Can a dog run too much? The Ultimate Guide

Brachycephalic breeds—which include short-nosed dogs like Bulldogs, Pugs, Pekingese, Boxers, and Shih Tzus—are at even greater risk because they can’t cool off as efficiently as others, says Dr. David Wohlstadter, a veterinarian with BluePearl Veterinary Partners in Queens, New York. “I wouldn’t ever take a French Bulldog or a Bulldog on a run, I think that’s a terrible idea.” But he’s seen it. “Just because your dog really, really wants to doesn’t mean it’s safe for them,” he adds.

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Pad injuries can be extremely painful, says Downing, who is board-certified in veterinary sports medicine and rehabilitation and pain management. It’s “like walking on a ruptured blister on the bottom of your foot.” Dogs can’t get off their feet as easily as we can, “which makes any and all walking torturous.”

However, this isn’t an invitation to overwork your dog. “One misconception I sometimes encounter is that if a dog is overweight or obese, then the owner must suddenly erupt into a rigorous exercise plan for the dog,” Downing says. “Should that happen, there is real risk for joint injury, back injury, respiratory distress, or cardiovascular problem. Heat stroke is a huge problem (and an often fatal one) for obese dogs who are exercised too rigorously.”

Exercise provides your dog with a myriad of physical and mental benefits. “It keeps joints limber and promotes good range of motion, maintains muscle mass, which can help prevent injury, and helps to maintain cardiovascular health, decrease obesity, or maintain appropriate weight,” says Dr. Wanda Gordon-Evans, an associate professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Minnesota, Saint Paul.

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I’ll never forget the look my puppy obedience class trainer gave me when I told her proudly that my puppy had gone on a two-mile hike with me. As she explained, puppies, especially large-breed puppies, should not be exercised too much, as over-exercising could cause joint and bone problems, and two miles was definitely too much for my three-month-old dog.

While I never made that mistake again, it did leave me with a few questions. Just how much exercise is too much for a puppy, and how do you know when enough is enough?

There is a lot of debate in the dog world about puppies and exercise. Veterinarians, breeders, and trainers all seem to agree that too much exercise is just as bad as not enough, but there is no set formula for calculating your puppy’s progress.

While it would be nice if there were a 100-percent-accurate chart you could look at that broke down puppies by breed and age and explained how much exercise they needed each day, complete with mileage and a puppy activity tracker, the reality is more complicated.

Veterinarian Dr. Patty Khuly points out that some of this confusion stems from a combination of a lack of scientific studies and a variety of personal opinions. She compares the debate about puppy exercise to the ongoing debate about exercise, sports, and children – there are many different approaches to exercise, and each has its ups and downs.

Set a realistic daily activity goal

To start off, you need to know what levels of activity your dog requires. To do this, read our guide ‘How much exercise does my dog need?’ and get your tailored activity goal in the PitPat app.

It’s also important that you adjust your goal for your dog’s needs. Bring it down if they have health issues that limit their capacity for exercise, are feeling the effects of old age, or for any other reason that your vet might recommend. Bring it up if they are particularly active already, such as working dogs or those who take part in canine sports alongside their normal exercise routine.

If you have a puppy, we’ll automatically select an age-appropriate goal for them and bring this up as they grow older until they are an adult.

Using a PitPat Dog Activity Monitor or a PitPat Dog GPS Tracker, you can track your dog’s daily activity levels, including whether or not they have managed to hit their activity goals. You can use these stats to figure out whether their activity goals are just right or whether you need to adjust them.

For example, if your dog regularly exceeds their activity goal and they aren’t showing any signs of being over-exercised, you may wish to increase their daily goal to reflect their normal levels of activity.

Can a dog run too much?

Just like with humans, you need to build up your dog’s fitness levels to get them to a point where they can handle more intense activity or have longer endurance to join you on those mountain climbs.

Gradually increase their activity levels each day, making sure you take the odd rest day where they get a gentler walk, giving them time to recover.

Keep an eye out for signs that they might be struggling with the increases in activity and adjust their exercise routine to suit.

Can a dog run too much?

Finally, remember that your dog will go through phases of fitness. As they move into their golden years, you’ll need to gradually decrease the intensity and amount of exercise they do, as well as when they need to rehabilitate from injuries, ill health, or operations.

Start tracking your dog today with a PitPat Dog Activity Monitor for £39. Alterntively, if you’ve ever worried about your dog running off, the PitPat Dog GPS Tracker will help you find them, and includes all our award-winning activity monitoring too.

What TO do and what NOT to do if your dog runs away and doesn’t listen

Dr. Justine Lee is a board-certified emergency critical care veterinary specialist, and is the CEO of VetGirl. For more from Dr. Lee, find her on Facebook!

Last week, I talked about running with your dog. After all, it’s a great way for you to bond with your four-legged family member, to mentally and physically stimulate him, and to help keep you in shape too! However, before just jumping right into it, there are a few pet dangers that you need to be aware of that occur when you exercise with your dog, including the top three that I see:

Heat stroke When it comes to deciding when to take your dog out for a stroll, rollerblade, run, or trot, my general rule stems from working with sled dogs. If the temperature plus humidity added together are greater than 150, it’s too hot for your dog! For example: Temperature: 75°F Humidity level: 80% 75 + 80 = 155 In my opinion, this is too hot to run! If you want to torture yourself and run, go for it. But, in general, only do intense exercise with your dog if it’s < 150. Keep in mind that dogs can potentially overheat more, as compared to humans. Here are a few reasons why they can overheat:

When in doubt, exercise during non-peak heat hours… very early in the morning or late in the evening. Most importantly, if you notice your dog is showing early signs of heat stroke, stop and take a break. Get your dog some water. And when in doubt, walk him home. Heat stroke can be deadly, even with aggressive therapy and treatment. Signs of heat stroke include:

Treatment for heat stroke includes rapid body cooling, aggressive intravenous fluids, monitoring for organ failure and clotting abnormalities, blood pressure monitoring, urine output monitoring, blood work monitoring, anti-vomiting medication, plasma transfusions, possibly antibiotic therapy, and supportive care. When in doubt, prevent it before instead of paying the price – potentially with a life – later. Pad Abrasions Some people exercise with their dog so much that their paw pads abrade off. This is a sign of too much running, in my opinion. After all, while I don’t have the most beautiful feet (what I call “cleat feet” from playing sports), I don’t wear the bottom of my feet off! While pad abrasions seem minor (e.g., they aren’t life-threatening) as compared to heat stroke, be kind to your dog. Prevent this, as it can be painful. While the pad has significantly diminished pain sensation, having them completely abraded off so the tissue underneath is exposed is painful. Avoid! Soreness If you have a dog with osteoarthritis or orthopedic problems, exercising is still a great way of keeping pounds off your pet. Studies have shown that skinnier dogs live longer and have less osteoarthritis, so make sure to keep your dog trim for all of his life. However, once a pet has developed osteoarthritis, it can be painful for them to have that constant pounding of running. Take it slow (pace at > 9 minute mile) so they can quickly walk with you; this allows them to still exercise with you, but with less potential for soreness and stiffness. Alternatively, consider swimming! This low-impact sport is great for you and your pet. Last, consider benign medications like glucosamine. Still sore? Talk to your veterinarian about prescription veterinary non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) to help with the occasional soreness. (Never use human medications on pets without consulting your veterinarian, as even human NSAIDS can cause kidney failure and stomach ulcers with low doses). Kudos for you for exercising with your dog. Keep it up. Just beware the few dangers associated with it.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.