How Much Exercise does a Dog Need?
One of the most common questions I hear is “how much exercise does a dog need?” My first reaction to this is normally “more than you are providing them”! Although I am kidding (sort of), the fact is that most people don’t have any idea how much exercise their dog really does need. One way to determine the proper amount of exercise is to rely on the Waltham Center research on canine metabolism.
The Waltham Center for Pet Nutrition is a companion animal research facility that according to their website is “a leading scientific authority in pet nutrition and well being and has been advancing the frontiers of scientific research into nutrition and health of pets for over 50 years.” The Waltham Center is owned by Mars Pet Care, manufacturer of many pet food Brands including Nutro and Royal Canin, to name a few. Although I am not always thrilled by the Mars line of foods, I am extremely impressed by the research that comes out of the Waltham Center. One of the more useful sets of research from Waltham is the work they have done on pet energy requirements. Specifically, Waltham has published a (rather simple) model on daily canine calorie requirements based on a pet’s activity levels. It is this research that can provide us with a guide to determining how much exercise a normal dog needs each day.
Waltham Center Activity Classifications for Dogs
Before we begin, take a moment to think about how active your dog is. Which of the 4 classifications below, which are the standard Waltham classifications, would you use to describe your dog’s activity level?
- Highly Active
Now let’s look at how Waltham defines each of these.
|Waltham Center Canine Activity Classifications|
|Classification||Avg. Daily Activity Time||Avg. Activity Intensity|
|Inactive/Senior||< 3 hours||Low|
|Normal||< 3 hours||Mainly low|
|Active||1-3 hours per day||Mainly high|
|Highly Active||3-6 hours per day||Mainly high|
The table provides an interesting perspective on how much exercise a dog needs each day, as well as a wakeup call to many pet owners who think their dog is very active. Let me explain. A pet that walks up to 3 hours per day is considered “only” normal (not active!), while an active dog would get 1-3 hours of mostly intense exercise, like running.
How Much Exercise does a Dog Need Each Day?
To answer this question, we can use the midpoint the normal classification as the baseline, which turns out to be a minimum of 1 ½ hours of low intensity exercise per day. While I don’t know the reasoning behind the Waltham classifications, I would assume that their definitions are based on years of observations and can be used as reliable guides for most normally healthy dogs. Indeed, dogs are meant to be active and are well suited for endurance activities. This is contrary to many pet owners belief’s that their dog is lazy or a couch potato.
So, how does your dog rate using the Waltham definitions? Are you really providing them with enough exercise?