Big Dog – Small Dog Fitness

Share Button

Today we are doing another shared topic with our friend Carol Bryant over at Fidose of Reality. I’m sure most of you are familiar with Carol and her dog Dexter, a very cool Cocker Spaniel. We’ve shared posts in the past on the dog IQ test from Dognition where we tested our dogs and then compared our results and we wrote about Emergency Preparedness for our different locales – east coast and west coast.


The topic for today: the difference between big dog and small dog exercise choices. Since SlimDoggy Jack is ‘big’ and Carol’s dog Dex is, well not little, but smaller than Jack, we thought it would be interesting to look at different exercise options available to dogs of varying sizes. Do they need to be different for different size dogs? For the most part, the answer is no, although there are some exceptions. You can read Carol’s take on the Big Dog – Little Dog Exercises here.






Jack stands about 28 inches tall – that’s from the top of his head to his paws and he weighs about 83lbs. Dexter stands 20 inches tall and weighs in at 35lbs, which would be considered a medium sized dog. (Most definitions that we have seen for a small dog is one that weighs less than 22lbs and is shorter than 16 inches tall). By weight, Jack is more than twice the size of Dex and almost twice as tall. Yet, these dogs could both thrive on similar exercise routines.
Key differences in Large and Small Dogs
When building an exercise program for a dog, one of the key questions is how does size factor into the types of exercise and the durations and intensities of the exercises that become part of the fitness program. Here are some key points to consider:
Smaller dogs with smaller legs would normally require shorter distances on walks and jogs, just based on their stride length.  Very large dogs, such as the Great Dane or Newfoundland, would be less suited for endurance drills and would normally not fare well on longer runs or walks.
Other than that, there should be no reason why a big dog’s exercise would have to differ markedly from that of a little dog’s.
More important than the difference in size is the breed and age of the dog as well as its unique health and injury history.
Large group of dogs
Breed Examples
The physical characteristics of a breed can influence the type of activities that a dog is suited for. Some examples include:
Breeds with short or flat noses, like the English Bulldog or Pug, can have trouble breathing when exercised vigorously. For this reason, these breeds are more suited for lower intensity programs.
Greyhounds and whippets are built for short-distance sprinting, not long-distance runs.
Dogs with short legs compared to their spine length, like the Dachshund, are more susceptible to back problems. Avoid jumping activities and keep their weight down to ensure that their spine is safe.
Dog Age
As with humans, as a dog ages, their ability to recover from exercise is reduced. For this reason, most senior dogs, big or small, should exercise less, and less intensely, than when they were younger. Furthermore, senior dogs require more time to warmup properly than when they were younger. This is not to suggest that your senior dog should be a couch potato! Rather, it is smart to cut back on their fitness routines (and also cut back on their food) as they age to make sure that they are able to remain active throughout their entire life.

Jack is a senior, but still needs core strength.

Jack is a senior, but still needs core strength.


Medical History
Every pet owner should check with a veterinarian before starting or changing an exercise program. Hopefully the vet has an accurate history of the dog’s health, injuries, and weight and can provide you with an overall structure for your dog’s fitness routine. Orthopedic issues, like ACL tears for example, will put obvious limitations on the types of exercises your dog can perform, at least until they are healed.
A dog’s overall fitness level, no matter their size, can also be an important factor in choosing a fitness routine. If a dog has been a couch potato, start slowly with small and low intensity session (e.g. slow, short walks) and build up their fitness over time.
The bottom line is that whether your dog is big, small, or in between, they all need adequate amounts of exercise- exercise that raises their heart rate and engages the muscles. Keeping your pet fit with regular exercise and feeding them the proper amount of high quality, healthy food is the key to keeping your dog fit, trim, healthy, and happy. For their entire life.

Share Button
FitDog Friday Please enjoy our FitDog Friday Blog Hop brought to you by SlimDoggy and our co-hosts To Dog with Love and My GBGV Life.   Join the Hop or just enjoy the links below - lots of fun fitness tips and advice!  


  1. Great post! Even the small dogs need exercise but people fail to realize that as they carry them around in their purses. Have a great Friday of fitness.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…FitDog Friday ~ IrondogMy Profile

  2. Dex is so excited to see his pic by Jack. We have learned so much from Slim Doggy and cherish the friendship and relationship we have built with you all. Woofs and thanks!
    Carol Bryant recently posted…Sweat the Small Stuff: Exercise With Your DogMy Profile

  3. I think many humans think small dogs don’t need exercise or can’t exercise as much which is really not true. Now a Yorkie may not be a good jogging partner, but they can put back the miles walking with all other dogs. Flat nosed breeds often have breathing issues, but still need to exercise. Great subject to tackle!
    Emma recently posted…Fit With Friends FunMy Profile

    • You’re right Emma – everyone needs to get some exercise. There’s something for everyone.
      mkob recently posted…Big Dog – Small Dog FitnessMy Profile

  4. Hi Y’all!

    Great post. I’m a big fellow, retriever, and my Human does retriever stuff with me.

    Y’all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

  5. Definitely, ALL dogs — big or small, young or old, fit or not, and even those recovering from illness or injury — need some form of exercise. I was working on a post for today, but had to put it aside yesterday. Maybe I’ll get it done for next week.

    • You’re right – especially those recovering – need to keep their muscles. Hope you join us next week!
      mkob recently posted…Big Dog – Small Dog FitnessMy Profile

  6. I think a lot of people tend to assume that little dogs don’t need much exercise. I know I’ve read a few breed descriptions on Shih Tzu’s and a few other small breeds that mention the only exercise your dog will need can be accomplished from some play indoors. Think about all the other benefits those dogs would be missing out on; experiencing new sights and smells.
    Jen Jelly recently posted…Resource Guarding: Understaning The BehaviorMy Profile

    • A fit and strong dog has a much better chance at being a healthy dog. Indoor play just doesn’t cut it.
      mkob recently posted…Big Dog – Small Dog FitnessMy Profile

  7. Great post! No matter the size, exercise is exercise and a healthy dog is a healthy dog!
    Miley recently posted…An Evening at #RescueTheRunwayMy Profile

  8. Harley fits smack dab in-between Jack and Dex. I never expected him to keep up with Leo, however, I didn’t excuse him from exercise activities either. I wanted him to do what he could, but at his own pace (running, walking, etc…) Leo and Doodle Dad would always be in the lead, while Harley and I pulled up the rear. It worked. Harley (alone) still maintains his pace and distance very well. I could however, work on my speed – BOL Have a great weekend.
    Groovy Goldendoodles recently posted…THE ALS ICE BUCKET CHALLENGEMy Profile

  9. Great post – no matter how long the legs are, all pups need to stretch them out with some good exercise.

  10. I don’t really do anything different with Mr. N than I would with a big dog exercise-wise. Except for biking, I’d bike with him if he was bigger but I worry about accidentally running into him.
    His stride may be shorter but he has absolutely no problem keeping up with Sage on hikes. He can go all day. I don’t think we’ve ever fully tired him out (five hours of hiking is about my max!).
    Tenacious Little Terrier recently posted…FitDog Friday #43 – Dog Push-upsMy Profile

    • He certainly is a terrier isn’t he. I can understand about the biking, I’d be a little worried too.
      mkob recently posted…Big Dog – Small Dog FitnessMy Profile

  11. Good info SlimDoggy!

  12. Great post! Rocco’s a great example of a small dog with big activity dreams! Sport like agility also compensate for size so that any dog can participate. So for Rocco, that means jumping an 8-inch height rather than 26 inches for the largest dogs.
    Diane recently posted…Chicago Dog Walk to Oz ParkMy Profile

    • Rocco is a great example of a small dog who doesn’t let size get in the way of what he wants to do!
      mkob recently posted…Big Dog – Small Dog FitnessMy Profile

  13. Exercise is important for all who want to stay healthy. I specially like the agility groups who work with small breeds, it’s great to watch them:o)
    easy rider recently posted…easyblog TGIFMy Profile

  14. Very good article. We have 1 small dog and she is hairless (for the most part anyway). She requires sunblock, a shorter distance and in cooler temps needs a sweater or jacket. Her endurance is good but she does wear out quicker than the big dogs when it is hot out.
    Rama’s Mama recently posted…Thursday Barks & Bytes & Thoughtless ThursdayMy Profile

  15. I am very careful with Bentley and anything that could injure his spine. We don’t play any jumping games, he doesn’t jump out of the bathtub, not human beds, etc. Hubby built a cool high jump for our Golden, but we put it away when he couldn’t use it anymore. I think we will get it out for Pierre. He loves to jump.
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…Photographs and MemoriesMy Profile

  16. Exercise is key for all dogs! Great post.

  17. Exer=size matters, size does not. 😉

    Wags (and purrs) from Life with Dogs and Cats
    Susan and the gang from Life with Dogs and Cats recently posted…If a dog could sing: Throw it Again (Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall)My Profile

  18. Swimming seems like a particularly good way for small and large dogs to exercise. Water is a great equalizer.
    Pamela recently posted…Do You Look Like Your Dog?My Profile

  19. Cricket is 22 lbs so we consider her small. She and Sheba (67 lbs) are about the same age…both will turn 10 this fall. Differences in their routines are partly because of Sheba’s arthritis. But because of the size difference, we also feel like technically Sheba is older than Cricket by about 8 years. Their activity levels have always been a bit different just because of personality differences as well….Cricket has always had a much higher energy level than Sheba. So I think size comes into play more when they are older, because of the way the different breeds/sizes age.
    Jan K recently posted…Buried TreasureMy Profile

  20. I’ve known quite a few smaller dogs that had more energy than the bigger guys! I have taken a Pomeranian mix biking, for example. But she was probably an exception. Also, I think you’re right when you said it likely takes the little guys less distance to get worn out due to those short, little legs.
    Lindsay recently posted…Starting a business running with dogs – best job ever!My Profile

    • I’m short ( just 5’3) and I know my short little legs wear out faster than folks with longer leges.
      mkob recently posted…Big Dog – Small Dog FitnessMy Profile

  21. Very interesting post!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
    Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady recently posted…Siberian Saturday – A huskies purpose is to work…DeBuNkEd!My Profile

  22. Excellent post. All dogs need exercise, no mater their size. 🙂
    2 brown dawgs recently posted…From The Top Of The HillMy Profile

Comments are now closed on this post.