Pets

How often and how far should you walk your dog? It depends

At our house, a long dog walk is 45 minutes each way and may involve stairs and beach walking. A moderate walk is 20 to 30 minutes around the block. A short walk is 10 to 15 minutes around our complex.

We first devised those dog walk descriptions for our then-3-year-old cavalier King Charles spaniel, Harper. It wasn’t unusual for her to walk anywhere from 2 to 7 miles daily.

What amount and distance of walking does your dog need? It’s a common Google search: “How long should I walk my cockapoo/German shepherd/puppy/small dog/etc.?”

The answer? It depends. Cavaliers like Harper are among the dogs who can switch from couch potato to avid walker or hiker depending on their person’s energy level and time available on a particular day, but many dogs need and demand longer or more strenuous outings every day, and often more than once or twice. And some, of course, would prefer gentle walks – the shorter, the better.

While there are always exceptions, it’s smart to assume that dogs bred to herd (border collies, Australian cattle dogs, German shepherds and Australian shepherds, for instance) or hunt (the various retrievers, pointers, setters and spaniels) require large amounts of daily exercise to burn off their vast energy reserves.

Dog trainer Liz Palika of Kindred Spirits in Oceanside, California, lives with two English shepherds, Bones and Hero, and previously had several Australian shepherds. When her dogs are young puppies, they get an hour to an hour and a half daily of running off leash in her training yard or retrieving balls and toys. Once their growth plates close – an age that varies by breed and ranges from 10 to 20 months – she gradually introduces them to running several miles a day alongside her bike in the morning, plus their hour or more of play in the evening. “We generally take Sunday off,” she says.

New York City Leonbergers Cleah, 10, and Emily, 5, walk about 2 miles daily on city streets, plus one or more 16-story stair climbs, says owner Mara Bovsun. On Long Island, they have the opportunity for off-leash runs and 3 1/2 -mile walks or runs in the woods.

Older dogs can be surprisingly active when it comes to walks. Susan Rosenau’s dogs, a 10-year-old Boston terrier and a 10-year-old French bulldog, get four walks daily, two for 20 minutes and two that are shorter. Jenn Stollery’s cavalier King Charles spaniels walk 1 to 4 miles daily.

Age and infirmities don’t deter dogs from their daily walks. “My oldest sets the pace,” says Stollery, of Parsippany, New Jersey. “He is 13 but still loves a serious walk.”

Chris Foxx of Seattle drives his 13-year-old pug Lola, who is blind, to a nearby park for daily walks. While Lola used to love hiking on trails, Foxx says now it’s better for her to explore an open field so she doesn’t run into trees or stumble over rocks. Mika, a 10-year-old German shepherd mix, and 9-year-old Hina, a chow-Akita mix, take owner Mary Wakabayashi for a 45-to-60-minute walk every morning, plus a 2-to-3-mile walk after Wakabayashi gets home from work.

The average adult dog benefits from at least 30 minutes of exercise daily, which can be broken up into two or three walks. Harper, now 10 1/2 , still enjoys a 2-mile walk or several short walks daily. It’s good for her health and mine, and best of all, it makes both of us happy.

Pet Connection is produced by a team headed by veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and Kim Campbell Thornton, author of pet-care books.

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