How Much Exercise Does a Dog Need to Burn 211 Calories?

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The Washington Post recently reported on an interesting study in the American Journal of Public Health which suggests that showing people the amount of exercise they would need to perform to burn off a sweetened beverage is more effective in curtailing consumption than is displaying that drink’s calories alone.  
caloriesFor example, showing a message that you would have to walk 5 miles to burn of the calories in a bottle of soda led to a better, lower calorie beverage choice than a message containing the calorie count. This makes sense to me because although we are all familiar with the calorie unit of measure, we aren’t as familiar with how that translates to the required work (exercise) needed to burn a calorie.   And because people are the ones that are responsible for feeding their pets, the same approach might help pet owners understand the importance of proper portion control.


In order to help pet owners make better feeding choices, SlimDoggy will publish a series of posts that translate calories in specific dog foods and treats to randomly chosen exercises and the activity duration needed to burn those calories. It should make for an informative and fun analysis and hopefully do some good at the same time.


For the first in this series, we will use the Acana Pacifica recipe and translate a standard serving into an exercise duration. Acana Pacifica is a dry recipe that has 421 kcals (calories) per 8 ounce cup. Note that even in the likely case that Acana Pacifica is not your current dog food of choice, the analysis still useful. You can make similar inferences from foods that have calorie densities similar to the Pacifica recipe.


My Dog has to Swim for How Long to Burn those Calories?

For our analysis, we will assume a normally healthy adult dog with no special conditions. We will look at the impact of serving this dog an extra ½ cup of food per week, which translates to just over 1 tablespoon per day.

Pet Information

Pet Age: Adult

Pet Weight (lbs): 30

Activity: Swimming, moderate intensity


   Activity   Kcals per 1/2 cup Total Minutes of Activity to Burn Kcals Total Minutes of Activity if Overfed for a Full Year Annual Weight Gain if Overfed for a Full Year  % Weight Gain per Year
Swimming (moderate) 211 106.5 5,538 3.1 10.42%


As shown in the Table, a 30 lb. dog would need to swim for almost 107 minutes to burn 211 kcals, the number of kcals in ½ cup of Acana Pacifica dog food. That is a lot of time in the pool!


Overfeeding your Dog will Add Up

For the real shocker, let’s look at the impact of overfeeding by only ½ cup per week on this dog. First of all, ½ cup per week is the equivalent of 1.1 tablespoons per day. Certainly not a lot in absolute terms, and a measurement ‘error’ that could easily occur by free pouring. But it does add up.

If this hypothetical dog was overfed by ½ cup per week, over the course of an entire year, the dog would have to swim a total of over 5,500 minutes (or just over 92 hours) to burn those calories off. And if they didn’t, this dog would gain over 3 lbs, or 10% of their body weight just from overeating by 1.1 tablespoons per day. No wonder we have a pet obesity problem.


So you make the call. Would you rather over feed your dog and have to spend 92 hours in the pool with them lest they get fat? Or cut back to the proper amount to keep them at a healthy weight?


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  1. This is such an awesome post! I shared it!

  2. I think this is a great way to look at overfeeding. But I think a better start would be to teach people what their dog’s body burns just to live. For example, I’m a 5’3″ and 140lb woman. Just to live, my body consumes approximately 1500 calories. On an average day at the office, I do limited walking with just “around the house” type of exercise I burn about 1800 calories. Therefore, I know how many calories I need to eat if I want to lose, maintain or gain weight.

    As per owners, I think many of us don’t have an understanding of how many calories our dogs need to consume in the first place. Then we would know whether or not we were overfeeding our dogs.

    • Thanks for the comment.

      We have written many articles in the past about the calories burned while exercising compared to basic metabolic functions. For most normal dogs, exercise will only burn 5-10 % of their total daily calories burned. More active dogs can burn more.

      The point of today’s post is to get people to think about the exercise ‘costs’ of overfeeding and show that even a little bit of overfeeding, if persistent, can have a lot of impact on the pet’s weight.
      steve recently posted…How Much Exercise Does a Dog Need to Burn 211 Calories?My Profile

      • Ah! I’m new to your site and haven’t gone through the archives yet. Thank you!

  3. That is a good angle to look at it from. I bet it will hit some humans and they might think twice before feeding their pet more!
    Emma recently posted…Fall Leaves With The FamilyMy Profile

  4. This is going to be a very interesting series. I am glad that you highlighted that ongoing, minimal overfeeding, can lead to some significant weight gain. This is true with people and animals. It is something that just kind of creeps up on you until one day your pants don’t fit anymore….oh, that about me, not my dogs.
    Mark at DBDT recently posted…Steeler climbs Worcester MountainMy Profile

    • It does just creep up. For dogs and for humans. At least us humans have those pants to give us an indication that things have gotten out of hand. Our pets don’t have such a barometer.
      steve recently posted…How Much Exercise Does a Dog Need to Burn 211 Calories?My Profile

  5. Hi Y’all!

    Wish you hadn’t written this one. You know what it means don’t you? Especially since the vet supervises every little change in my diet…It means “she’s” gonna cut back my rations even more! “She’s” talkin’ to Papa about asking the vet about some treats that 2browndawgs reviewed ’cause they are only 3 cal. and she’d know exactly how many she could give me. That means NO MORE home baked treats!!! YOU”RE RUININ’ a good thing!

    Y’all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog
    Hawk aka BrownDog recently posted…Active DayMy Profile

    • Sorry about that Hawk. But just think, if you cut back a few treats a day, you could live a lot longer which means you will actually end up eating MORE food, not less, over your life time!
      steve recently posted…How Much Exercise Does a Dog Need to Burn 211 Calories?My Profile

  6. I love this new series. Since Delilah’s pinched nerve incident they’ve both lost almost 30 pounds and I did that by switching their food to raw. At first the weight came off slowly, because the woman who was guiding me failed to tell me about weighing their food. Once we figured that out and I became meticulous about weighing, the weight came off so easily.

    Is there a way to find out how much your dog should eat if you are feeding kibbles? With raw it’s 3% of their body weight (and we based that on what we wanted them to weigh.)
    Jodi recently posted…Follow-Up Friday – October 24, 2014My Profile

    • The 3% of body weight rule for raw is a guideline only. Different foods have different caloric densities so you have to be careful applying that rule without discretion.

      With kibble, (or wet food for that matter), the same holds true. Different foods have different calorie amounts per serving. So while one food like Acana has 221 kcals per 1/2 cup, another food might have 160 or 260 per 1/2 cup. Obviously, you would need to adjust portions accordingly.

      Best way to deal with kibble and wet? Look up the calories in our database and use our app or web tools to estimate a daily calorie requirement.
      steve recently posted…How Much Exercise Does a Dog Need to Burn 211 Calories?My Profile

  7. I have a scooper which measures Harley’s food and I use it religiously! I’m realizing he’s also happier with a smaller food treat accompanied by tons of hugs, kisses, and belly rubs from me. I am so cautious about food and treat intake, I drive my family nuts. If he even looks at them for something(nutrias or not) they all say “you better go ask your momma!” Great post, looking forward to the series.

  8. Excellent post! I will be sharing!
    Rama’s Mama recently posted…Trio-Hop Thursday–A Look BackMy Profile

  9. As always thanks for the informative post SlimDoggy!

  10. Very good information, I think it works more for mom than me! Love Dolly
    Dolly the Doxie recently posted…Bunker Hill Walk No. 3 via Caldwell WoodsMy Profile

  11. Very good way to reframe the issue which helps us all realize how much better it is to solve the problem before it starts.

  12. I love this new series! Great for pet parents to see how they could be over feeding or not exercising enough.

  13. Oh wow! This is great info guys 🙂
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
    Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady recently posted…Siberian Husky meets Bob MarleyMy Profile

  14. I’ve heard about this study just last week I believe! I love that this study has come out, I’m hoping that it becomes readily adopted and helps people (and in return pets) to maintain healthy active lifestyles!

    It’s such and easily understood format, that even people who know nothing (or at least very little) about how to translate diet and nutrition information (hey I admit it can be confusing depending on the terminology each brand uses) can use it effectively!
    Victoria Carter recently posted…Why do People Like to Share Horror Stories About Dogs and Babies?My Profile

  15. Wow! That’s crazy! Thanks for sharing. We may want to report an example on our BFTB NETWoof news.
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…Doggie Baggage, Abound, and BraceletsMy Profile

  16. considering my dog would never swim, he hates water, we would be in big trouble! Good thing I feed him healthy portions. Great info! Showing how much exercise is needed is definitely much more effective for me personally than a calorie count.

    • We are planning on rotating though different exercises and intensities. Kind of chose swimming as a starting point because we don’t really give it as much credit as it deserves as far as being a great canine exercise.

      For your information, this 30 lb. dog would need 295 minutes or almost 5 hours of slow walking (~ 2.5 MPH) to burn those extra 221 calories. Over the course of the year, assuming over feeding by 1/2 cup per week, the dog would need to walk for over 15,000 minutes. That’s about 255 hours of walking over the year.
      steve recently posted…How Much Exercise Does a Dog Need to Burn 211 Calories?My Profile

  17. PAWSOME post SlimDoggy!!

  18. While I think Mr. N would appreciate an additional 92 hours of exercise, it’s certainly easier to just not overfeed dogs!

  19. Pretty amazing how much it takes to burn off so little (this really pertains to ME!). We have to “overfeed” Mort to keep his weight on – his recommended food/weight ratio resulted in hip bones poking out (and yep, this is “judged” by other owners as “horrendous”)… pretty active little guy. But it really showed us first hand that fine balance between meal amounts and level of exercise, and how quickly it can go either way on the scale.
    Jen recently posted…When safe and natural pet products aren’t: What’s really going into your dog, anyway?My Profile

    • I think the hardest part about weight change- either gain or loss- is that it happens insidiously. The eye doesn’t notice the small changes in the body that occur each week, until a few months later, you might have a problem.
      steve recently posted…How Much Exercise Does a Dog Need to Burn 211 Calories?My Profile

  20. I saw this study too. It’s an interesting way to look at things, and your analysis is a good way to help folks know what overfeeding can do. For me, I’d rather keep the calorie counts on labels!
    Diane recently posted…Get Ready to #TreatRight at Twitter Party 10/26!My Profile

  21. An awesome example!!!! Our Shyla recently gained a couple of lbs, and I was scratching my head about where they came from. I guess it doesn’t take much!

    It is a great way to do it. At one point in my life, I had to take meds for a year whose side effect was severe weight gain. I gained 70 lbs (I’m 5’2″). It took me an entire year to lose it after I stopped the meds but I became very familiar with “how many minutes of exercise would be required to burn off a certain food”.

    BTW, at that time, I found a bunch of scientific papers that showed elevated metabolic rate for hours after exercise so I started exercising at least 2X per day so I’d have an elevated rate of calorie burning for more hours of the day.

    Great post!
    KB recently posted…Mountain Lion Mother-Kitten AdventuresMy Profile

    • That is some weight change journey you traveled. Congrats for the results.

      Some of the recent research talks about EPOC, which is post exercise oxygen consumption. This EPOC theory suggests that higher intensity training will lead to several hours of post exercise metabolism boost and therefore calorie burn.
      steve recently posted…How Much Exercise Does a Dog Need to Burn 211 Calories?My Profile

  22. This is why my dogs are always on the lean side and I am not. I am so good at controlling their portions and getting them (often too much) exercise… while out for a ten mile walk that they have no treats on, I always stop for a latte!
    Bethany recently posted…The Fall Seasons Obstacle Course Of Fit Dog DangersMy Profile

  23. That is a lot of swimming. I guess the brown dawgs are glad they are not 30 pound dogs… At least they get a few more calories since they are bigger dogs. Hawk makes a good point and I guess it is one of the main reasons we stick to kibble and healthy store made treats (rather than home made). It is a lot easier for us to monitor portion size and calories. Weight is something we keep track of constantly.
    2 brown dawgs recently posted…Senior Play DateMy Profile

  24. Great post. Indulging your dog too much will harm his health just as indulging ourselves harms our health.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Cathy, Isis & Phoebe
    Dogs Luv Us and we Luv Them
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  25. Wow! That’s an impressive amount of swimming for that extra half-cup. I guess it’s a good thing we keep Sage fit and don’t overfeed her!

  26. I think that’s an excellent angle to look at it from – it can seem somewhat meaningless if you just look at numbers. But actually having to realize how large those numbers are and how hard it is to burn them off is a real motivator.
    Jen Gabbard recently posted…7 Tips for Cleaning up Dog Hair EfficientlyMy Profile

  27. Those are scary statistics!
    Misaki recently posted…Sword dancing reminderMy Profile

  28. If they are overweight they should sign up for Justins guide service as a pick up dog, John said Gambler lost 5# from hunting with him, I will find out today when I finally get to see him after 10 days.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Wordless Wednesday~My New Fur FriendMy Profile

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