Walkies! How much is too much for my dog?
December 5, 2006 3:46 AM   Subscribe

How much walking is too much walking for my dog?

I like to walk to work and back daily. The trip there and back is about 2.5 hours, totalling 13 kilometers (8miles), mostly on asphalt and concrete. Luckily for me I can take my dog to work, however I am worried that I might be walking her too far daily and damaging her feet.

She's a 15 month old medium size Staffy / Kelpie cross, so she has pretty long legs, and she seems to enjoy the walk a great deal, but I don't want to cause her pain or any foot problems.

Also, occasionally I go for very long walks. What would be the farthest I could safely take her, assuming mostly asphalt / concrete paths.

Final part - what should I look for on her feet to try and see problems coming? She has dark skin, but there are some small, slightly lighter patches on her forepaws. Is this a problem in the making? The skin seems even and unbroken.
posted by tomble to Pets & Animals (8 answers total)
Have you considered something like this? It might help in winter too as protection from road salt (if you live in an area that gets winter).
posted by LunaticFringe at 5:44 AM on December 5, 2006

With an adult dog, as long as you work up gradually and the dog tolerates it well, the distance just depends on the dog. However your dog is not an adult yet.

I'd have a slight concern that with a dog of this age who is still somewhat immature, this much forced exercise (by which I merely mean that the dog doesn't decide when or how far to walk, I don't mean that you're waving a bullwhip at the dog or anything) might be a bit too much.

It's not just her feet that you should be worried about, it's her bones and joints - many dogs who are stoic (which yours likely is, with those two breeds) won't show any sign of discomfort or pain until there's actual damage done, and at her age her skeletal system is still maturing. Since most people UNDERexercise their dogs, I'm a bit hesitant to say that you're over-exercising her, but I'd still be a bit cautious about doing this twice a day, every day until she's about 2 (she will likely be fully physically mature by then - it's harder to say with a mixed breed, but in general, dogs of the breeds she has take at least two years to fully mature). I would cut it back a bit for now. Good for you for being concerned about it.
posted by biscotti at 5:48 AM on December 5, 2006

The major concerns I think you have are dehydration and foot injuries. Make sure you're keeping an eye out for any scrapes or bleeding on her pads, and make sure she has access to water. Many people run with their dogs for long distances, but the dog needs to build up endurance just like a person would, so they usually work the dog up to it.

Her pads will toughen over time as you continue to walk her, so the damage will be less of a concern, but be very careful in the summer as hot pavement can burn her pads. You can get boots for her, and there are some products out there to help protect her feet as well - sprays and creams and whatnot.

I would recommend a google search for running and jogging with dogs, and follow the same guidelines for your long walks.

On preview, I also agree with biscotti that the age of the dog is a concern. It might be best to be cautious until her joints and bones have fully developed.
posted by thejanna at 5:52 AM on December 5, 2006

My understanding is that after the dog is a year old, it's OK to run or walk with them. If the dog is under a year old, it's OK to walk up to a few miles, but not run with the dog.
posted by SpecialK at 6:00 AM on December 5, 2006

My husband started running with our yellow lab when he was a year old. Gus is three now, and some weeks, they do as much as 20 miles. We've cleared this with our vet and we pay a lot of attention to his water intake and are always checking for injuries. Gus loves it and he is strong and healthy. I'm not suggesting you go out and do this, but if you work up to it when your dog is an appropriate age, your dog can do a lot. Of course, a lot depends on the breed.
posted by gokart4xmas at 6:59 AM on December 5, 2006

Second Lunatic Fringe on the boots; our other idea has been to paint liquid latex (sold at an adult novelty store or website near you!) on the dog's feet, which the vet OKed and the people at Petco thought was genius. The chihuahua won't wear boots, and it's Effing Cold here, to the point where sometimes her paws are hurting by the time I can get back to the door with the key after I pick up after her.

Something like this or a dog-specific mousturizer might also help, or you can ask a local grooming salon what they use on dogs with cracked paws and whether they sell it retail.
posted by Cricket at 7:14 AM on December 5, 2006

My understanding is that after the dog is a year old, it's OK to run or walk with them. If the dog is under a year old, it's OK to walk up to a few miles, but not run with the dog.

Most dogs which aren't toy breeds are not physically mature until at least 24 months of age. As such, forced exercise like running with the dog is generally discouraged until after this age.
posted by biscotti at 7:59 AM on December 5, 2006

I'd pay attention to your dog's behavior after the walk. If he still bounds up the stairs, you're in good shape; if he seems really sluggish, you should worry. At least, that's what my vet told me.

You didn't mention where you live, but if you're in a snowy climate, I'd watch out for the salt on the streets, which is bad for dogs' paws.
posted by stonefruit at 3:31 PM on December 7, 2006

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