The days are getting shorter and wetter. Walking the dog is a lot less fun when you get soaked by lashing rain or – even worse – by cars driving through puddles. It’s very tempting to just skip that outing some days, until you look into those big brown eyes flicking between you and the front door. But just how much walking do dogs need in winter? Is it bad to take them for shorter walks? What about during spells of severe weather?
Like most questions about dogs, the answer depends on the individual dog. If you have a young Collie or German Shepherd, it would be wise to invest in some quality rain gear for you and your best friend. But if you have a mature Maltese and a secure garden, you can opt out some days. But many of our pets fall somewhere in the middle. How can you tell if your dog is getting enough exercise?
Calculating How Much Exercise Your Dog Needs
One 15 minute walk a day is really the minimum for any healthy dog. Some high-energy dogs need an hour or more of walking daily. Most family pets can thrive on 20 to 40 minutes a day. To determine how much exercise your individual dog needs to stay in optimal health, you have consider these factors:
- Breed/ Type: Size isn’t the most important factor here. Many larger breeds such as Irish Wolfhounds are on the lazy side. Consider what your dog’s ancestors were bred to do. This applies to mixed breeds, although it can be harder to tell exactly what breeds are in the mix. Working breeds and terriers tend to be high energy dogs who need a lot of exercise, even if they are small. Lapdogs such as Pugs and Pekingese have been lounging by our sides for so many generations, they tend to need less exercise.
- Age: Like us, dogs slow down with age. But also like us, they will get out of shape and decline if they don’t get adequate exercise. Your eight year old dog needs shorter and slower walks then they did at two, and they might need a supplement to support their joint health, but don’t skip your daily walks unless the weather is really extreme.
- Fitness: If your dog is gaining weight, that’s a sign you need to walk them more. Increase their walks gradually. It’s dangerous to push an out-of-shape dog too hard. (Also, talk to your vet about low calorie treats or foods like Leader Slimline to help control your dog’s weight.)
- Boredom: If your dog is chewing things, digging and barking at every noise, they might be bored and need more outings. Walks offer your dog more than physical exercise. Sniffing around the neighbourhood is the canine equivalent of social media. New smells and sights keep your dog’s mind engaged.
It might take some creativity to ensure your dog gets enough exercise every day. If it is hard to find a solid 30 or 40 minute block of time, try two shorter walks. Finding walking buddies can help keep you motivated while also providing a chance to socialise your dog. And on those days when severe weather makes it genuinely unsafe to walk, having a variety of dog toys can help them get some exercise and entertainment inside by playing fetch or tug-of-war with you.