Walking your dog is more than just a fun activity! In fact, enjoying fresh air and moving your legs is an important aspect of maintaining your overall health—and the same goes for your dog!
In addition to releasing excess energy, spending time outdoors is beneficial for our furry friends because the different surroundings help bring out their curiosity and reduce boredom (not to mention, it allows them to relieve themselves!).
So, how often should you walk your dog? Well, there is not one answer that applies to every dog and pet parent. It depends on several factors—such as your dog’s age, their breed, and even the weather. However, for most adult dogs, going on multiple walks throughout the day is optimal.
What Are the Benefits of Walking Your Dog?
Although how often you should walk your dog may vary, all dogs can reap a wide range of the same benefits from walking.
Here are five benefits of walking your dog:
Benefit #1: Diminishes Boredom – Aside from potty time, a primary goal of walks is entertainment! By taking your dog on a walk, you are giving them the chance to cure their boredom. Sniffing the grass and exploring the outdoors can lead to physical and mental benefits!
Benefit #2: Releases Energy – Of course, another main reason to take your dog outside is to burn off some energy. Whether your dog has a case of the zoomies, you’re planning to leave them alone for a bit, or it’s simply a beautiful day to spend time outside, walking is a great opportunity to let loose while spending time together!
Benefit #3: Reduces Stress – Physical activity releases endorphins, which promotes calmness and happiness after exercise. By walking your dog, you are helping lower their stress levels!
Benefit #4: Prevents Destructive Behavior – Have you ever come home after a day out and found your carpet chewed up? Your dog may have turned to destructive behavior simply because they needed something to do! Taking your dog on a quick morning walk and giving them a satisfying, natural chew before you leave for the day can provide them the stimulation they crave and help minimize unwanted behavior (just remember to put the chew away when you leave the house).
Benefit #5: Encourages Socialization – Dogs typically love to socialize, and walks are a great way to meet new furry friends, pet parents, or fellow neighbors. This satisfies your dog’s desire to connect and play with others.
Keep in mind that dogs thrive on consistent schedules, according to Houston SPCA. If you often walk your dog around the same time each day, it can be comforting and strengthen their bond with you!
How Long Should I Walk My Dog?
Speaking of consistency, it is best to maintain a steady rhythm of potty breaks around the same time every day. In general, dogs typically need to relieve themselves around three or four times each day.
When it comes to longer walks for exercise, keep in mind that activity levels vary between breeds. Many small or flat-faced breeds, such as Pugs or Boxers, do not have much stamina and probably prefer the couch instead. Even a walk around the block may be sufficient for a Chihuahua or a Bulldog. On the other hand, several breeds love to walk, run, or hike. In fact, pet parents with active lifestyles often seek dogs that can run, while avid hikers opt for the best hiking dogs to accompany them on the trail.
Whether you have a lap dog or a four-legged fitness fanatic, taking breaks on walks is essential to prevent overexertion. For a dog in good shape, a 20–30-minute walk is more than enough to release their energy. Anything more should incorporate moments of rest and hydration. Reward your dog with a wholesome natural treat for a job well done!
To best understand your dog’s needs, consult your veterinarian for specific information regarding how long you should walk your dog.
When Can I Take My Puppy for Walks?
It’s typically acceptable to start walking your puppy two weeks after they have received all their vaccinations; this ensures their immune system is properly suited for socialization. It is also important for your pup to have a health checkup prior to spending time around other dogs so any potential illness does not spread.
Once you can take your puppy for walks, they should go outside for potty breaks every couple hours. For young pups in particular, expect more frequent yet shorter visits outside. It is also a good idea to get into the habit of taking your puppy outside directly after waking up, eating, and playing, and before going to bed.
When Is It Too Hot to Walk Your Dog?
Because dogs only have sweat glands in their paws, our furry friends are at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to naturally cooling their bodies in warm weather, according to the Humane Society. The small surface area does not allow a very effective cool down system. Thankfully, panting is a huge contributor to dogs’ ability to stay cool in the warmer months. Still, even 80 degrees may be a dangerous temperature for dogs to be outdoors for an extended period.
Remember that dogs’ paws are vulnerable to heat as well. Sidewalks, streets, and driveways can get very hot and harm furry friends’ paws. You can protect their paws from extreme weather with dog paw balm, which creates a moisturizing barrier to help prevent dry and cracked paws. A good rule of thumb for whether a sidewalk or pavement is safe for dogs is to place the back of your hand on it, according to ABC7 News. If you cannot hold it there for 5 seconds, it is too hot to walk your dog.
Potential heat stroke is another risk when walking your dog. Some signs of heatstroke include heavy panting or salivating, dizziness, lethargy, excessive thirst, fever, rapid heartbeat, and vomiting. If your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms, remove them from the heat and place cool compresses on their body while giving them small amounts of water. You should also visit a veterinarian for further examination.
When Is It Too Cold to Walk Your Dog?
You and your fur pal are similar in many ways…and this includes handling extreme temperatures! While a dog’s fur helps shield them from the cold just as a jacket would for humans, we are still very much affected by freezing conditions.
For dogs, temperatures around 30 degrees may be uncomfortable and present health concerns. However, their size, age, coat type, body fat percentage, and activity level can all impact how well they brace for the cold. Smaller dogs and dogs with thin- or lighter-colored coats do not typically handle the cold well because they lack the body fat, coverage, and sun absorbency levels that a darker coat has, according to PetMD.
To gauge your dog’s tolerance for the cold, monitor their behavior and react accordingly. You shouldn’t push them to be in cold temperatures for longer than they can handle because it could cause hypothermia or frostbite. Shivering, anxious behavior, whining, slow movements, and holding up a paw are all signs it is too cold to walk your dog and it’s time to get indoors.
Walking is a great way to interact and enhance your dog’s life—as well as your own! There are so many benefits that come along with it, whether you take your Shih Tzu out for a quick stroll or your Labrador Retriever on a hike. No matter their breed and activity level, your dog will be grateful for the stimulating experience!