As committed dog owners, we all know the importance of exercising our dogs minds and bodies for their well being, and so they have the best life possible. Studies have shown that exercise is a common factor in the longevity of dogs.
My friend, Rodney Habib, has done extensive research on longevity and joins me to explain in the video below.
A minimum of two hours of exercise might be a bit of a mind blow, and you are wondering how you can fit it all in! Remember that this is “on average”, and you could do less on some days and more on others. There are a lot of ways we can exercise our dogs, and below is the list of some of the things I recommended and do with my dogs, and things you want to watch for.
If your dog has led a more sedentary lifestyle, make sure you start with exercise that he can manage and build it up gradually. Before starting any specific exercise program for your dog, he should be seen by a veterinarian to ensure there are no physical limitations. If your dog has been injured, consult with a qualified canine physical therapist or rehabilitation expert about your exercise routine.
15 Ways to Exercise Your Dog
Ideally off leash and preferably in varied terrain. If your dog needs to be on a lead, use a harness that does not restrict his movement. You want a harness that allows your dog free motion in his shoulders.
When choosing where to swim your dog, be aware of Blue-Green Algae toxicity and select your water source carefully. Also, watch for the amount of water your dog might ingest when swimming if he bites at the water or grabs at toys as Water Intoxication is a risk. You might have a canine rehab or swimming facility near you where you can take your dog.
- Underwater Treadmill
Exercise on an underwater treadmill can be better for your dog than swimming. It can take some of the pressure off your dog’s joints. Check to see if there are any facilities with underwater treadmills nearby that you can visit with your dog.
- Stair Work
Your dog walking beside you up and down stairs is good for both of you! You will need to train this with your dog as his natural inclination is likely going to be to gallop up and down the stair case. For everyone who has the foundation of my RZ (Reinforcement Zone) game, you can use that for stair work. We can also use a remote feeder for an exercise game on stairs. You can play Stair Masters from Home School the Dog.
Treadmills are great for exercise, but I strongly suggest that the treadmill you use is one that is specifically for dogs. The treadmill I have for my dogs is from DogTread. I only use the treadmill with my dogs walking or trotting, alternating between the two, with more walking than trotting.
- Nose Work
You can start by hiding cookies under cushions and have your dog search for them. You can grow that and even go on to do formal Nose Work which is a dog sport. Chances are you might have a Nose Work class near you. Jane Book has a great online course “The Dog Scents” that teaches you and your dog Nose Work.
- Fitness Stations
Train and use tricks to get your dog to use his body. You can use sit, down, stand, backing up … the sky is the limit of what you can train. You can introduce fitness equipment especially for dogs. I love FitPAWS equipment and The Klimb that you see in the video, but there are many DIY options for you with things that you will have at home.
- Recallers Games
Recallers is the foundation of all we do with our dogs, from great family pet to any dog sport imaginable. The games not only create a brilliant relationship with our dogs but exercise bodies and minds too!
The best thing to use for a retrieve is something that your dog can run under and grab while it’s still in the air. You could also use a large soccer ball or similar that you can kick and have your dog bring back to you. Retrieving is fun to teach your dog, and if this is something you would like to do, visit my vlog “How to Teach a Puppy to Retrieve“.
Make sure you use an appropriate leash attachment and don’t hold your dog’s lead in your hand. Springer make an attachment you can fit to your bike for the safety of you and your dog. Have your dog on the side away from traffic, and ideally avoid traffic totally. Make sure the surface you cycle on is suitable for your dog.
- Dog Sports
There is a multitude of sports that you and your dog can enjoy together. You all know that I love training and competing in dog agility. My two online programs for agility are Handling360 and Agility Nation.
- Snowshoeing or Skijoring
These are great sports for winter if you live somewhere with snowfall. Make sure that the equipment you use is safe for your dog.
- Dog Parks
Taking your dog to a dog park might be great, or it could also be an experience you would not want your dog to have, so be cautious before letting your dog into a dog park.
- Day Care
Like dog parks, Day Care could be very beneficial or not a good experience for your dog. Do your research when choosing Doggie Day Care.
Remote feeders can help us create exercise games for our dogs. There are many brands available, and the one I use is a Pet Tutor.
What is your favourite way to exercise your dog (or cat)? Let me know in the comments!
Today I am grateful for all the research and knowledge that is available to us today about helping our dogs have a healthy and happy life.
*If you have not got your copy of “Forever Dog” by Rodney Habib and Dr Karen Becker, click here to check it out.
[*Amazon Links Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Susan only recommends products she uses herself, and all opinions expressed here are her own. The link above is an affiliate link that, at no additional cost to you, we may earn a small commission if you decide to buy from it. Thank you!]
Walking everyday total 2-3 hours. HSTD taught me stairs game, retrieve. Running together, not too long. We will try swimming this summer at our pool. It will be first summer together. Zoomies at the back yard. Sniffing, sniffing at dog park when no dogs around. Run around. We did some hiking during winter.
I love to hike with my dogs, off leash park and I have some agility equipment set up in my yard. My dogs love it Tug and fetch are also favorites.
I highly recommend One world soccer balls. Mine have lasted for years and they don’t deflate. Plus for every one purchased they send one to a small village!
I see wearing a harness mentioned. Our almost 1 y/o Australian Labradoodle hates the harness. We have tried different ones, tried desensitising but it is just not working 😞
We love to hike, do nose work, dog sports, “hoopers agility” (NADAC) and sometimes just stroll in the fields, the woods or at waters. In my experience a good mix of all those things is a successful way.
K9 Sadie and myself go out on the scooter 🛵 daily even in the winter 🥶 She loves to run 🏃♂️ also throwing the ball ⚽️ frisbee as well Augest 9/2022
What about puppies? I am getting mixed signals from different sources regarding exercise. I’ve been told that for joint health, pups should not do stairs until they are two years old?! I have a lab pup now that will mature out at 70# pounds. She is only 15# now but there is no way I will be able carry her up a flight of stairs to get to the car in a couple months. I was also advised not to walk her for more than 1/8 of a mile? That’s only 200ish yards. By the time she is a few months older I think she will need the walking?
I am SO confused. It would be great to get some clarity here re: puppies- stairs + exercise.
You are terrrrific! Thanks for all you do to make dogs and their people live better lives.
My 3 year old Australian Labradoodle and I train obedience, agility, and Flyball twice a week each sport. We take 3 walks a day. For her mind, we also do trick, and nose work. Also at home we do recall and fetch. She is a very happy healthy dog, and so am I because of her.
We hike in the woods near here off leash about 3 x week, plus daily ball retrieving and agility training. Keeps us all active and enjoying each others company!
We love hiking and camping, as well as agility, frisbee, fetch, tug, trick training, enrichment activities (licky mat, topple/kong, nosework, hidden treats…) Arlo is up for anything!!
Our 14 week old and 9 1/2 year old Tervs are getting at least 1-2 hours per day of chasing around and wrestling/bitey-face just by turning them lose in their fenced play yard.
Hi, do you have guidance on how to introduce a new dog to a dog park when all the dogs know each other. We have a great park with off leash hours and it’s mostly a blast but sometimes YES can get a little rough. Should dogs be introduced on leash when the experienced dogs are off leash? Some people think it’s problematic to bring in a leashed dog with off leash dogs running about. How much ruff and tumble is appropriate for socialization?
Thanks for your thoughts.
We love hiking with our Aussie Shepherd Hamish but living in Australia we are very limited for some months due to the hot weather (mostly 30-45degs), threat of snakes and fires so we do alot around the house and in our neighbourhood. Now we have a whole lot of other ideas thank you Susan.
Here is a great training podcast from Susan’s list of new podcasts for you: https://dogsthat.com/podcast/32/
I love hiking with my dog, but an often limited on time so I do fitness training using fitpaws and I do recaller games.
Hiking is my favorite and my last dog LOVED being off leash and investigating all the smells while I enjoyed the scenery!
First hour of the day, our 9 mo old plays fetch with her favorite ball and runs the yard checking scents of animals who have stopped by over night. Most days she goes to a park where she can be off leash and play with other dogs. We’re so grateful for recall games and RZ that she is able to be successful with this. Two short walks on the street are a work in progress. Games and working in the yard with us. She gets a ton of exercise and we sometimes worry that she needs more imposed rest times.
I do a lot of Recallers games daily and at least one good 20 yo 30 minute walk with my 41/2 month old lab puppy.
We hike and walk on beach, off lead. I do a minimum of 5 km but often well over 10 and my dog does 2-3x my distance. Swims in river, and does agility plus just ball throws etc… plus Recallers. No stairs anywhere close, no dog treadmill, well I have one. We have done bike rides, and trained for Endurance Trial, which doesn’t allow a springer only hand held lead. We after go off lead. My dog is a rescue GSP and very fit and fast.
My five month old GSD currently exercises about 6 hours a day!! Hahaha he never stops! After a couple of walks and training and tugs, he will then just kick a ball around on his own and keep chasing it. I wish I had some of his energy!!
Be careful with that, Gemma (unless it is mental exercise you are talking about) at 6 months old, puppies’ joints are still lax and 6hrs physical exercise would be waaaay too much for a growing pup.
5 mins per month is the recommended amount until the skeleton is fully developed (usually around 18 months to 2yr depending on breed) so that would be 30 mins at 6 months.
Unless your dog is just free romping round whilst you sit on a bench or something – then you can exceed the 30 mins.
But getting your pup out hiking for 6hrs is too much at 6 months
We walk for an hour to an hour and half first thing in the morning and we go out for another hour or so in the afternoon which may or may not include our community dog park – it depends on the vibe. As urbanites our walks are all on-leash except in safe areas that are fenced and allow dogs – so we are working on walking without pulling on leash. And working on recall so that eventually we can go hiking in designated off-leash areas.
Thank you for the great suggestions! My puppy loves running in the deep grass.
This article was excellent. Right now the most consistent exercise is walking 2 times a day about for 20 mi uses. I also do favorite games out of the Recallers program like the down, sits and stays. The Home school program has also I traduces me to other games
Maggie the Mastador and I take a couple of 1.5 mile walks in the forest most days.
Nowadays, when we all have to stay at home I practise small sequences (agility) in my garden. Because we cannot go to our dogschool. We have a small garden but I manage to set up two jumps and a tunnel. Besides that I train balance work aswell (using fitpaws equipment). And lastly we always walk 3 times a day for atleast 15-30 minutes.
Really helpful article! All your tips are really helpful. People often underestimate the importance of exercise for their pets. Apart from being essential for their physical health, exercise also curbs destructive behavior.
Stroll every day and love my beautiful dachshund; The education of the dog is very important, it must be done so that it looks like a game and in any case always in a gentle way
I have learned a lot about training mindset by watching your Masterclasses on agility.
I have a puppy coming in a few days and look forward to trying tracking with her. She will also be learning to fit in with her new pack -2 doxies and an Amstaf mix.
My GEM take away: no matter the training focus, Consistency is the foundation.
Susan Garrett Dog Agility is literally the best community anywhere. I read it everyday, and I’m also great full I found it helped me train my dog, I hope it helps some others!
We are lucky and can walk or cycle the trails in the forest and far lands. Using Non-stop Dogwear dog harness , caniX and connectors for cycle. Access secure dog field every week, day care and play find the treat indoors. Exercise is king for us all!
This vlog came at a particularly opportune time. I recently started a “Spark Team” via Kyra Sundance’s Do More With Your Dog for a Canine Fitness theme. It is possible for your dogs to earn medals at 4 different fitness levels. Each level getting progressively harder. Much of it is based on the tricks she is so well known for, but with it geared towards conditioning. Using many of the FitPaw tools and the Klimb. We talk alot obout things we can use for substitutions because many times to purchase all of the things suggested would be quite pricey. We work on Stamina, Balance, Strength, Coordination and Flexibility. One of the Stamina requirements early on is to walk on a treadmill. Most of us don’t have dog treadmills and so in my group we are using the AKC Fit Dog walking model. For anyone that might be struggling to get started they are welcome to join us here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/WoofermuttK9FitnessFun/ It is a totally free group, and if anyone so chooses they can help their dog earn fun medals. So far I’ve had alot of fun doing it and I think my dog has too. Too often our dogs are weekend warriors, we go to some dog event, pull the dog out of the car/crate expect them to perform and yet we have done nothing to get them physically ready. Hopefully we can spread the word and start a movement of even our pet owners to move more with their pets.
You were talking about retrieving which my Aussie loves to do. But you said something about them jumping in the air to catch the ball or frisbee. Will you clarify what height is not good? He’s so beautiful when he jumps in the air after a bounced ball but I am concerned about him landing wrong. Are there exercises that build the ACL?
Hi Teri, Susan has a blog post with a video showing retrieve games that might help.
We have a Golf Course near our home. The Owner is a very family oriented person and allows us to take our dogs all around the Course after it’s closed to golfing every night. It’s great exercise with the hills and the dogs probably run three or four times the distance we walk every night. The biggest difficulty is in the winter when closing time is so close to Sunset. We have to be prompt!
Lacey,a 19 month old medium Labradoodle,doesn’t quite meet the 2 hour mark. She gets three on lease walks of about 1/2 hour, a 1/2 to 1 hour run at the off leash dog park, numerous tug and/or fetch sessions in our living room every day. once a week she races through a half hour agility session which she clearly loves and 3 or 4 times a week she runs around our hill and dale yard while we are out with her. Though we are working on her recall, it is not yet reliable so she must be on leash for bush walks and though we live on an island, she is afraid of water so no swimming. Hopefully we can help her get over that fear and develop a reliable recall as they clearly are necessary for her future health.
During the winter, Ajay my 5 years old BC and I go for walks in the snow. We do agility once a week, indoor, and do more of body awarness tricks and games at home.
During the spring & the summer, I let my dog swin in the lake.
I add some exercices like walking backwards, changing directions during swimming, also some start proofing exercices. Especially when I go with a friend of mine who also has a dog.
We do a bit of selfcontrol tricks: throwing the toys and releasing one dog after the other to get his toy.
Then we train agility 2 times a week.
Sometimes, he does 1-2 minutes of frisbee with my husband (because he throws it nice and flat and Ajay doesn’t get hurt when catching the frisbee). But only a few throws at the time.
I use also a little urban scooter to make him trott (when it’s not too hot).This stop during the hot summer time, but is good in automn.
During each walk, his has a few moments of activity with me (I always take a toy with me).
Like Recallers Games, scent games ( he has to find the pive I’ve held in my hand for 1-2 mintues) or to search his toy.
When do a few tricks and jump on trees, run up/dowm hill, things like that.
I try to find a spot where he can do a few sprints or where I can send him away around some trees and make him run fast.
And then he has “dog life” (that’s my cue for it) moments too. I won’t play with him and we just walk together. He manages really well to switch between playing with me and having his own time, even if he sees his toy in my hand.
Plus Ajay is a school dog and comes with me at work, he listens to children reading books next to him.
I really hope he likes his life because I try my best to make it interesting :-)!
Hiking, walking, tricks, nosework, and agility. Hiking and walking are done on leash unless there is no one around. Hiking in the foothills are done when it gets cooler, when the foxtails and rattlers are not present. Otherwise walking mostly on leash with some areas that can be off leash. Swimming when I can find a place with no algae bloom(difficult this time of year in S. Cal) but the beach is nice to go to. My dogs love tricks and have their advance titles. I use the fitpaws inbetween when I can’t get outside much. Nosework once a week and agility 2x week. Love to exercise myself using yoga and walking. My only wish is if I could train my dog to do yoga. It is so good physically and mentally.
As a Lab breeder for the last 20 years, I have had a chance to look at differences that occur as a result of exercise versus nutrition and genetics. I keep 2-3 dogs from every litter for my own breeding/training program and can compare with dogs I have placed with other people.
I advise all owners to use the same kind of dog food I feed or one of even better quality.
Dogs who live with me have consistently lived longer than any of my dogs who live with other people. Dogs who live with me have lived fairly consistently to 15-16 years old. The life expectancy of a Lab is 10-12 years old.
The difference is exercise. I have consistently exercised all my dogs every day that I am able to move myself. And I am exceptionally fit for a 72 year old woman myself.
Exercise truly is the fountain of life! Kate
I have a 4-year-old female lab and her health is extremely important to me – I can’t imagine life without her. What dog food do you feed your labs? Plus, her father was a large 90 lb. lab, and her mother a small 56 lb lab. My girl takes after her father in size – she weighs 80 lbs (and gets lots of exercise), but I’m thinking her dog food might not be the best for her. Thanks!
We do a variety of activities Good for body mind and sole
Daily activities of wait and sit and down and paw and touch and place with rewards such as freedom, food toys , friends, squirrels digging and waterplay Agility games , nose work , gtg, hunting, ball, stick, frisbee. Hanging out with me alone or in groups . Just togetherness with me and / or other friends (human or dog) Hikes, runs , beach trips , leash walks in town , therapeutic office dog visits w patients Couch time, bed time
I love taking my dog’s for walks in different directions, several times a day, no matter what the weather is like. That is my habit and can’t stop doing all the walking. The hard part is getting them to play IYC games.
Nothing better than off leash hikes for us. Thank you Recallers for making it even more fun, safe and enjoyable!
Walking 2-3 miles
agility practice in back yard
Retrieving balls inside and out
Hide and seek games
Hello Susan and all, my Border Terrier and I when out walking either in the countryside e.g. fields or bridleways; along the beach; woodland or in slightly more built up areas or one of Jack’s favourites is The areas golf course (all on our doorstep which is perfect in light of having no garden. We’ve always introduced added fun into our walks, and then came Recallers so our repertoire of “games” expanded exponentially. Like Alexandra Jack and I love off lead walks wherever possible and Recallers Games. Recallers has made huge impact on our relationship.
All in all I say Jack and I have implemented our own version of doggie Parkour into our every walk: it’s obvious we’ve termed this as “Bark-aw” 😊💯
Love this Ness!
BEST dogVlog EVER!! More exercise for me AND my dog!! And you have a BRISSY shirt! I just moved there…Please re-visit, so I can meet you in person!! Stairs in every accomodation we have for our labs…;)
Glad you enjoyed this Vlog… the information I enjoyed was “I need to keep moving too” 🙂
I agree with you greatly that as many activities you can offer to your dog as better -for both of you.
My Border collie Sheba has a regular walking on leash to nearest park, coming to off leash park near the Rideau River and playing there with other dogs, swimming and retrieving ball from the river. She is in master agility and has AKC Trick Dog-Performer done this year. We have always something nice to do together…training body and brain…and she loves all of it. Thanks for sharing your experiences Suzan!
Loved the Vlog!
Exercise? My dogs and I are all in. Hey, when they “workout,” so do I. Big win for all!
Here are our fitness choices:
* Hiking (varied terrain) on lead–8 miles per day…on most days
*Sport dog classes
*AKC Trick dog courses
* Obedience classes
*Agility training and competitions
* Nose Work (for fun)
* Dog Park (in our living room 😉
* A favorite: kayaking…Yep, I do the paddling, but the pups work on their balancing
skills, an “occasional” dive in the ocean, and there are tons of environmental
distractions. After a few hours of kayaking, my pack is exhausted. Who would have
I take my dog for off-leash hikes and play recallers games 😉