How often and how far should you walk your dog? Different breeds have different needs, and age matters, too
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
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.?”
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.
In Allentown, Pennsylvania, Deb Rabuck’s Pyrenean shepherds (small French herding dogs) get walks of a half-hour to an hour, or 1 to 3 miles.
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 years old, 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.
Will cat be lonely
while we’re gone?
Q: Since my husband retired, our 12-year-old Maine coon has become super attached to him! She is in his lap every chance she gets, and if we go out in the evening, she is always waiting for us in the window.
We are going away on vacation soon. We have a person coming in daily to take care of the litter box, food and water, but I am worried about how our cat will handle being without my husband. How can we make it easier for her?
A: It’s great that your cat has developed such a strong bond with your husband, but I can see why you might be worried about going on vacation. Here are some tips to help her feel more comfortable and less lonely.
Make sure she meets the pet sitter at least a couple of times before you leave. Cats like to take their time when getting to know strangers.
Unless your cat approaches the sitter on her own, the sitter should face away from her but toss treats in her direction. If your cat has a favorite toy, the sitter could also offer to play with it, again while not looking directly at the cat. Have the sitter prepare and set down the cat’s food while you’re there, too. Your cat will see that the sitter has nice “cat manners” and will associate him or her with good things -- treats, toys and dinner.
Have your husband leave a T-shirt that he’s worn for your cat to snuggle with. Access to his odor will help her feel comfortable during his absence. A diffuser that releases a feline pheromone, such as Feliway, can also help to create a calm atmosphere for your cat while you’re gone. -- Mikkel Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
How to clean up
with dogs and cats
-- If you have spring cleaning on your mind, don’t forget your pets’ gear. To prevent bacterial buildup from spreading to pet toys, dishes and bedding, not to mention your own stuff, thoroughly clean those items on a regular basis. Soft stuffed toys and bedding can go into the washing machine on the hot cycle and then into the dryer or outdoors to dry in the sun. Use detergent free of dyes and scents. Wash food and water dishes daily. Clean hard rubber or plastic toys in hot, soapy water, or run them through the dishwasher.
-- The most dog-friendly workplace in America may well be Amazon headquarters in Seattle. The company recently posted on its blog that some 6,000 dogs a day can be found at the company’s main campus. Receptionists hand out treats to passing dogs, the 17th floor has a deck where dogs can play -- fake fire hydrant included -- and the company opened a dog park available to the public in the surrounding neighborhood. In the post, “Woof Pack” manager Lara Hirschfield writes: “Dogs in the workplace is an unexpected mechanism for connection. I see Amazonians meeting each other in our lobbies or elevators every day because of their dogs.”
-- It’s Be Kind to Animals Week. The commemorative event, sponsored by the American Humane Association, first occurred in 1915, making it the longest-running humane education campaign in the United States. To celebrate, here are seven ways to act with compassion, kindness or love toward animals: provide pets with regular veterinary care and grooming; protect them with identification such as tags and microchips; foster or adopt an animal from a shelter; report animal cruelty if you see it; take your dog for a walk; play with your cat every day; and protect your pet from extreme temperatures. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.