Owning small dogs can bring such joy into your life. Trust me, I can appreciate the calm and excitement that can come with sharing my home with my own little pack. Small dogs have the advantage over bigger dogs since they take up less room, eat less, and it really saves on the treats budget, but there is always the question of exercise when it comes to small dogs.
Do little dogs need to be walked? The simplest answer is yes, but it is not the complete one. Little dogs tend to be just as active and energetic as larger dogs, and sometimes more so. Going for walks is the easiest, but not the only way, to help them get what they need.
Taking a dog, even a little one, for a walk helps to release pent up energy and gives them a chance to explore, which is a favorite pastime of the canine species. While, yes, they can also be given a chance to relieve themselves outside, many small dog owners also keep puppy pads on hand, especially at night. So bathroom breaks are just a small part of going outside for them.
The Purpose of a Walk
Walking a dog, small, medium, or large, serves a couple of purposes, besides the obvious elimination needs. Even small dogs can get frustrated from boredom or begin to have health issues from too sedentary of a lifestyle, just like humans can.
This is where taking a few walks a day can help to relieve that boredom which can cause things like:
- Household destruction. Even adult dogs will chew things up to relieve boredom
- Excessive barking. Tired dogs don’t bother with barking at every little noise
- Excessive running in the home. In an attempt to release the energy, they run.
- Tormenting other pets. Sometimes being a bully can help relieve the boredom.
Relieve Pent Up Energy
Giving your small dog an opportunity to release some of that stored up energy can be one of the easiest ways to help correct bad behavior. I believe that many issues that dogs may experience are from too much pent up energy. In their attempts to relieve boredom in the wild, they would chase things (squirrels are a favorite) or chew on things.
This same instinct will carry over into their lives with humans, and when they don’t have a release for that energy, it can cause all kinds of issues.
One of most common issues you’ll experience with a bored pooch is excessive vocalization.
- Your little dog may feel they are always on “guard duty” (as it is called in my home), which can cause them to bark at EVERYTHING.
- Another way that excessive vocalization is seen, especially in puppies, is with whining. The whining can be a sign of separation anxiety or frustration, but it can also be a way to communicate: “I’m bored, let me go do something.” If you have ever tried to crate train an uncooperative puppy, then you know the whining can go on for hours if you let it.
Going for a walk can help to resolve all of these issues as they have a chance to get some energy out and may just take a nap after you get back. If you can take them for a walk off leash they can have a chance to run and get out more energy. While I understand this is not a viable solution in every situation, even a leashed walk will do them some good.
Walks Allow Your Dog to Explore
Exploring gives them a chance to put their nose to the ground and see who has been through any area. Since dogs actually explore through smell than they do sight, having the opportunity to smell and explore new areas can help to relieve boredom even further and add to the things they will dream about later, and yes, dogs do dream.
Again, if it is safe for them to be able to do so off leash, even if it is just a new section of the yard, it will offer a chance to be able to experience more of the world around them.
Walks are Good For Their Health (and yours)
Dogs can get as fat and lazy as humans can get, given the opportunity or lack of exercise. This can lead to all kinds of health issues, including canine obesity. Once an animal does become obese, it can then be harder to get them to exercise to lose the weight in the future. This is best prevented by regular walks.
There is also the added benefit of getting a little extra exercise in for yourself as well, which is rarely a bad thing. Both humans and dogs can suffer from the same negative effects from lack of exercise and activity, so it is best to be able to offer them and yourself, a chance to get outside and walk around a bit.
How Long and How Often Should You Walk a Little Dog?
These may be the biggest questions on your mind. The good news is that smaller dogs don’t need as much exercise as larger dogs and they can usually be trained pretty easily to walk in a pack if you happen to share your home with more than one.
Since smaller dogs do have a more limited need for exercise than bigger dogs, a 15 to 30 minute walk should be sufficient in most cases. If you can take them to an area that is safe for them to run off leash, this would be ideal as it would offer a way for them to get out even more energy than just a regular walk would.
The total amount of walking time per day varies depending on breed and size of your canine companion. Although some bigger dogs may need up to 2 or 3 hours of exercise or walking time a day, most smaller dogs can have that time cut back to 30 to 60 minutes total.
How Often is Enough?
Now that we have determined that they need an hour of exercise per day, how often depends mostly on how you break this time up. It would also depend on the fitness of your dog as well.
- For a normal weight dog: Breaking an hour of walking time up into a couple 30 minute segments or three 20 minute walks should be sufficient enough to get the energy dealt with and help keep both their health and behavior on track.
- For an obese dog: Keeping in mind that this refers to a dog that is probably older and is obviously overweight, they may need shorter walks to help them lose the added pounds (or ounces, depending on the size). This can be achieved by breaking the hour up into six 10 minute walks. This way they do not get worn out, but still get what they need.
Alternatives to Walks for Little Dogs
Some situations do not allow for the human caregivers of any particular dog to be able to walk them regularly. This may be due to illness or injury on the part of the human, and in life, these things happen.
- While it may take some work to get the dog accustomed to it, you can use a treadmill to your canine companion to get the exercise he needs, even if you are unable to walk with him.
- Swimming in a pool can also help with the energy.
- Time spent off leash outdoors playing catch or just chasing squirrels also provides your dog with plenty of exercise.
None of these are perfect solutions for your dog as none of these methods allow for exploration, which is the best part of a walk, at least as far as a dog is concerned. Walks are always the best option, though not the only one.