Does Your Dog Need More Exercise? (Seven Signs)

We all know that dogs require exercise and activities with their owner. But how much exactly is needed? A senior Chihuahua will not be able to go for a 90-minute strenuous walk, whereas a young and spunky Belgian Malinois sees this as barely a warm-up.

Not getting enough physical and mental exercise can lead to dogs’ problematic behavioral issues. These are not always instant - sometimes, a lack of exercise builds up over time until it manifests into visible problems.

About half of all significant canine problems I see as a dog trainer are caused by a lack of sufficient activity. Let’s look at seven subtle clues that your dog needs more to do!

7 Signs Your Dog Needs More Exercise

Dog trying to lick its nose

1. Obsessive Licking

All dogs like to lick their owner’s face as a sign of affection. However, sometimes licking can become obsessive and compulsive. Dogs that have unhealthy licking behaviors will lick walls, their owners’ hands, or their paws, sometimes for hours unless interrupted. 

Obsessive licking isn’t typical and can be a sign that your dog is bored. Give your pupster more mental and physical exercise, and you might just see the issue disappear!

Many Shepherds and herding dogs tend to develop obsessive licking.

2. Pacing

Your dog is pacing if she is walking back and forth for no reason, both inside and outside. This pacing is usually done along a wall or fence of some sort. It’s reminiscent of large cats in zoos.

Both behaviors’ origin is the same: The dog is under-stimulated and tries to self-soothe by moving repetitively back and forth.

Pacing for hours in your home or yard is not normal behavior and a strong sign that your dog needs more outlets for her energy.

Belgian Malinois are a breed known for pacing if they have too little exercise.

Bored dog barking and whining

3. Excessive Barking

Most dogs bark every once in a while. However, endless barking is not “just” a boisterous dog … it’s a sign of a dog who needs some change in her life! 

Dogs can bark in various situations: when they are startled or want to alert their owners to a sudden change (such as a delivery coming) if they want attention and interaction from their owner or, (this is the most challenging kind to fix) from reactivity.

Reactive behavior, unfortunately, is prevalent in under-exercised and bored dogs. It can start as minor leash reactivity and escalate to profound aggression, which desperately needs professional help.

If your dog is barking for hours, it’s a definite sign that you need to give her more exercise and potentially have her evaluated for reactivity by a dog trainer.

4. Inability to Settle

Does your dog get excited when you come home or friends come over? Probably! But what if she just cannot calm down anymore after she is “acting crazy”? 

Every dog is full of joy when visitors arrive or her people come home. But a dog that has enough exercise and is in an excellent mental state should be able to settle within a few minutes and calmly go lie down on her bed. 

If you have a dog who is bouncing up and down for hours, bringing you toy after toy and cannot stop once she “gets going,” it’s probably time to give her some more outlets for her energy! 

Not only will your dog be easier to deal with at home, but your guests will appreciate not having an excited dog in their face and on their lap as well!

Doodles (Poodle mixed breeds) are dogs that show this sign of too little exercise a lot!

Dog scratching at hotspot

5. Scratching & Hotspots

Like the licking mentioned above, obsessive itching can also be a sign of a bored dog. Again, it’s normal that your dog will scratch herself once in a while. However, some dogs become obsessive about scratching and biting at a particular part of their body, often around their tail area. 

They might also chew the hairs on their tail. If this sounds like your dog, it’s time to give your pup more things to do!

6. No Focus

This one might seem counter-intuitive. A dog that doesn’t get enough exercise should be extra keen on training with you, right?

Nope! If a dog is constantly bored and without enough activity, she will not be in a good mental state to train at all. The chances are that she is wiggly, cannot wait until you tell her what to do, doesn’t sit and stay, and doesn’t come when called. 

Your dog needs to have had enough outlet for her energy first to be a good student. Think of little kids at school: They also have frequent breaks to move their bodies before learning well!

If your dog is disappointing you in training through a lack of focus, chances are more exercise could quickly fix this.

Terriers such as the Border Terrier, Jack Russell Terrier, or Yorkshire Terrier show a lack of focus as a primary sign of too little exercise.

Over weight dog

7. Weight Gain

Did your dog’s weight increase even though you are feeding her the same amount she has always eaten? Then her exercise has probably declined! Obesity is a serious problem and the number one reason for dogs’ poor health. It can result in diabetes, joint problems, and chronic pain conditions.

If your dog has gained weight, you should consult your veterinarian and determine how you can get her back to a healthy weight. Small changes can let your dog live a long and healthy life at a normal weight.

Decreasing your dogs’ food and upping her exercise regime will be a great start!

Final Thoughts

I know - sometimes it’s too dark, too cold, too windy, or you are too tired to take your dog out on her walk. While skipping one day won’t hurt your pupster, you should strive to keep up with your dog’s exercise needs. 

Every healthy adult dog should ideally have daily physical and mental exercise to get out all that energy. Besides, keeping up with your dog’s exercise lets you bond with your dog and prevent behavioral issues.

Did we miss any signs your dog needs more exercise? Let us know in the comments below!

Additional Resource: SpiritDog Training

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