Does your dog like to go for short walks, long runs, or will he retrieve a ball until your arm falls off? Generally, the exercise that's best for your dog depends on his breed, not his size. For example, a bulldog, though big, was bred for strength, not stamina, and would not be comfortable taking a 5-mile walk. While a Jack Russell Terrier, though small, is extremely active, and will happily romp in the park for hours.
Although every dog has their individual likes and dislikes, even mixed dogs have inherited tendencies that make them more apt at some activities than others. That's why it's important to consider what your dog was bred for—and tailor his exercise program to fit his instinctual needs.
The Seven Groups
Dogs are divided into various groups depending on the breed's original purpose. If you have a mixed breed, you can usually take a good look at good him to figure out what type of dogs were his ancestors—and determine what qualities and behaviors he inherited. No matter what activity you settle on, be sure to include a warm up before and cool-down after your workout sessions.
The larger spaniels, setters, pointers and retrievers all belong to this group. Used by hunters to find and retrieve small game, these intelligent dogs need lots of vigorous exercise. They enjoy long hikes and walks, splashing in lakes and streams and, of course, love to retrieve balls, sticks, or just about anything else. Twice a day these dogs should receive a brisk 20-minute jog followed by at least 10 minutes of energetic play or a swim.
These dogs once used their keen senses to track game. What hounds enjoy most is room to sniff and run in the open air. Every morning and evening hounds need 20 minutes of brisk walking or jogging, followed by a 10-minute run in a safely enclosed area. Spaniels love water and will be happy to go for a swim. Dachshunds, though small, still need a 15-minute walk twice a day.
As their name suggests, these dogs were bred to work. Some guarded livestock and property (Mastiff), rescued humans (Saint Bernard), or pulled sleds and carts (Samoyed). Capable, determined and quick to learn, these dogs need a 20 to 30-minute jog every morning or a shorter walk combined with controlled training games. Repeat the workout later in the day.
Born to hunt, sniff and dig out prey, Terriers were bred to lead extremely active lives. Larger terriers need a brisk 15-minute walk or a shorter walk with 10 minutes of active play—morning and evening. Smaller terriers will stay healthy with a brisk 15-minute walk twice a day as long as you also include some indoor or outdoor play. These quick-witted little dogs can easily learn games such as hide-and-go-seek, tag and fetch.
Dogs like the Pekingese and Maltese were bred to sit on laps and look cute. So, it's no surprise that toy breeds need less exercise than most other dogs. A 15-minute walk, twice a day, is enough for most of these dogs. Some toy breeds love to chase and retrieve, so ball games can be a great activity for these petite pooches.
With members like the Collie, Briard and German Shepherd, these strong, intelligent dogs were bred to herd sheep or cattle. Games with a purpose, such as hide-and-seek keep these dogs stimulated. While a 30-minute walk or jog, as well as extra time to chase balls or play frisbee—should also be included twice a day.
This diverse group includes Bulldogs, Dalmations and Lhasa Apsos—and any other dogs that don't quite fit into the other breed groups. To determine the kind of exercise these dogs need, look at their size and body type.