Things People Don’t Know About Canine Fitness Part 1

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I recently started a series on the top things that people don’t know about dog food (part 1 and part 2 are here).  Which made me think that a similar type of format would also work for canine fitness.  After all, as readers of this blog will know, exercising with a dog can be so much more than just going for a walk, and the way a dog’s body will react and adapt to exercise is fascinating (to me at least).  Each article in this series will present two items, in no particular order, and will last about 5 weeks.  So with that said, here are the first two things that most people don’t know about canine fitness.

Dogs Can Not Out Exercise a Bad Diet

Like it is with people, dogs who are fed too much will find it difficult to keep lean, even if the dog is exercised a lot. Many pet parents tend to overestimate the amount of calories their dog burns from exercise each day, which can lead to over feeding and over treating.


A typical dog that is moderately active (up to 1 hour a day of mostly low intensity exercise like walking), will burn only 10-15% of its total daily calories through exercise. The vast majority of their daily calorie burn is from supporting the basic metabolic processes that the body needs to survive (e.g. breathing, digestion, cellular function). Even very active dogs will find it hard to burn more than 30% of their total daily calories with exercise.  While consistent exercise is vitally important for a dog’s health and weight in the long run, exercise without an eye on diet, will often be insufficient.


For reference, the table below shows daily calorie expenditures due to basal metabolism and 1 hour of moderately intense exercise for dogs of different sizes.


Dog Weight  (lbs.) Basal Calories Exercise Calories Total Calories
25 555 85 640
50 935 140 1,075
75 1,270 190 1,460


This is not meant to suggest that exercise is a waste of time.  Regular, vigorous (as intense as can be handled given a dog’s age and medical conditions) exercise is vital to having a healthy dog and in the long run, those extra calories burned through exercise can make a huge difference in a dog’s weight.  However, as the data shows, exercise without a proper feeding plan, can easily fall short when it comes to keeping a dog at their optimal weight.


Dogs Will Benefit from a Mix of Strength and Endurance Exercise

Again, similar to fit humans, a fit dog will have a combination of strength and endurance capabilities and they should be trained to improve both strength and endurance in a balanced fashion.  Many people think that exercising a dog means simply walking them or playing fetch or something similar. And these activities are great for building a dog’s stamina.  However, a dog can really benefit from strength training as well, which can help to keep their muscles strong and supportive of their internal organs and bones and reduce injury risk when they are active.  I have written about many different types of canine strength exercises in the past.  These include hill training, weighted vests, the crawl, the high five, and tugging to name a few.


Keep these strength exercises in mind when you plan out your dog’s fitness plan and mix up their routine so it includes both strength and endurance activities.

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  1. We like to walk – ride our bike – play tug. Hopefully once the weather gets a little warmer we can incorporate fun exercise at the beach in the mornings. When weather doesn’t permit – there’s a whole lot of romps going on in the house #hilarious. I I plan to discuss strength and endurance exercise with Jaxson’s vet next week. He’s got his first annual physical and I want to know about certain things and his age. Want to make sure I’m not risking injury later on because I abused his young bones. Just wanna be safe. Looking forward to the series. Have a great weekend.

  2. We go for daily backpack walks (still need to get that K9 weight vest you’ve mentioned before) and play fetch. We also play tug & incorporate a variety of core strength exercises such as the “sit pretty” and “paws up”: either standing on rear legs with support or without – Buzz is getting really good at the latter; every now & then he’ll start to hop, too , which makes him look like a K9 kangaroo!!)
    Barbara Rivers recently posted…How To Take Control Of Your Dog’s ObesityMy Profile

  3. That is pretty interesting. It all goes back to the lifestyle. A healthy lifestyle with a good diet and proper physical and mental exercise is key.
    Emma recently posted…Exterior Nose Work SearchesMy Profile

  4. I’m just wondering…….. will the weight vest put visible muscle on my Labrador, and if so, where? Presently he runs about 6 miles daily so he has a lot of lean muscle, but I’m curious as to if he would put on bulkier muscle with weights – or if his body type and present exercise routine simply would not support it. TY!

  5. Love that photo of the pug. It’s how I picture Kilo if he were to pump iron. Having a healthy lifestyle is key, Kilo loves to play games such as chase and tug so I use that to make training fun. We also walk a lot too which helps slim him down quickly.
    Good reference chart too for feeding.

  6. The boys love their walks and we have two pretty good inclines that we tackle which is great for all of us. We also enjoy tug and chase.
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…Once Upon a Time on the Bayou ~ A Fairy TaleMy Profile

  7. does it count that last night the dogs were running amuck for 1.5 hrs but then came home with deer parts so they probably ate what they burned off. urgh, viscous cycle.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Rally Obedience With JoseyMy Profile

  8. I think we need to add more strength exercises. We’re working on the crawl now.

  9. So much like us with not being able to out exercise a bad diet and benefit from strength and cardio!!
    Julie recently posted…Snow DayMy Profile

  10. Absolutely! Strength, endurance and a good diet are important for both pups and people!
    Diane recently posted…Leap into Leap Day With These Fun Fitness Tips for You and Your DogMy Profile

  11. I’m grateful that Sam loves our walks (and so does my own waistline) and is ‘selective’ at how much he eats at mealtimes. If only I had his discipline when it comes to snacks. 😉

  12. After re-tearing her cruciate (partially) Sydney is now receiving acupuncture 2x a month and she’s on a new diet and exercise regime and it’s working. One thing I’ve taken from past SlimDoggy posts is a way to strengthen her rear legs. Not only does she walk with me on inclines on our property, I’ve been having her stand with her front paws on our ottoman.

    At first, she needed help, now she can hold this stand for a while and it’s impressive.

    The trick for me has been to learn what she can and cannot do so that we don’t over do it. But she’s doing great. Thanks for sharing this information with us.

  13. Thanks SlimDog! My huMom & I know the importance of a well balanced diet & exercise. Exercise is not only important for my physical well being but also for my mental well being. So often people will think that focusing on just one will be enough but we know this is not true. Looking forward to reading Part 2.
    CEO Olivia
    CEO Olivia recently posted…Epi-Warrior BaxterMy Profile

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