How’s this for an idea: What if a law required that all the country’s dog owners walk their pups at least twice each day for a total of one hour?
That’s indeed what Germany’s agriculture minister, Julia Klöckner, has proposed for her country’s 9.4 million dog owners, The Guardian reported back in August. She says the new dog-fitness rules—or a clandestine effort to also make Germany’s humans healthier—were crafted based on research showing that dogs need “sufficient” activity and interaction with outdoor stimuli, the newspaper reports.
The new exercise rule is included in the fun-to-say Hundeverordnung (Dogs Act). The proposed law hasn’t gone into effect yet, but it’s already irked Germans who’ve bemoaned the one-size-fits-all approach.
So, should you follow the German rule? Well, that depends, says veterinarian Darryl Millis, an expert in veterinary sports medicine and canine rehabilitation. Generally, consistent exercise for a dog is an excellent way to keep them healthy. But some dogs need more exercise or different activities. Two walks will be too much for other dogs.
“I think any time you try to make a one-size-fits-all policy, immediately there are going to be a number of exceptions to the rule,” he says.
When 2 Walks Might Be Too Much
For some dogs living in some locations, an hour total of walking around outside isn’t a good idea.
First, owners of any kind of dog living in a hot and humid area should think twice before heading out during the day, Millis says. Dogs can’t sweat, so being out in the heat can lead to a lot of panting and maybe even heat stroke.
You’ll also want to mostly stay inside if your dog has an underlying physical or neurological condition, Millis says. For dogs suffering from arthritis or elbow and hip dysplasia, too much exercise can be painful. Shorter walks might be best.
Brachycephalic breeds—flat-faced dogs like pugs, English bulldogs, and French bulldogs—should limit their exercise as well, Millis says. These dogs can have a hard time breathing because of narrow nostrils and narrow wind pipes that limit oxygen’s access to the lungs. Don’t prohibit your bulldog from exercise, but don’t overdo it, either.
Plus, some dog owners, like people who have arthritis or are bound to a wheelchair, might not might not be able to walk twice a day for an hour.
When 2 Walks Might Be Too Little
Some breeds need more than just an hour walking each day, whether that’s even-longer walks or different kinds of exercise.
A leash walk is fine for a greyhound or whippet, Millis says, but they most likely need a big grassy area where they can unfurl those long legs and approach their high-end top speeds. A game of fetch might be the anaerobic exercise they need.
On the other hand, some dogs may need to walk for more than an hour each day. Healthy huskies, golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, Irish setters and other athletic dogs are built for more than just one hour of exercise a day.
“It’s not a bad thing to walk for an hour, but if there can be some running and jogging in there as well, just to increase their total fitness level, I think that’s advantageous,” Millis says.
Consult Your Vet for an Exercise Plan
Talk to your veterinarian about how often you should walk your dog. Millis says the best way to come up with an exercise plan is for a vet to give your pup a full physical examination. During the exam, your vet can check your dog for arthritis, dysplasia, or any other underlying condition.
Then, do what your vet says, no matter what the German government decides (unless you live in Germany).