Is My Dog Getting Too Much Exercise?
Every week, I invite Voyce blog readers to submit any questions or comments they have about health or behavioral concerns. Because of the great response, each month I address at least one question in more detail.
If you have a question or topic you’d like me to cover, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have a 7-year-old, slightly overweight Shih Tzu who loves to walk so much I have to make her go home after about 5 miles. I worry because I know Shih Tzus tend to overdo things, but she just seems so happy walking endlessly. How do owners really know if they are working their dog too much?
Exercise. It’s as important for our dogs as it is for us. But many dogs, like many humans, don’t get enough. This definitely isn’t the case with your dog, but you raise a good point. How much exercise is enough and is there such a thing as too much?
The answer to both comes down to many variables, including age, size, health and breed. The general guideline is that most dogs should get at least 30 minutes of activity a day. For senior dogs, that might mean a slow walk around the block. For more energetic pups, it might call for a brisk walk or run followed by a game of fetch.
Of course, there are certain breeds – especially sporting and working dogs – who require up to two hours of hard exercise each day. Dogs such as Australian Cattle Dogs, Jack Russell Terriers, Pointers and Weimaraners have been bred to have enough stamina to work or hunt all day. So, clearly, they need more activity than many other types of dogs. On the other end of the spectrum, there are breeds who are less exercise-tolerant, and whose activity level needs to be monitored closely to ensure they don’t overdo it. This is especially true for dogs with short muzzles like Boston Terriers, English Bulldogs and Pugs.
However, as you’ve discovered first hand, breed and size isn’t the only determining factor in how much activity any given dog needs or wants. Every pup is an individual. Just as there are certain people who can seemingly go-go-go without getting tired, there are some dogs who are capable of the same thing. Often it comes down to fitness level, energy level and the personality of your pup.
Which brings us back to your main question: How do you know if you’re working your dog too much?
The key is to know your dog and knowing her limits. You mentioned she seems very happy walking up to five miles (or more, if you’d let her). As long as she appears to be enjoying herself and isn’t showing any indications of stress, she’s probably just fine. But it’s time to end the walk if you observe any of these warning signs:
- Limping or lameness
- A reluctance to keep going
- Excessive panting
- Extreme thirst
- Whining or anxious looks and behavior
- Appearing lethargic
- Sleeping more than normal after exercise
In addition, be careful about exercising your dog for long periods of time in hot and/or humid weather. This can quickly lead to heat exhaustion. Try to schedule walks during the coolest part of the day and when air quality levels are good. And always be sure to take plenty of water.
If you’d like to try walking longer with your dog, gradually increase the distance and carefully observe her behavior. This goes for any pup parent, whether they already walk several miles a day or are just starting out.
If you’re still unsure, for a larger dog, I would recommend the Voyce Health Monitor since it's a great tool to give you data-driven insight into how your dog is really feeling about her walks. Fortunately the folks at Voyce are working very hard to be able to offer this technology to smaller dogs like yours and by the end of 2016, we expect it will be ready. So be sure to stayed tuned for that. By tracking health trends like respiratory rate, heart rate, distance traveled, and quality of rest, it becomes easy to tell whether you’re overdoing it or if it’s okay to go the extra mile!
I’d like to hear from you! If you have questions you’d like me to address on this blog regarding pet health or behavior, send an email email@example.com.I