If you have a dog or puppy, or plan to get one, it’s important they get exercise on a regular basis. Exercise is not only good for their physical and mental health, but also helps them to socialise with other dogs and puppies, a crucial element of their behavioural development. And as a bonus, exercising and being active together is a great way to strengthen bonds! However, there are some safety considerations you should take into account when deciding on what exercise is best for your dog…

  • Assess the individual needs and fitness level of your dog as each will have different exercise requirements. In general, dogs need a walk or visit to the dog park once or twice a day.
  • Dogs with shorter snouts find it harder to breathe and exercise can often exacerbate their breathing difficulties.
  • Older dogs may have joint problems that can slow them down or make it uncomfortable to exercise.
  • Check the temperature outside as it is not uncommon for dogs to overheat if exercising in high temperatures. A dog only sweats through their pads and they lose body heat through panting, during the warmer months it is best to exercise in the morning or late evening when the temperature is cooler. Also remember that hot pavement or sand can burn your pet’s feet.
  • Don’t exercise your pet immediately before or after they’ve eaten as this can cause bloating, especially in deep-chested dogs.
  • Speak to your vet and get a physical assessment of you have any concerns at all.


Exercising on lead

One of the ways you can let your dog or puppy exercise is while on the lead:

  • Walk your pet at a normal walking pace.
  • Walk your pet based on how long they should be exercising for e.g. take a puppy for short walks only.
  • Stop to rest if your pet sits or lies down during the walk, and then continue walking when they are ready to get up again.
  • Stop walking and return home if your pet seems too tired to continue.
  • Avoid over-exercising your puppy. Over-exercising puppies can negatively impact on their musculoskeletal development and this is of particular concern in large and giant breed puppies (some of the large and giant dog breeds can continue to grow up until 18–24 months of age).

Exercising off lead

Another way to let your dog or puppy get the exercise they need is while they’re off the lead running freely in a safe environment, such as your backyard or a designated dog park. This way they can regulate their own pace and the amount of exercise they get. However, don’t over exercise your pet by doing too much throwing and catching, especially if they’re still young and growing. Sometimes the temptation to chase is too strong!

General tips

  • Watch out for signs of fatigue, such as your pet panting, slowing their pace, or lagging behind you or stopping. If you notice this, allow them to rest.
  • Watch for overheating, such as your pet panting excessively, drooling, showing signs of agitation/confusion or vomiting. If this happens, move them to a cooler place and shade immediately. Apply tepid/cool water to their fur/skin, belly and under legs followed by fanning, to cool them down quickly then take them to the nearest veterinarian immediately as heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency.
  • If you’re walking in the snow, avoid roads that have been treated with salt as they can sting your pet’s feet. If they lick their paws this can also upset their stomach as well.
  • Keep your pet hydrated by offering them water to drink at regular intervals during exercise and importantly, have water available for them when you get home.

Forced exercise such as the following should be avoided:

  • Jogging or running with a puppy or dog.
  • Excessive ball or frisbee throwing and catching.
  • Running your pet alongside your bike. This is against road rules in some states. In NSW, for example, the RTA states that a bicycle rider mustn’t lead an animal while the bike is moving, including by tethering.
  • Take fast paced or very long walks with your puppy.

With these tips in hand you can ensure your pet’s safety when it comes to exercise, as well as keep them healthy and happy for years to come!

~ Dr Peter Elliott


Produced by RSPCA Pet Insurance

Ref: How To Safely Exercise Your Dog | RSPCA Pet Insurance