"How much exercise does my dog need?" We get this question a lot and the answer varies by the breed, temperament and age of the dog. Take the lovable, chubby, short-nosed breeds for example. An Old English Bulldog only needs as much exercise as he can physically handle. Some bulldogs can play, run and wrestle for quite a while, but others are happy with taking a walk around a few blocks. One thing is for certain, a bulldog is never going to lap a Viszla. Viszlas, German Short-Haired Pointers, Labs, Goldens, Dobermans, German Shepherds, Malinois and other similar working breeds are made to run and well, work. These dogs can literally keep up with their handlers all day long. They've been bred to be guard dogs, bomb dogs, scent tracking dogs, service dogs, bird dogs, rescue dogs and much more. They can work all day long and they absolutely love it. Now imagine taking that job away from them and not giving them the outlet to expend their energy. It has to go somewhere. These dogs have been bred for centuries to not only be our companions and look pretty, they've also been bred to go to have the brains, stamina and function to work by their humans' sides all day long. Unfortunately, it's not realistic for all of us to take our dogs to work (although there's some awesome companies that do allow it!), so our dogs wait at home for us while we go about our days. During this time, it's like a pot of boiling water with paws, waiting for us to come through the door so they can explode with energy and excitement. I probably shouldn't say this, because as a dog trainer I'm putting myself out of work, but I'd say 80% of behavioral problems simply come from a severe lack of exercise and mental stimulation. Plain and simple- modern dogs are bored out of their minds.
Growing up, we lived on a mini ranch in Temecula with no fences and our dogs had complete freedom. They were never ever cooped up in the house and they could go on adventures wherever they pleased. They could lay in the grass in front of our house all day under the willow trees, they could eat as much horse poop as they wanted and they could gorge themselves on avocados, which became quite a problem when the avocados were ripe and falling off the trees. Let's just say they were very pleasantly plump and shiny! The dogs walked themselves and ran around when they wanted to. They were never very hyper and they hardly ever got the crazies. They didn't have any behavioral problems (except for our dog Griffey got into a chicken coop one day and helped himself to a few). When Griffey was a puppy he also had a field day with a package dropped off by UPS full of my dad's robotic parts. Other than that, the dogs could be dogs and they were the best most well behaved dogs that I've ever met. Even more well behaved than my two goldens that I share my life with now. Why? Because they were free to be happy animals outside- running, playing, sniffing, smelling and exploring. It was totally and utterly completely natural. We must remind ourselves that dogs are not born as little humans with dog coats. They're also not born with built in knowledge about how to live in a human's house with humans who are pretty darn boring sitting in front of computer and tv screens. Naturally, a dog would pee wherever they want to outside, they would run to whatever they want to smell at the moment not constrained by a leash around their neck, and they would chew on whatever stick they could find. In our human world, we require them to be so subdued in the house. We want them to just lay there or cuddle with us and look cute (I'm so guilty of this). Most dogs are inside the majority of their lives with just a few quick potty breaks and maybe an hour walk around the neighborhood to break up the day.
We need to change this. We need to get our dogs outside more and get them closer to their natural habits. They need to be outside breathing in fresh air and stimulating their minds with socialization and adventures. Back to the original question of "How much exercise does my dog need?" the answer is- as much as possible especially when your dog is a puppy and full of energy and curiosity. Even if you have a short-nosed bulldog, he needs to have companionship, fresh air and mental stimulation. Even if it's just a car ride or a few hours hanging out with you while you do dog-friendly errands, he'll be so much happier and well behaved when you get home. For others with GSPs, GSDs or Viszlas, you better lace up those running shoes and start training for some marathons. You must work with your dog as a young puppy to be off-leash because your dog is going to run circles around you. You might run 5 miles on a trail, but your GSP is going to run 20 with all of the tracking and zig zagging he's going to do. Even better than taking your dog for a jog, is taking your dog to a dog park or to a friend's house to play with his or her dog. Wrestling, rolling around and chasing each other is the ultimate way to wear a puppy out. They're not only getting physically worn out, but also mentally. So many endorphins are released after a dog has played with his friends. They'll be panting with a happy face and a twinkle in their eye. If you have a dog who loves water like I do, take your dog to the beach, a lake, a pool, any body of water and let them swim. If you need any proof as to how natural and fun it is for a golden to go swimming, you must see this video . I dare you not to smile. In fact, I dare you to to do one thing that makes you incredibly happy and one thing that makes your dog incredibly happy everyday (bonus points if it makes both of you incredibly happy at the same time!). If that's too much to handle, make it weekly. Whatever you do, be sure to have fun with your best friend because life is short and sadly our dogs' lives are even shorter. All we can do is make the absolute best out of our time together and have as much fun possible doing it! Run, play, smile, explore and see the world from your dog's eyes. You'll be so happy you did!