day, add an additional hour of exercise to your running total. Not only is this necessary to compensate for the lack of stimulation your dog receives while calone, but it will also help get them extra tired so they can stay calm and content while you are away.

3. Adjust Based on Behavior and Feedback

Now that you have a good estimate for how much exercise your dog needs, put it to the test. For the next few days, commit to giving your dog this much activity each day (if you need ideas on what to do, check out the next section).

In most cases, it is best to break up the total activity time into shorter periods. For instance, if your dog requires three hours of exercise a day, try breaking it down into three one-hour chunks spread throughout the day. If your dog is crated most of the day, do a large chunk of exercise before you leave for work so they are tired enough to sleep while you are gone.

Younger puppies may do best with multiple short exercise sessions every few hours.

Once you have your new exercise routine in place, keep an eye on your dog’s behavior, and adjust your activity time accordingly.

pic 5 puppy diggingDogs with too much excess energy often engage in poor behaviors. While training is usually needed to curb behaviors such as digging and chewing, the first step toward helping your dog be their best-behaved self is to up the amount of activity they get each day. 

If your dog shows signs of excess energy, such as chewing, barking, nipping or other attention-seeking behaviors, try adding another 30 minutes of exercise to your routine or upping the intensity.

On the other hand, if your dog seems extra-tired at the end of the day or has trouble settling at night, you may be overdoing it. Try reducing the amount of time spent exercising or the intensity of your exercises.

The Best Ways to Exercise Your Dog

Now that you have an idea of how much exercise your dog needs, it’s time to talk about the best ways to wear a dog out.

Here are five activities that will do the most to get your active pup worn down.

1. A Stimulating Walk or Hike

Walks are always the go-to activity for most dogs, but there is a big difference between a stimulating walk and your standard walk around the neighborhood.

In order to truly tire your dog out, your walk needs to engage them mentally and physically. Holding your dog on a tight leash and briskly walking down the sidewalk may physically wear them down, but it won’t do much to stimulate them. Which means they will need a lot more walking to get to a point where they are actually tired.

Instead, let your dog have their entire leash so that they can check out the sights and smells around them as you walk. If they stop to sniff something, let them! Smelling markers left by other dogs and wildlife is hugely stimulating for these olfactory-minded animals.

You may not get as far as fast, but your dog will actually be more exhausted by the time you make it home.

Each time you go out, try to take a different walking route to introduce your dog to new smells and sights. Or better yet, ditch the neighborhood walk and take your pup on a hike through the local forest or wildlands reserve. The uneven terrain and plethora of new sights, sounds, and smells will leave you with an exhausted pooch.

pic 6 dog off leash
One of the single best activities for your dog is an off-leash hike through nature. Being untethered allows them to engage in many stimulating natural behaviors like tracking, sniffing, and coursing. If your dog does not have a solid recall, consider using a long-line to keep them safe while still giving them room to explore. 

2. A Run or Bikeride

While mentally engaging activities are a must for our pups, the occasional high-octane physical activity can be great too, especially if you have a dog like a husky or dalmatian that was bred to move long distances.

Make sure you start with shorter runs or bike rides until your dog is used to the process and has built up some stamina.

These kinds of high-energy activities work well for tiring a young dog out before crating, but make sure to give them at least 30 minutes to calm down before you pen them up. If you lock them up while they are still amped up from the exercise, they may become anxious rather than sleepy.

3. Doggy Socialization

Nothing is more physically and mentally stimulating for your pup than wrestling around with a group of other like-minded hounds.

Dog parks are a great choice for sociable pups and for owners who have some extra time to spend standing around with other owners, just make sure you are always watching your dog and intervening if play gets too rough.

For owners of sociable pups who don’t have extra time, doggy daycares can be a great option. These facilities provide care for your pup while you are at work and give them a great outlet for all that energy. They are an especially good choice for dogs who need more than three hours of activity per day.

If your dog isn’t a social butterfly but enjoys the occasional romp with another dog, find a friend with a well-socialized dog and set up a playdate at the park or in your backyard.

pic 7 dogs playingDogs are social creatures who absolutely love to play. Allowing your dog time to wrestle around with other canines will not only help tire them out but will help them to be better socialized around different types of dogs and in different situations. 

4. Training

When we think of exercising our dogs, we generally think of physical activities but did you know exercising your dog’s mental muscles can actually be more effective in tiring them out?

For dogs, ten minutes of training or mental work is equal to 30 minutes of physical activity. That makes training a great exercise for days when you are short on time.

Obedience training–such as teaching your pup to sit, down, roll over, or heel–will engage their mind, improve their behavior, and tire them out all at the same time.

Training that requires a physical element, like agility, rally, and other doggy sports, can be doubly effective in taming an anxious or overactive pup. While these exercises often require joining a team or club, you can easily do mock training in your own backyard and still reap many of the same benefits.

There’s really no shortage of training options out there. Nose work, trick training, scent trails, barn hunts, and other activities all require a lot of mental stamina and some physical elements as well and work great for exercising an unruly hound.

5. Mental Enrichment

Beyond training, there are mental exercises you can do for your dog that aren’t so owner intensive.

Treat balls, puzzle toys, even simply hiding treats around the house are all great ways to engage your dog’s mind without having to necessarily be present yourself.

While these types of games will never take away the need to physically exercise your dog, they can be a great way to keep your dog active while you are away. If you have a pup that spends the day in the crate, try tossing in a pre-filled treat ball before you go. Depending on how good your pup is at extracting the treats, you can easily get in an additional 30 minutes of doggy exercise while you aren’t even there.

Mealtime is another great time to take advantage of these types of games and toys. If you are going to feed your pup anyway, why not turn their meal into a stimulating game of five-hundred-kibble pick up off the kitchen floor? Or you can stuff their wet food into a Kong and freeze it. These tricks are especially good for dogs who might gain too much weight if these games were played with added treats instead of their normal kibble.

pic 8 sleeping dogThere’s no more peaceful sight than a happy, sleeping pup. It may take a lot of work, but getting your dog all the exercise they need won’t just help tire them out, it can go a long way to improving their behavior and helping them live a longer, happier life. 

In the end, the best way to meet your dog’s daily exercise requirements is to engage them in as many different types of activities as possible. While this may take a little extra effort on your part, it will pay off in the end, with a healthier, better-behaved pooch.

canva image how much exercise do dogs need