Exercising Your Dog

For many of dogs a stroll through the neighborhood would not fulfill their need for exercise. (Play with humans can be great exercise) Before running or starting any other repetitive exercise with your dog take the following into consideration.

Puppies and young dogs need exercise but there is a big difference between natural running and play jumping and repetitive endurance exercises. Puppies and young dogs should not do any repetitive high impact endurance exercises like sustained running until their growth plates have closed. (e.g. long distance running, urban mushing, etc.) Nor should they be permitted to jump out of vehicles or off furniture which creates a heavy impact on growing bones. Overuse and focused stress can damage growth plates resulting in prematurely closing of the growth plate causing a malformation of the leg. [1]The larger the breed the later the growth plates close.” “dogs that are spayed or neutered prior to puberty experience delayed closure.”  “The growth plates of intact dogs of all sizes and breeds close by about 14 months of age. The growth plates of spayed or neutered dogs do not close until 18 to 22 months of age, depending on how early the dog was spayed or neutered and on hte dog’s adult size. To confirm that our dog’s growth plates have closed, you can have a veterinarian take a lateral radiograph of the stifle and check the growth plate at the tibial tuberosity, wihich is hte last growth plate to close.” https://www.avidogzink.com/wp-content/uploads/puppy_exercise_guidelines_poster.pdf

Age - Exercise Guidelines

8-16 weeks 

  • Off-leash walks 15-30 min puppy’s pace

  • walks over changes in surfaces, grass, sand, gravel, pavement

  • Agility ground work

  • 5-min wading sessions in water

17 weeks – 6 months

  • Off-leash walks 45-60 min puppy’s pace with larger terrain changes

    • Hills, ditches, streams and logs

  • Jump training up to wrist height

  • Wading and swimming 5-10 minutes at a time

6 months – Growth Plate Closure

  • Off-leash walks 45-60 min puppy’s pace with larger terrain changes

    • Hills, ditches, streams and logs

  • Jump training up to elbow height

  • Wading and swimming 10-15 minutes at a time

Young Adult - Growth Plates Closed

Begin endurance training – start slowly

  • Trotting continuously for at least 20min no more than every other day

  • Off-leash walks for an hour or more – all safe terrain

  • Hikes for several hours depending upon weather

  • Jump training above elbow height

  • Wading and swimming for 10-15 minutes at a time.

Teaching Loose Leash Walking

Loose leash walking is different from “heeling”. Loose leash walking is just that; a dog that walks with, and next to you while not pulling, or putting tension in the leash. Basically enjoying a walk on a leash with you. Heeling is having your dog directly at your side with its attention on you. Heeling is used in competition and for times when you need your dog to focus on you for short distances to get by a distraction.

To learn how to teach your dog to walk nicely on a leash go here: Teaching Loose Leash Walking

Loose Leash Walking: Easier with Horses Than Dogs?

  • Relaxed dogs typically move from point A to point B at a trot (especially if “going somewhere” – even if that’s from the kitchen to the hallway!)

  • Dog + human – both are in different gaits. Most dogs cannot trot as slowly as the typical person walks. (Amazingly, many horses can and do trot as slowly as a human walks!)

    Loose Leash Walking: Easier with Horses Than Dogs? Suzanne Clothier



Dog(s) Health & Fitness

Many dogs are unprepared for intense endurance exercise for even short duration's making them susceptible to injuries. Injuries can go unrecognized for long periods of time. Very important you consider your dog’s fitness and weight prior to exercise. Always start with a vet check to make sure your dog is healthy AND physically capable to participate in the exercise which should include an evaluation your dog’s structure and gait for any weaknesses. Many dogs are willing to do anything we ask and often have a strong desire to participate, but we should be careful we are asking them to do more then their body can comfortably do. Be careful that you are breaking your dog's body down which will result in crippling arthritis as they age. "Your Athletic Dog" is an excellent book/DVD to understand how to condition your dog. The dog’s structure will affect their endurance and susceptibilities to injury. There are more than 25 structural issues that will affect endurance or performance. For guidance on identifying structural issues, Pat Hastings book is a great resource. Structure in Action: The Makings of a Durable Dog To reduce chance of injuries your dog will need recovery time.

Dogs that have a fulfilling life full of experiences to maintain their mental, physical, and emotional health are less likely to develop the inappropriate behaviors that are the result of boredom, stress, and frustration. Dogs commonly display behaviors out of stress, anxiety, and frustration such as, barking, jumping, spinning, chewing, among others. Boredom and loneliness are sources of excessive stress for both dogs and cats. Long-term stress reduces the immune system's ability to fight disease so it is important that stressors are reduced for our animals. Enriching Your Dog's Life

Exercise Programs for Obese Dogs (Dr. Justin Shmalberg Nom Nom Now)

While a dog exercise program is important, remember that most of the calories in any weight loss plan need to be shed by reducing the amount of food. "It's unlikely your dog can tolerate enough exercise to lose weight without also reducing calories," says Shmalberg. Exercise must be designed with the specifics of your dog in mind—many overweight pets, especially those that are middle-aged to senior, may have arthritis or other conditions which limit stamina. Walking is the best exercise for most dogs because it shouldn't overstress the cardiovascular system, and it has low impact on joints. (In fact, walking can be beneficial in arthritic dogs as it helps to maintain muscle mass and distribute joint fluid, which keeps joints lubricated).

Here's how to design a dog exercise plan:

  1. If your dog is already getting controlled exercise (walking, playing, etc.), increase her activity by about 25 percent. If your dog is relatively inactive, start with the American Animal Hospital Association's recommended five-minute walks three times daily.

  2. Aim for your dog to get about an hour of exercise per day, as long as he can tolerate it. The amount of calories your dog burns during this period is related to the distance you travel. Dogs consume about 0.75 calories per pound per mile during walks.

  3. Exercise your dog during cooler times of day (morning, evening) or, if it's very hot, in climate-controlled areas. This is especially important for dogs with short noses.

  4. Always bring water; travel or collapsible bowls are a good idea. But leave the sports drinks at home—dogs get rid of heat by panting, not sweating, so they don't lose the electrolytes like humans do.

  5. Stick close to home until you know how your dog will do, and have a plan B in case your dog can't make it back.

  6. Avoid inclines and declines in the terrain, which put more strain on the legs, until you're further into the exercise plan. Hills can, after your pet is used to exercise, help to burn more calories and build muscle.

  7. Keep your dog's nails trimmed. When they're too long, they can change the position of the toes and make walking more difficult.

  8. Make the experience enjoyable. Your overweight dog may not be excited by exercise in the beginning and it's likely to be quite tiring. Encouragement, toys, and time with you can all be used as rewards. You can give low-calorie treats, but remember to account for these in the overall calorie plan. Even better, in lieu of treats, use part of your dog's daily food to reward her during exercise. Just don't overdo it: feeding too much right before or during exercise could cause issues.

  9. Change up the type of activity as your dog progresses. Try fetch, hill work, hiking, or jogging.

  10. Swimming is a good low-impact exercise for dogs, but if they're not proven swimmers, they need to start with a life vest. Underwater treadmills (found at rehabilitation facilities) are often used to encourage weight loss in dogs being treated for orthopedic conditions.



Best to ride on dirt or grass surfaces since these are less harsh then pavement or concrete on your dog. You may want to consider using a paw wax to help protect your dogs paws.


Dogs cool by panting. When air temperatures are near body temperature (101 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit) or higher dogs cannot cool themselves efficiently.  The  ground temperature can be more than 50 degrees hotter than the air temperature. Burns can result at 118 degrees. Exercise during the morning and evening hours when it’s cooler and avoid concrete and especially blacktop or pavement.   


High humidity also impairs a dog cooling ability which can also contribute to heat stroke.

What’s The Best Way to Cool a Dog?

A recent study compared three mechanisms for cooling dogs after 15 min treadmill exercise in a room at 30 degrees C (86 degrees F) (5). Dogs that were dipped in water for 5 minutes at ambient temperature had cooled in 16 minutes. Dogs that were placed in a kennel on a cooling mat at 4 degrees C (39 degrees F) with a fan took 36 minutes to cool. And dogs that were just in a kennel with a fan took 48 minutes to cool down. The authors suggested that water immersion is a method for not only treating but also for preventing overheating when dogs exercise.” [4]


Treadmills can be used for endurance conditioning but they should only be used under the proper circumstances. First off they should only be used with dogs that enjoy using them. Treadmills are good for supervised physical rehab and the canine athlete. For the canine athlete they can “be an outstanding alternative during inclement weather and can provide variety in training.”  

Another consideration is that “trotting on a treadmill does not exercise as many muscles as trotting over ground” and “treadmills should not constitute the main method for endurance conditioning in canine athletes that specialize in endurance events such as mushing, field trials, and herding trials.“

Additional important considerations are:

  • The “treadmill is at least 2.5 times the length of the dog’s body”  (measured front of chest to furthest point under base of tail)

  • “With most larger dogs this rules out the use of treadmills designed for humans.”

  • “Other cautions for use of the treadmill include not having the treadmill face a wall or other solid surface, not harnessing a dog to a treadmill”

 Chris Zink; Janet B. Van Dyke. Canine Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation. Wiley.


Urban Mushing

[1] Chris Zink; Janet B. Van Dyke. Canine Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation  

[2] Chris Zink; Janet B. Van Dyke. Canine Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation

[3] https://www.avidogzink.com/wp-content/uploads/puppy_exercise_guidelines_poster.pdf

[4] https://www.caninesports.com/uploads/1/5/3/1/15319800/davis_3_methods_of_cooling.pdf

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