The answer to this frequently asked question is remarkably subjective. Exercise is fun and espouses a healthy lifestyle on several fronts. Benefits to a well exercised pup include: improved obedience training, restful sleep, and an increased likelihood that your shoes, furniture, walls, and flooring will not be clawed or gnawed to itty bits.
I like to break this down using activity level and breed type (small, giant, flat-nosed, active, and GIZMO). Age is also a determining factor, and I’ll address that as we go. What is a Gizmo? I think you already know, but I’ll cover that towards the end.
Lower Activity Levels
Small breeds, giant breeds, and flat-nosed breeds (brachycephalic) are the dogs for you if you prefer to only enjoy two half-hour ventures each day. Puppies may require up to an additional half-hour each day.
High Activity Levels
Active dogs are a challenge to tire out when you have a busy schedule. Labs, shepherds, hounds, terriers, or mixes are usually active breeds. These guys need up to 2 hours of activity each day. Think about what fits your schedule and budget as you chew over these action items:
Doggie Day Care: This affords hours of on-demand playtime and constant mental stimulation. It is a splendid option, and the most expensive. Budgeting around $25/day at 3x per week adds up to $330 per month or $4,000 per year. Sure, you could have bought a car, but a car doesn’t love you.
The Dog Park: A great place to let them run wide open, and you’ll meet other owners. Finding dogs with a similar energy profile to your dog is very useful. Parks have peak times and a wide range of dog (and owner) personalities and are open 14-24 hours a day. Dog parks are a little scary at first, but what isn’t?
PRO TIP – If things seem too slow in the dog park, grab the leash like you want to go. Your dog will sprint around the park in protest (they are willful creatures). You may get away with this twice but try it again and they’ll glare at you with contempt and derision for insulting their intelligence.
Playdates: Puppy playtime with friends is extraordinarily fun, and cheap, but more difficult to schedule. You can meet up with your favorite dog park friend at a park, yard, or wherever. Even living rooms on rainy days will work in a pinch (Note – guest dogs WILL pee on your Christmas tree)!
Dog Walkers: If doggie day care pickup and drop-off hours won’t work for you, dog walkers are an excellent option. Some even offer to take your dog for a run or to the dog park. The cost will be comparable to doggie day care, especially if they visit 2x per day.
Swimming: This optimal activity shortens the “2 hours a day” rule to 30-45 minutes. Finding a good swimming hole may be a challenge, however. In my town, lakes are in parks where off-leash pursuits are prohibited. Dog pools exist in some locales but tend to be more expensive than doggie day care.
Get another dog! This works. I’ve seen it happen. Sure, you are doubling your vet, food, and boarding bills but it’s twice the love and home security. Having a fenced-in yard improves the feasibility of this option substantially.
A Gizmo dog can, and will, run wild for 3-6 hours a day. In 10 years of pet sitting, I’ve looked after 3 Gizmo-esque dogs (out of 400 total clients). If you have one of these lovable and interminable beasts, doggie day camp is the way to go. Gizmos can be nearly any type of breed, and any age. The “real” Gizmo is shown in the feature photo for today. From a pet sitter’s perspective, Gizmos are great because they tire everybody out. Owners would pick up their dog some days and say, “Oh good, she’s been Gizmoed.”
As far as the age index. The fanatical period is often over within 2 years. The zoomies may last until age 3-5, you just don’t know. I recommend praying. After that, perform regular walks, and senior dogs only need two half-hour walks each day.
I’ve been asked a lot about whether it’s possible to “over-condition” your dog. Owners have expressed concern that doggie day care will acclimatize their dog to some level of Olympian renown. I have never seen this happen. When they tire out, they will plop down and chill.
SPECIAL NOTE – Take care with dogs that are bedeviled by chuck-it ball-fetching. You CAN overheat these guys. Give them breaks. Take care with laser pointers as well, dogs lose their mind and may run into trees, fences, or people.
Other things to try:
-Mix it up. Dogs LOVE new places.
-Play hide and seek with your dog.
-Toys, puzzles, hollow Kongs, Frosty Paws, treats, and more treats!
-Dance with your dog and sing “Peanut butter jelly time!”