If 1 human year is equivalent to 7 dog years, then is 1 human mile equivalent to 7 dog miles?
For those of us with small dogs, we know that size matters. Not only do we have to be careful of where we step and sit, but we also have to be cognizant about serving sizes when it’s mealtime. In other words, there are many special considerations when it comes to taking care of a small dog compared to a large dog.
One of these considerations is knowing how much exercise a small dog needs. After all, we want to provide our pups with the happiest and healthiest lives possible!
In this article, we’ll explain how far a small dog can walk as well as provide tips on how to make the most out of your walks together!
How Many Miles Should A Small Dog Walk?
While this is a good question, veterinarians recommend re-framing the question the following way instead: How many minutes of exercise does my small dog need every day?
You see, measuring by time rather than by distance is healthier for your dog.
Consider the reasons why:
- Old dogs can’t walk as far. If you aim for distance, you might unintentionally push your dog beyond its limits, especially as it ages. By measuring exercise by time, you can go at your dog’s pace, which can help prevent injuries.
- Dogs have to build stamina. You wouldn’t run a 5K, 10K, or marathon without training for them first, right? Well, the same is true for your dog. Just because dogs’ ancestors hunted in the wild, it doesn’t mean that they can walk and run great distances immediately. Similar to humans, they have to build up stamina.
- Walking isn’t the only form of exercise. Jumping, playing tug-of-war, and going to the dog park are all forms of exercise. To avoid overexertion, it’s important to consider all the various forms of exercise your dog gets throughout the day. For example, you might not want to take your dog for a walk/jog if it has already spent the day at doggie daycare or the dog park.
With that being said, veterinarians advise that small dogs get 30 to 45 minutes of exercise each day.
This doesn’t have to be in a single activity either. If you take a 15 minute walk with your pup in the morning and another 15 minute walk at night, then that still counts as 30 minutes of exercise!
However, while 30 to 45 minutes daily is a solid rule of thumb, it’s also important to take the breed into consideration. There are many toy dogs that come from working breed backgrounds. Small dogs that need a lot of exercise include, but are not limited to:
- Jack Russell Terrier
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
- Shih Tzu
- Miniature Schnauzer
- Toy Poodle
In addition to physical exercise, it’s equally important to keep your dog mentally engaged as well. Teaching your dog tricks and how to obey basic commands is critical to keeping your dog’s mind healthy and active, especially as it grows older.
Regardless of how your dog exercises, it’s important to ensure that it is well behaved. This is important for your safety, your dog’s safety, and the safety of everyone around you. For instance, if you’re on a walk, it’s important for your dog to be friendly with strangers and other dogs that you encounter. If behavior is an issue during walks, then you might want to consider looking into shock collars for little dogs to keep your pup safe!
So How Far Can a Dog Walk?
Now that you know that veterinarians recommend 30-45 minutes of exercise daily, you might still be wondering: How many miles can a small dog walk? Can a Small dog walk long distances?
Perhaps you want to take your dog on a hike on nearby trails. Or maybe you’re considering participating in a local 5K or 10K with your dog. You might even be a power walker and simply want to bring your pup along! Whatever the reason, there are many scenarios why you might be asking this question.
Most small dogs can safely walk one to three miles. More active dogs can safely walk up to 10 miles. However, it’s important to wait until your dog is fully grown until you attempt those longer distances. Puppies are still growing and need that energy to give them strong bones and healthy joints. While puppies might seem like they have a lot of energy, they might not have the stamina or the bone health for those longer walks.
Remember, small dogs have much shorter legs, so while you might be leisurely walking, your dog might perceive it as a jog or even a run.
Still, there are many small dog breeds that come from extremely active ancestors such as herding dogs or hunting dogs.
Again, for most dogs, veterinarians recommend sticking to 30-45 minutes of exercise per day, but if your dog falls into the following categories, then you can make an exception.
- Herding dogs. While large herding dogs such as Australian cattle dogs can walk/run 10-20 miles per day, their smaller counterparts (such as corgis) should aim for 5 to 8 miles broken up over 2-3 times per day.
- Sporting dogs. These dogs come from competitive backgrounds, so they have very high exercise needs. Small spaniels can walk 8 to 10 miles a day!
- Hound dogs. Hound dogs are happy to take it easy, but they still have considerable exercise requirements as well. The smallest hound dogs will still be happy to go on walks ranging between 5-10 miles per day.
- Small Game Terriers. Though there are many types of terriers, any terrier that is considered a toy breed weighing between 5-15 pounds should walk no more than 3 to 5 miles.
- All Other Toy Breeds can safely walk 2 to 5 miles broken up over two or three walks a day.
Again, it’s important to build up to this mileage, especially if your dog is a puppy. A good rule of thumb is to start at a comfortable distance for both of you, then to slowly increase the mileage (or time spent exercising) by 10% a week.
Whenever you’re walking your dog, you should pay attention to its body language and behavior. When people ask, “How long should you walk a small dog?” it is easy to give generalized advice, but the best answer is always unique to your own pup.
For example, let’s say that you have a small terrier. The recommended distance for those breeds is 3 to 5 miles. But what happens if your small terrier looks tired after only walking 1.5 miles? Perhaps its pace has slowed or you notice your pup has started panting pretty heavily. For your dog’s safety, it’s probably best to cut the walk short. Either you need to work up to a longer distance or your dog may prefer two or three shorter walks throughout the day (that still add up to 3-5 miles total).
In other words, while there are many generalizations about breeds, it’s still important to pay attention to your dog’s unique exercise needs, personality, and health.
How to Walk or Hike with a Small Dog
In order to start building your small dog’s stamina, it’s important to begin slowly. Again, try thinking about this as more of a time commitment rather than a mileage commitment. Even if you have a super sporty dog breed that is prone to walking or running great distances, it’s best to start conservatively, then go from there. This can prevent injury or burnout for both of you!
Consider following this process:
- Set a routine. Dogs LOVE routine – and they have incredible internal body clocks. Even though dogs don’t understand time like we do, they have a keen way of understanding routine. Set a routine that you can stick to. Perhaps you go on a morning walk together. Or maybe you want to walk twice a day; once in the morning and another time in the evening. No matter when you decide to walk together, consistency is key.
- Build it up. Once you’re walking on a consistent basis, you can add a little more time (or distance) to your walk. Many veterinarians recommend following the “10% rule.” Whatever your total time or mileage is for the week, only increase it by 10% the following week. This way, you can begin pushing and increasing your dog’s limits without it being too much, too soon.
- Choose the right route. Are you walking during the summer? Then you’ll want to choose routes with lots of trees for shade and grass for your dog to walk on (instead of hot concrete!). If you’re training for a hike or a 5K together, then start with a flat route, then slowly find routes that have a few hills. Similar to slowly increasing distance and time, you’ll want to slowly begin varying the terrain. In general, it’s best to start with a flat route, then go from there.
- Make sure your dog obeys your commands. From squirrels to other dogs to strangers, your dog might feel overwhelmed on your walk. This can lead to many behavioral issues that are more than just annoying, but are also safety issues. Ask yourself the following questions: Does my dog stop when I tell him to stop? Does he sit when I tell him to sit? If you answered, “Yes,” ask yourself: Is this still true in environments outside the home where other people and animals are present?
If you answered no, you may want to consider a vibration collar for small dogs.
You see, a training collar is an excellent communication device that allows you to bring your dog’s attention back to you. When you’re walking, there’s a lot of stimulation that will be distracting for your dog. A good training collar will allow you to get your dog’s attention so that it obeys and stops unwanted behavior. This is key to your dog’s safety, health, and happiness!
- Keep practicing! Once your good, small walking dog is in a routine, make sure to stick to it! Consistent walks will help maintain your fitness as well as your dog’s fitness. Remember, dogs are prone to health issues like heart disease and obesity, just like humans, so exercise is important to keep them healthy!
Again, we want to emphasize that the answer to “how far to walk a small dog” is dependent on your dog’s breed, age, and unique personality and characteristics.
Furthermore, as suggested above, it’s also influenced by the route that you take. If you take a hilly route on a hot summer day, then it’s ok to cut the walk shorter than you usually would. In other words, these are “set in stone” rules. The most important thing is to be in tune with your dog’s body language and behavior.
Why Is Walking a Small Dog So Important?
Why walk at all? Do small dogs even need to be walked?
In addition to going to the bathroom, your dog will love walks because this is how it has a chance to learn more about the world. Smell is a dog’s primary sense – this is why dog’s stop to smell everything whenever they’re walking. It may seem trivial to us, but this really does bring dogs so much joy and happiness.
In addition to improving their happiness and quality of life, regular walks can help small dogs:
- Control their weight. Small dogs are more prone to obesity problems than larger dogs. Think about it: even a 1 pound weight gain is considerable to a small dog that should only weigh 5-15 pounds. This can lead to heart disease and more wear and tear on its body.
- Maintain joint health. A healthy weight will help keep the joints healthy – and regular walks will help keep these joints loose and limber, helping prevent (or delay) arthritis as old age approaches. Exercise gets the blood flowing, and that’s exactly what’s needed for good joint health.
- Keep their digestive and urinary tracts healthy. Regular walks help keep your dog, well, regular. It’s not just about walking; it’s about making sure your dog has ample time and opportunities to relieve itself. If a dog “holds it in” too long throughout the day, this can lead to issues in the gut. Regular opportunities for your dog to use the bathroom are key to good health.
Why Is My Dog Running Around Me?
If you let your dog off-leash, you may notice that he or she will run circles around you. This is known as “herding.” Some breeds do this naturally. Cattle dogs, for instance, were bred to herd livestock such as cattle, sheep, and pigs. Even if your dog isn’t a cattle dog, they may have these genetics that lead to this behavior.
Check out our previous blog to learn more about signs my dog is herding me.
If you have trails or parks that allow you to take your dog off leash, only do so if you’re confident that your dog will listen to you. But remember, even the most well-behaved dogs can be distracted by something as simple as a squirrel. While this might not seem like a big deal, it can turn dangerous quickly, especially if the squirrel runs towards a busy road while your dog is chasing it.
By investing in a training collar for small dogs, you will have the peace of mind that you can communicate with your dog from up to 1,000 feet away! No matter how often, how far, or how long you walk, safety should always be your top priority!