Despite what many pet parents might think, going on potty breaks is not enough for dogs. They need outdoor time to exercise, socialize, explore and enjoy themselves. But how much outdoor time do dogs actually need? And why do dogs need outdoor time? Is it just for fun or is it actually necessary for their health? Let’s find out.
What kind of outdoor time do dogs need?
Going on potty breaks is absolutely necessary for dogs, we can all agree on that. But what many pet parents miss is the importance of not making those potty breaks the only outdoor time their dog gets.
Every dog needs to experience some, if not all, of these outdoor activities:
- Walks: daily walks with a long leash to different places.
- Off leash exploring: letting your pup explore the world off leash in a park. If your dog cannot be off leash, you can take them to different parks with a long leash so they can still explore their environment and interact with people and dogs.
- Socialization: meeting up with furry friends and playing, or just being around them.
- Backyard time: we have to be very careful with this one. If you have a backyard at home, your dog probably loves being out there, rolling in the grass and chasing birds. But that should definitely not be the only outdoor time your dog gets. It can be a small part of it, but definitely not most and much less, all of it. You can also use your backyard to play engaging games with your dog such as fetch and for their training sessions.
Why do dogs need outdoor time?
Dogs need outdoor time due to a number of different reasons.
1. Physical health
Dogs must exercise. It’s one of the most important factors why you should keep them active, it’s essential to take care of your dog’s health. Going on walks or playing with other dogs off leash at the park is key for their wellbeing.
Exercising allows dogs to control their weight and not become overweight, which can lead to serious health problems.
Exercising is also recommended for preventing joint wear and tear. Apart from taking joint supplements, dogs need to take daily walks and engage in play sessions with other dogs in order to prevent mobility issues.
2. Mental health
Dogs also need to have quality outdoor time in order to take care of their mental health.
When dogs go to the park or explore new spots of the neighborhood during walks, they get to smell new scents, meet new furry friends and explore the world. These walks are extremely important for dogs’ mental health.
Apart from exploring walks, dogs also need socialization walks. At the end of the day, dogs are social beings, just as humans, and they can’t be kept from social interaction. Whether it is with other dogs or humans, dogs need to have socialization opportunities as part of their daily routine.
Another big mental health problem dogs can face is boredom. If dogs are kept inside the house 24/7 and only go outside during potty breaks, they will most likely experience boredom. The big problem with your dog being bored (apart from the obvious fact that they would be unhappy) is that it can lead to anxiety and destructive behaviors.
We all understand that a tight schedule can make it difficult to dedicate much time to your dog’s walks, that if you work a 9 to 5 it can be hard to take your pup on an hour long walk every day. But just by taking them 30 minutes to the park before leaving for work and then again when you get back home, it can prevent your dog from feeling anxious and bored when you’re gone.
How much outdoor time do dogs need?
Now that we have gone through the different types of outdoor activities dogs need and why they need them, let’s answer the question that brings us here today: how much outdoor time does my dog need?
As a general answer, dogs need from one to two hours of outdoor time a day. Of course, that time can be split throughout the day in thirty minutes or one hour long sessions.
But the truth is that it also depends on each dog, and on some specific factors: age, breed, preference, tolerance, and energy levels.
Puppies tend to have more energy and a higher desire for going outside, while older dogs usually have less energy and don’t always want to go on two hour walks.
Nevertheless, this is a general rule that presents multiple exceptions. Many older dogs really enjoy going on walks and can’t seem to get enough outdoor time. They love to play with other pups and explore new places. Likewise, if a dog suffers from a degenerative joint disease such as osteoarthritis, they might not enjoy taking long walks even from a young age.
Some dog breeds are more prone to enjoying long walks and running in the park, such as Border Collies, while other breeds such as Shih Tzu are known for being excellent nap buddies, and not enjoying exercise so much.
Dog’s preference and tolerance
Just like people, every dog has its own preferences. You can have a Collie that instead of wanting to spend their afternoon at the park, they want to spend it on the couch with you. And although you should give them the minimum of outdoor time (30 minutes) so they don’t develop health problems in the future, you can’t force them to stay 2 hours in the park every day.
Nonetheless, you will notice that your dogs need more time outside if they’re baking a lot when left alone or if they are destroying the house once you leave. If that’s the case, you may need to implement some training time, exercise, and calming treats to your dog’s daily routine.
Tolerance is another key factor that will determine how much outdoor time your dog needs. Your pooch can either have had enough after an hour long walk, or they can resist over two hours of exercise. Once again, this depends on every dog.