How Much Exercise Is Too Much For a Dog?

Most dogs don’t get enough exercise. The modern human lifestyle doesn’t always allow for dogs to get an ideal amount of playtime and physical activity. A large majority of dog owners will never worry about whether or not their dog is getting too much exercise, but in some very active households, it’s a real possibility. Even the most energetic dog can become injured or stressed due to overwork. So how can you  tell if a dog is getting too much exercise?

 Running with Dog

Injuries and Exhaustion

One sign of overwork is exercise-related  injuries, particularly if they occur frequently or the dog aggravates old injuries on a regular basis. Any dog can take a bad step while running and injure a leg, but if you’ve been to the canine sports medicine specialist several times in the past year, for different injuries or flare-ups from the same injury, your dog may be overworked.

Hand-in-hand (paw-in-paw?) with sports injuries goes exhaustion. If your exercise sessions with your dog regularly leave her so tired that she’s not interested in food or attention, and she doesn’t recover from that level of exhaustion within a few minutes, she’s working too hard for her level of fitness– and maybe working too hard for any level of fitness. Dogs have limits, and it’s entirely possible for even an athletic dog to be owned by a human who is so committed to providing adequate exercise  that they continually push the dog past those limits.

Personality Changes

A dog getting a healthy amount of exercise should be excited when presented with a chance to participate in an athletic activity. If your dog spins happily in circles when he sees his leash, realizes he’s at the agility facility, or notices other signs he’s about to exercise, he’s probably fine. On the other hand, if a formerly exuberant canine athlete becomes reluctant, he may be overworked. Of course, there are other possible reasons for a dog to stop enjoying a sport:  A change of instructor or a pushy classmate, for example.

Other personality changes can also be signs of overwork. If a dog who gets a lot of exercise becomes snappy, lethargic, or slow to obey commands, and a vet rules out a health problem, he may simply be tired of working so hard. Sometimes athletic older dogs seem to change suddenly, going from youthful vigor to showing their age within days. If this is the case, after seeing the vet and confirming that the dog is healthy overall, consider reducing your dog’s exercise schedule for two weeks, and see if their behavior returns to normal.

What to Do?

It can be heartbreaking for an owner to realize that their dog can’t really keep up while the owner trains for a marathon, or that their prized herding dog is no longer feeling up to working sheep four times a week. Owners who exercise their dogs often feel (correctly) that they’re doing a good thing, going above and beyond what most dog owners do to keep their pets happy. But if your dog is showing signs of overwork, no matter how much you love exercising with her, it’s time to cut back.

If you find yourself cutting back on your dog’s exercise because he is overworked, and you’re feeling deprived, consider volunteering to exercise dogs at your nearest shelter. There are always homeless dogs who need a walk or a run! If it’s competition or canine sports you’re missing, maybe your instructor can match you with a competitor who needs help working her dog while the human half of the team recovers from an injury. Lastly, if you’re sure you can handle the extra responsibility, you could consider getting another dog.

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15 Responses

  1. HART (1-800-HART)
    | Reply

    (new PetLvr post ).. How Much Exercise Is Too Much For a Dog?: Most dogs don’t get eno..

  2. Doson
    | Reply

    Interesting!!! A must for Dog Lovers or DOGLVR 🙂
    huh I missed my puppy when I read this post.

  3. HART (1-800-HART)
    | Reply

    aw .. what type of puppy did you have Doson? There must be shelters in your area where you can go walk some dogs and get a little “puppylicious” time when you miss your own puppy!?

  4. Doson
    | Reply

    Its almost a year.. my babie got lost.
    The best thing is every morning she kiss me on my forehead.
    Plus she just want to be with me everywhere I go.
    My Babie & I lives together even in colleges.. plus sometimes she attends my classes too.. Its good that every teacher loves my cute puppy.
    But unfortunately it disappeared 🙁

  5. John Haydon
    | Reply

    Reading: “How Much Exercise Is Too Much For a Dog?” ( )

  6. Steve Wax
    | Reply

    Man, is this not the issue for a NYC dog: “How Much Exercise Is Too Much For a Dog?” ( ) RT @johnhaydon

  7. _McLaughlin
    | Reply

    How Much Exercise Is Too Much For a Dog?

  8. David
    | Reply

    You folks need to meet some real dogs. Plott hounds normally run 25 miles a day through the mountains and then turn around and do the the same thing the next day. Do you really think you could wear a dog like this training for something like a marathon?

  9. Dick
    | Reply

    I’ve often wondered if my choc lab would rather drop dead than to stop chasing his frisbee. Even at 5 years old he goes balls out and I have to take the frisbee away from him to get him to drink and calm down when it’s obvious he needs a break. Great advice here on how to tell if your dog needs to slow down and a great idea to exercise shelter dogs!

  10. David
    | Reply

    Weather has a lot to do with the exercise equation. An OCD dog like a lab needs to be made to slow down and rest some if the weather is hot like it has been around here. Nannie is pretty good about policing herself but she’s a hound and they’re really good at sleeping on the porch.

  11. Laura
    | Reply

    Check this out for a great indoor exercise alternative for your dog when you can’t get outside due to weather!

  12. Angela Lynn
    | Reply

    It’s too much when you actually do it than the usual dogs do. Depending I guess on the breed and how big or little your dog is. There are dogs require an extensive exercise because they are just meant for that while others don’t need much because they are not too aggressive and are just lazy in nature.

  13. Yimbo
    | Reply

    Doson, I thought you told me you ate your dog.. no?

  14. Emelie
    | Reply

    I had a 9 year old shep/lab/rotti mix female! I came home recently and found her collpased and no longer with us! This has been a devestating time for me as she was my best friend and most lovable companion! My question is, did i over excercise her to death! She was always a little hefty but i figured that was just her breed mix! We hiked mountains once a week but walked vigorously about 3-5k a night! Did i weaken her heart? Why did she just collapse? I am so perplexed by this! Someone help me please understand why and how i lost my best friend! Did i do this to her?

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