How Often Do You Walk Your Dog?


I read an article in the Washington Post the other day about walking your dog. The gist of the article was that failing to take your dog on walks can be detrimental to your dog’s physical and emotional well being.

I agree – and I suspect the majority of dog owners don’t walk their dogs regularly.

I’m not judging anyone. Even I, a dedicated dog owner who strongly believes in the benefits of dog walking, who loves going for walks with my dogs, who lives in a beautiful area for walking, who is healthy and has healthy dogs  . . . even I often fail to walk my dogs.

I was a lot better about walking my dogs regularly when 8-year-old Woody was young and needed daily exercise in order to behave well at home. When he was a youngster, he needed double-digit miles per week of off-leash running if I didn’t want the house to be chewed apart. Today, though, he’s perfectly behaved whether we get out for walks or not.

Two-year-old Boone has been lower-maintenance. He would love more walks than he gets, but he doesn’t fall apart behaviorally if he doesn’t get them.

I do have the advantage of living on two completely fenced acres, and my dogs can run and play outside any time they want. They do play daily chase games and do a few laps of the property every day – but the overall mileage of those activities isn’t anything like a walk. And the stimulation they get from exploring our property isn’t nearly as enriching as going someplace else and sniffing new places and seeing new things.

Is it the fact that I live in a rural area? I feel like it’s far more common for people who live in urban and suburban areas to walk their dogs daily than for us rural dwellers?

Does the number of dogs that a person owns affect how often they get walked? I wonder if owning more than one dog decreases or increases the number of walks the dogs receive.

What about you guys? How often do you walk your dogs, and what factors affect your dog-walking habits?


  1. I appreciate your article. I have a 6 year old GSD that does not like other dogs no matter how much training he gets. He was a rescue so no knowing what happened before us. He is wonderful, sweet, good hearted and would never hurt another person. But, as a 76 year old woman, who lives in a neighborhood with tons of dogs, I just can’t walk him. He goes nuts! But he does have a half acre of fenced yard and I play with him every day. He chases the ball, runs around chasing me and occasionally barks at a dog walking on the other side of the fence. My husband and I are retired and he is hardly ever alone. He is one happy dog, not over weight, despite the fact that he never gets walked.

  2. Thank you for your article. Yes, my dogs love going on walks, but I don’t take them as often as I should. Yes, I feel guilty about that. I have 5 dogs and only one of those dogs gets walked nearly every day (weather dependent since she hates the rain) because she needs it the most. The others are seniors and either have mobility issues, or are reactive to everything that moves, and that makes dog walks more of a challenge. Plus, there have been way too many incidents in my town of off leash dogs attacking (and sometimes killing) leashed dogs walking with their people. I will only walk one dog at a time so I only have one dog to help if something were to happen. They do have 1/3 acre of fenced yard to run and play, and I play with them every day. I work from home and I’m almost always with them. I love my pups so much and will keep striving to get them out for more walks. Thank you again for your great articles.

  3. Love the idea of comments from folks. I have 2 pups – one is a 9 year old rescue shepherd/hound who is very fearful, the other is a feisty 5 year old terrier mix – they love each other. The big guy is reactive (even after 3 trainers), fearful in my neighborhood, which is full of houses, cars and other dogs with no sidewalks, and he is scared of other dogs and people. The little girl is friends with everyone she meets. So in the morning, he stays in the dog run along side the house while I take the little girl out for a long neighborhood walk. Then at 3pm, we go to a park! They love it and I can steer to avoid other dogs. At night, a pee walk on our street. I never realized how my schedule had to be altered because I have a large fearful dog. I think we have a happy solution now, but it wasn’t easy to figure it out.

  4. We have two terrier mix rescues and they have 5 fenced acres to roam; however, I still walk them on leashes at least 2 miles every day, weather permitting, because they enjoy getting out of the house as much as we do! If they have to miss a day or two in a row of walks, they start to act out a bit. They are definitely much calmer and more content when they get to explore outside their boundaries, and it’s great socialization, too! Because our rural neighborhood has a constant problem with bad-tempered, loose dogs, I drive our dogs to a safe walking path close to our area where leashes are required. My male rescue was severely abused and abandoned on a tight chain before us, so he would greatly overreact to other dogs on our walks. With patient training and repetitive walks, he has vastly diminished his reaction to other dogs we encounter. Also, both dogs wear no-pull harnesses for walking rather than having leashes attached to their collars.

  5. I have two dogs – both about 8 years old. I try to walk them every day, some days longer walks than others. It’s actually very weather dependent. On really cold, wintry days, or rainy days, as I have aged, I just don’t find walks all that “fun” anymore even if I really dress for it. Nevertheless, the walk may be shorter but we get it in. I just adopted one of the dogs and although not terrible on a leash, she pulls more than I like and she wants to go all over the place and so we’ve been working on that. But dog #1 has been balking at the walks lately because I think she doesn’t like the disruption of our former calm walks. I am needing to work more on leash etiquette with the new dog alone, so dog #1 is losing out on walk time a little right now. She’s perfectly happy just going out in the yard and has always preferred being in the house anyway. (She’s kind of a wimp – very cautious. The other day it was too windy for her. She didn’t want to walk.) I’ve had dogs for 30 years now, and recently I started a fitness class too. The older I’ve gotten I have found that long walks wear me out too much so I don’t have the energy to do the other work I need to get done in a day. I have found that a couple shorter walks (even 20 minutes) seem to break up the day for the dogs and for me, and mentally don’t seem like a daunting daily task.

  6. As a current owner of a 2 year old miniature American shepherd (MAS), now in my early 70s, either my husband or I walk the pup every day off leash by the S.F. Bay or local wild parks, but sometimes only around neighborhood on leash for 30 minutes. We always feel guilty with the leashed short walks, as we don’t think that’s good enough. We also arrange play dates with neighbors’ pups who are too young to go to local parks (not dog parks, but big wildland or bay-side parks), because our MAS is extraordinarily sweet and fabulous with pups, even when they’re bigger than he is—in part because he grew up with another older dog, and we intensively socialized him as soon as we picked him up from a rancher at 11 weeks. We have had GSDs for 45 years and Vizslas for 30 years, so I’m used to walking two large dogs daily, typically off leash for 40 minutes or more in local parks. My daughter walks three of her four dogs on leash daily, and her partner takes some or all the dogs to a farm work site several days a week. They have a fenced third-acre in a semi rural area, with passing wildlife to keep all dogs on patrol, alert to bears, loose dogs, deer, foxes etc. lucky dogs! The sizes of their four dogs matters—one GSD (70 lbs), two MAS (27 and 15 lbs), and the new puppy, a “ Mendocino Mountain Dog” at 80 lbs at 7 months old—are all sweet, trained well to leash. The “troublemaker” of the lot is the 25 lb alpha girl MAS (the only female), who bosses the pack, comes up with ingenious ideas, and is too dang smart for her own good sometimes. None of these dogs, nor any of my past dogs except one rehomed dog where training reduced leash reactivity successfully, is or was reactive. When we raised dogs from puppies, our practice of daily walks in different environments created civilized dogs that didn’t chase livestock, attack other dogs, and walked on lead smoothly. I admit, I’m looking to adopt or foster a shelter GSD/malinois mix, 1.5 years old girl, 57 lbs, who will require extensive work and exercise to become a good citizen. I’m at an age where it will be tougher. But it’s hard to find adopters who understand how much exercise these kinds of dogs need. It seems she’d be better off with us, at least until she’s trained to solid leash, good manners, expanding to off leash and solid recall. And those daily walks will be essential.

  7. My husband and I live on 3 completely fenced acres. We have two 8 year old dogs. I thought they would play and run on the property and be happy and healthy and for the most part it’s true. However, after feeling separated from the world after Covid we bought a pass to our local state park and having been walking the dogs every day the weather would allow.

    I have seen an enormous change in the dogs behavior! They sleep better at night and are not so reactive to people or other dogs, though our male dog does get protective of his sister around other dogs outside of daycare where he gets along great with all the dogs.

    The stimulation of smells, different trees and trails is so enriching! I wish I would have been doing this all along!

  8. As a former NYC resident, who owned dogs and puppies at various times while living there, walking was the only exercise available – and even walking to a dog park was at least a 1/2 hr round trip 🙂 I am now a resident of a Western state where I have a house and a yard – but old habits die hard… and I walk my dog/puppy multiple times per day. My current puppy isn’t old enough to put on serious mileage – but when she hits that mark we will do longer distances. I have had reactive dogs in the past — and was very careful about other dogs when walking them – but still did it. I have a yard and the pups are allowed in it – and they do have space to run around – but I would rather they didn’t always use it as a toilet. The exercise is great for me as well – and I know and meet a lot of people in my neighborhood this way. Yeah – people think I’m nuts – but some of my neighbors have started walking their dogs as opposed to just letting them out the doggy door!!

  9. We have two Golden Retrievers. Our routine for years has been to walk them twice a day regardless of the weather. We live in the SF Bay Area, so the weather really isn’t an issue. We walk for about an hour in the morning and 45 minutes in the afternoon. We have a fenced yard where the dogs can run around, but they don’t much. Right now we have a 21/2 year old and a 141/2 year old. Our older dog can’t do the morning walk anymore but does enjoy the afternoon walk. Our last 3 Goldens have had long lives. I think the walks helped. Our vet said we must be doing something right.

  10. Like you and Woody, we have a border collie/cattle dog mix who required walking twice a day – every day – when he was young. My partner and I put in 25+ miles/week rain, snow, or shine and we live in the PNW so it rains – a lot!. Now that all three of us are in our 70’s, walking twice a day has become our routine. All the research points to staying active in the senior years as the #1 way to ward off dementia and other ailments of aging. We are so glad we have our dog, Henry and credit him with our excellent health and fitness.

  11. I loved your column. You show such common sense combined with expertise. Thank YOU!
    We have a husky mix who lived as a stray for some unknown amount of time. He survived on chickens, squirrels and cats, I’m guessing, and I have seen him eat mole crickets, so I know he was desperate enough to do that in the lean times.
    We have had him for approximately 2 years. He has a very high energy level and is super athletic, and since I’m 69 and my husband is 72, we bought a golf cart for his exercise. We run him twice a day for a minimum of 3 miles on each outing, alternating between letting him sniff the side of the roads and running full out. We have no local dog parks (our house is quite rural), but we occasionally drive an hour to one and he adores socializing and meeting with other dogs. Off leash he is just the fastest thing around. Because of his background as a stray, we keep him on a leash at all times when outdoors; he isn’t trustworthy around cats, squirrels and the local muscovy ducks.
    I’ve seen him kill one of those ducks before (he flat broke the metal on his long leash), so we are extremely careful to keep him contained.
    Overall, I think exercise is SO key to a dog’s sense of well-being. When we have nice weather, we often give our dog a walk in addition to his two running/sniffing outings.

  12. I do believe that walking your dogs every day is the gold standard of caring for your dogs…..but now that I am a 74 year old widow I don’t walk them. I have 4 dogs…..3 littles and a medium …Harper. Harper pulled me down in 2020 and I broke my humerus and tore my rotator cuff. I do have a large fenced yard and they are seldom alone for long. They run and jump and play…..and we cuddle together on the living room sofa…..and I cook for them…..but I do feel guilty about not walking them anymore.

  13. I have an 80lb Irish Setter, who, as a young puppy, was confined to the house with a broken toe for 12 weeks. Then Covid hit. So socialization basically never happened. He’s leash trained and walks perfectly, UNLESS he’s sees a dog, cat, squirrel, etc. I’m 74 and he can yank me to the ground. I eventually had to stop because it was always a scary experience, hiding behind cars and doing my best to avoid other dogs. I have a large, fenced backyard, dedicated to dogs, with jumps and balls and toys, etc.. We’re out there at least once a day plus he gets lots of attention the rest of the time. I saw the same Washington Post article…it about did me in. He’s perfectly happy, but I know it’s not enough, so seeing these comments and knowing I’m not alone does make me feel better. Dogs are such adaptable, wonderful creatures. On the plus side, i also have a 9 y.o. 65lb Gordon Setter who gets to go for a walk twice a day, rain or shine.

  14. Thank you for your article! I have a 62 lb., 3 yr old, GSD/husky rescue who loves his walks, 2x a day. But, they are HIS walks, where he gets to sniff and explore, greet friends, and research new things. He has a high prey drive and needed to learn “leave-it” to successfully navigate our trails and neighborhood without going bonkers. Training has been key to walks that are enjoyable for both of us without pulling his senior guardians over. But walks are not enough for this high energy, intelligent youngster. He gets yard time and a smorgasbord of fetch time, hide and seek with stuffies, food puzzles, and always training. I have just auditioned “Scent Work” with him. He loves it and it is a perfect pairing for walks. We are all living our best lives.

  15. Unfortunately, I live in an area that is very high density with lots of traffic and dogs. A walk is quite stressful on my dogs and I feel a bit dangerous. Even just going around the block without crossing any streets there are barking dogs as we walk by. It doesn’t bother Diana as much as Freyja, who is a rescue. They are limited to running in the front and back yard, the front yard they bark at passing pedestrians. I know this isn’t good but neither is the neighborhood and I prefer passersby to know that a large dog lives here. I don’t want them to know both are marshmallows. I do take the dogs to the dog park on Fridays and they run around, greet all the owners and play with their friends for an hour or more. I know it isn’t the same as a walk but it has to do between rare occasions when we can drive somewhere where they can get a proper walk. Exercise they get. The stimulation of smells and socializing are limited to the dog park and those rare walks.

  16. I walk my dog twice a day, no matter what, except maybe ice storms or tornadoes/thunder. The morning walk is on lead in the neighborhood. The walk is for him, so he gets to sniff and potty, as well as visit with other walkers. The evening walk is at a state park or university campus, off lead, in isolated areas. Although I have a large fenced yard, it just isn’t the same as being free. Good leash manners are important, or the walks become unpleasant for both dog and handler. I suspect some folks don’t walk their dogs, because they haven’t trained them not to pull. And off lead work requires a good recall, which takes a ton of practice.

  17. This is a very sensitive subject to me and I cringe over how often I see people’s excuses regarding their reactive dogs don’t get walked or socialized because of being reactive. Sorry to sound judgmental but I can say from experience with a reactive dog from puppyhood, who we socialized, went to puppy classes and exposed him to all kinds of things, people and other dogs, it can be managed.
    Our reactive dog (70% Great Pyr, 30% Aus cattle dog & bassett hound) now goes on daily hikes with a dog walker and a large group of dogs and loves it.
    But with that said when we do walk on leash around town every night, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, he still gets leash-aggressive sometimes towards other dogs and some people. Not all the time though. We don’t know what triggers it. But it doesn’t stop us from taking him out. The more you do it, the more desensitized they become. Win-win.
    Finally, he is very protective at home and we’re fine with that. He doesn’t mix with company although over time if he gets to know someone consistently, he’s okay.
    So bottom line, our dog would go out of his mind if he didn’t get those walks and hikes everyday twice a day.
    I feel so sorry for the dogs that don’t get walked and the stimulation they desperately need for quality of life.