How to Exercise Your Dog: The Complete Dog Owner’s Guide

Your dog is part of the family, so you obviously want to do what is best for them. From choosing the right food and the highest quality treats, your pup looks to you for the care they need. Part of that care is learning how to exercise your dog.

But do you know how to exercise your dog? What does it mean to exercise your dog? Walks? Fetch? Agility courses? And how much exercise is right for your dog?

As you can see, there are lots of questions to answer. Keep reading to see how to keep Fido or Lady in tip-top shape!

A Labrador dog swimming in a lake. How to exercise your dog.

What Kind of Exercise Does Your Dog Require?


When taking proper care of your furry friend, you need to understand what their breed needs to live a long and healthy life.

When it comes to exercise, different dog breeds require different types of daily physical activity. Exercising your dog in a way that doesn’t match the breed will either under-stimulate them or put them at risk for injury.

Flat Face Dogs

A pug looking at bubbles.

Flat-faced pups like pugs have a lower tolerance to high physical activity because of their breathing constraints. These dogs have smaller airways making breathing more complicated than the average long-snouted dog. In turn, this makes it hard for them to pant to cool down.

You may think you’re doing a good deed by taking them on a long walk, but this type of exercise for flat faced breeds can be quite dangerous. Even worse than heat for these flat-faced dogs is humidity. This can drastically raise the dog’s body temperature, resulting in overheating and heatstroke.

Small Dog Breeds or Toys Breeds

Just like flat-faced breeds, smaller breeds cannot take on as much exercise as larger breeds can. So taking your chihuahua on a 3-mile hike can be more harmful than helpful. Rather, these type of dogs thrive on short-duration activity throughout the day. Multiple short walks and fully charged playtimes keep them happy and healthy.

Large Dog Breeds

The larger the breed, the more exercise they need, right? That’s not always the case.

Giant breeds like Great Danes can be prone to hip and joint issues, so prolonged periods of running and jumping aren’t the best choice of daily activity for them. St. Bernards only need daily walks to meet their exercise requirements. This is why it’s important to research your dog’s breed (or mix of breeds)!

In general, most larger breeds need short bursts of high activity followed by long walks or moderate runs.


A senior-aged boxer dog looking at the camera.

Age plays a big part in how to exercise your dog. Younger pups crave more frequent and physically strenous exercise and can go from sun up to sun down. An older dog, on the other hand, may take a few more naps during their day.

Remember that old dogs can and will learn new tricks if you’re willing to teach them. Just make sure that the activity is age appropriate for your pup. Taking your 10-year-old German Shepherd to agility training might not be best for his age.

Younger dogs need lots of exercise to aid in their development and learning. Taking them on walks also helps with mental stimulation of their growing minds and socialization skills.

Senior dogs benefit from more low-impact activities such as light walks, swimming, or even chasing or fetching when limited to 15-minute increments.


An overweight small breed dog.

Like us, it’s not uncommon to see some weight gain in your dog if there has been an excess of treats and not as much physical activity. But once you learn how to exercise your dog, you can get their weight under control.

Don’t expect your dog torun for a mile or play an hour-long game of fetch right away. Like humans, they need to build up their stamina. Once they’ve established a routine of shorter walks and small increments of heavy activity, they’ll be ready to work up to longer periods of daily exercise.

Make sure to keep your dog comfortable by offering them a warm-up before any type of intense activity as well as cool-down sessions. This keeps their muscles and joints happy and healthy.

If your dog is not used to physical activity and has fallen into a sedentary lifestyle, look into physical therapy to avoid damaging joints or ligaments, especially with older dogs.

Be On the Lookout For…

When exercising your dog, there are a few things to watch for, one being hot weather. This goes for all breeds, big and small. Dogs can get overheated easily, and it can lead to life-threatening outcomes. Make sure your dog always has access to cool, clean water, when exercising.

Make sure you know of any medical conditions your dog has, such as arthritis, hip, or joint issues. If your dog does have any medical issues, always check with your vet about the best exercise or add daily activity for your pet.

How to Exercise Your Dog


Dog on a walk with owner.

The number one best exercise for your pup is walking. Not only is this amazing for your dog’s joints and muscles, but it also offers great mental and social stimulation. Walking is the perfect way beginning of exercise, especially for dogs not used to being active.


All dogs have an instinctual urge to run and chase, so why not let them satisfy that urge? Running offers your dog a way to blow off steam and release any built-up tension, which results in a calm, happy pup afterward.

Obedience Training

Not only is obedience training a necessity for all dogs, but it also gives your dog much-needed mental and physical stimulation they can’t get with other kinds of activity. They learn commands, manners, tricks, and get to do scent work.


A shepherd breed dog catching a frisbee.

Like running, fetch is a good way to tap into your dog’s instincts. The short bursts of energy work your dog’s muscles and ligaments and provide a ton of mental stimulation. All dogs, big and small, love fetch.

Now whether or not they retrieve the ball or frisbee and bring it back is a whole other question.

Dog Parks

Like people, dogs have all sorts of personalities with unique characteristics and quirks. Not all dogs benefit from dog parks. While it’s like Disneyland for one dog, another dog may find it a stressful and traumatic experience. Know which dog yours is!

If you want to be able to bring your dog to a dog park for regular exercise, you’ll need to introduce them to this environment slowly. Ideally, you want to start when they’re puppies, but not everyone gets their dog at that age.

Two dogs playing tug together.

Pay attention to how your dog responds to the dog park. If your dog is social and likes the park, this is a space where your dog can run, jump, play, and, most importantly, socialize. It’ll probably be their favorite exercise activity they can’t wait for.

If you’ve tried visiting the dog park a few times and your dog’s clearly uncomfortable with the situation, it’s just not their thing, and that’s okay! Dog parks are only one exercise option and there are plenty of exercise your dog will enjoy.


Swimming offers exercise for dogs that’s easier on joints and is perfect for older dogs or dogs with physical limitations. Swimming is proven to decrease inflammation and is the best exercise for pups with arthritis. Of course, swimming isn’t just limited to older dogs – younger dogs will also greatly benefit from it.

Agility Classes

A dog getting exercise on a dog agility course.

Have an active pup that just wants to run, chase, and jump? Try your dog at agility classes. These classes are specifically aimed at dogs that have energy to spare. These classes help prevent obesity and improve endurance, strength, and joint health.

These classes also provide your dog with problem-solving skills and mental stimulation that will keep them sharp and as healthy as can be.

Scent Work

Scent work is the answer if you are home and wondering how to exercise your dog. Scent work offers brain benefits that walking and other activities don’t. Your dog does have to learn this, but most dogs catch on quickly after the first few sessions.

Scent work is great for those who aren’t able to be physically active with their dogs but want to keep them in shape. This works to fufill a dog’s natural instincts and offers wonderful brain and physical stimulation. Scent work tires out the dog because they are using different portions of their brain to do the work.

The same way walking your dog around the block can activate their little sniffers and get them walking about and tired out, scent work can offer the same benefits.

Post-Exercise Care for Your Dog

Just like us, dogs need post-workout care. After a long hard workout or strenuous activity, properly taking care of muscles prevents muscle pain or injury.


Closeup of a beagle drinking water.

Regardless if you’re taking your dog on a casual walk or a jog through the park, your pup always needs access to clean, fresh water. Hydration is key when exercising your dog because water replenishes the body so everything can run smoothly. This also helps keep muscles from cramping up and causing aches and pains.

Remember not to let your dog gulp up the water. Instead, offer it in smaller amounts to prevent stomach upset and bloating.

Cool Down

After a fast walk, hike, or run, allow your dog to cool off. Letting them take a small stroll or sniff around for 5 minutes is enough to get their body temperature and heart rate back to normal. This also allows their muscles to relax and stretch after working hard.


After learning how to exercise your dog, you don’t want it to all be in vain because of what your dog eats. Giving your pup the proper diet to nourish their bodies will keep them happier and healthier for longer.

Whether you feed your dog fresh, raw, kibble, or canned, make sure to check that it’s made with high-quality ingredients. Avoid foods with fillers or by-products at the beginning of the ingredients list, as those cause adverse effects on a dog’s health.

Frequently Asked Questions

A Labrador playing tug with owner.

How can I exercise my dog without walking or running?

There are many alternative ways to keep a dog fit and active without going on a daily walk or run. You can play a game of fetch in the backyard, play tug of war, or even teach them a new trick! Anyway to get them moving and mentally engaged is good for them.

There are all kinds of dog exercise equipment you can purchase to make the exercise even more fun! You’ll see exactly what your dog needs from sniff mats, ball throwers, and even treadmills for dogs.

What is considered active for a dog?

Active would be any dog that is bred to have a job – typically called “working dogs.” An example is Australian Shepards. They were specifically bred to herd sheep. Working dogs are highly active and require more exercise than the average dog.

How do I exercise my dog when I have a busy schedule?

You can make the exercise session short, yet effective. A 10-minute run or intense game of fetch a few times a day could be perfectly adequate for your pup. There are also many interactive toys like Flirt Poles on the market today that can give you a bit of a break without sacrificing your dog’s need to run and chase!

A small breed dog running with a ball in its mouth.

Can dogs go one day without exercise?

Of course, yes, there may be times when you’re unable to take your dog for his favorite run or walk through the park, and that’s ok. One day or even two days off won’t hurt them. It may even benefit them, especially after being more active than usual.

What happens if you don’t exercise your dog?

Sedentary lifestyles can result in stiff, tense, painful muscles that lead to early onset weakness when moving. Exercise helps keep these muscles and ligaments relaxed, which maintains your dog’s strength.

Keeping your dog exercised also keeps your dog from getting bored. When dogs are bored, they tend to lean into more destructive behavior to relieve their boredom. You’d much rather take them for their nightly walk than replace the furniture.

How to Exercise Your Dog the Right Way

Closeup of two pitbulls playing with a stick.

Now that you know exactly how to exercise your dog, you’ll be well on your way to a happier, healthier pup! More activity leads to a longer life and creates the ultimate bond with your dog.

Want to see even more dog care tips? Check out All Paws for all you need to know.

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