Exercise is important for all dogs, but perhaps even more so for Chihuahuas who are larger than life, and prone to bouts of hyperactivity, that without direction can lead to destructive behavior. In the following article we’ll explain exactly how much exercise your Chihuahua needs and the best way to go about it.
???? Chihuahuas need 30 minutes of exercise per day to maintain good health. This can be deliberate exercise e.g. they are walked, or the result of playing, with their owners or other dogs at home.
Exercising Your Chihuahua – Getting the Balance Right
Chihuahuas are first and foremost companion dogs. So the chances are, their activity levels will largely match their owners. With that said, the emphasis is on the owner to ensure they get enough exercise.
Knowing how much exercise a Chihuahua needs however can be difficult to estimate for new owners. On the one hand, they are the smallest dog breed in the world, and expectations are that they need less exercise, and cannot keep up with larger dogs, particularly when it comes to endurance.
And let’s face it, those tiny legs won’t propel your Chihuahua as far as larger breeds, meaning they are going to need to take many additional steps for every step taken by a larger dog.
But, as any Chihuahua owner will be quick to point out, Chihuahuas are pocket rockets, having a seemingly unending supply of energy.
They are also lightning fast, and will often go until they drop, seemingly falling asleep at the drop of a hat, often within minutes of tearing around exerting stacks of energy.
In this regard Chihuahuas need some protection from themselves, as too much exercise, especially when young can lead to developmental issues. Agility trainers, for example, generally won’t accept dogs younger than 12 months old for this reason.
How Much Exercise is Too Much?
While less of a concern in fully grown dogs, puppies generally should be restricted to less than 20 minutes exercise per day until at least 4 months of age.
This can be in the form of playing with another family pet or short, moderately paced walks.
Excessive exercise at a young age can damage your puppies epiphyseal plates (aka growth plates), the cartilage tissue found at the end of bones in all animals with a skeletal system.
In younger dogs this area is mostly cartilage to begin with and more easily damaged with excessive activity. However, as your dog ages the growth plates begin to calcify, eventually becoming hardier and more able to withstand longer bouts of exercise.
These growth plates determine the shape and length of the bone as the dog matures and any damage at a young age can disrupt the regular growth pattern, e.g. one side of the growth plates cells are damaged, leading to deformities, such as bowed legs.
So, as a rule. Limit exercise to less than 20 minutes per day until they are older.
In older dogs, the main concern is becoming adjusted to regular exercise. If, for example you have not exercised your dog, and they are quite sedentary by nature, be sure to build up their fitness by starting with shorter walks before eventually taking longer walks e.g. 30 minutes, or a couple of shorter, 15 minute walks.
Too much exercise, especially if they are not accustomed to it, can lead to joint and mobility issues that over time are compounded unless the owner is aware and reduces activity.
Be on the lookout for any behavioral changes or signs that your pup is experiencing discomfort when walking due to joint issues such as joint dysplasia, sore muscles or excessive wear and tear on the pads of their paws, especially if they spend lots of time on abrasive surfaces.
With all that said, the benefits of regular exercise for your little companion far outweigh any negatives, but it does pay to understand what is considered appropriate exercise for your Chihuahua all the same.
Benefits of Regular Exercise for your Chihuahua and You
Like all dogs, under stimulation will eventually lead to destructive behavior.
The less stimulated your dog is, the more likely you will begin to notice evidence of chewing, and aggressive behavior, which is not uncommon in smaller breeds.
But there’s far more than simply behavioral benefits associated with taking your dog for a stroll. Additional benefits include:
- Improved joint health and mobility
- Sedentary behavior can lead to immobility issues, especially as your dog matures
- Digestive health
Consistent and deliberate exercise regulates digestion in the body. The digestive system is especially important in dogs as this is where the majority of immune system cells reside. Regular exercise helps establish a good balance of healthy bacteria and immune cells
- Mental health
Dogs’ senses are at their peak during walks, leading to an almost sensory overload. All sorts of new smells and sights await and this stimulates your dog, reducing the propulsion for destructive behavior and in general leading to greater mental well-being
- Helps create a bond between you and your Chihuahua
Spending time with your Chihuahua is crucial to developing a good bond with your dog. Scheduling regular activity lets your dog know they’re an important part of your life
- Your own health
Did you know dog owners are generally healthier than most people? Numerous studies have shown a strong link between better cardiovascular health and dog ownership.
A couple of things to be aware of
Like any puppy, don’t expose your Chihuahua to the great outdoors until they are fully vaccinated. For now, your backyard, and/or the great indoors will have to do.
And, that’s fine, just one of the many advantages of owning a Chihuahua is their small frame means they can get plenty of exercise even in fairly confined spaces.
Avoid the cold
Chihuahuas feel the cold, you can read more about whey here. But in short. They have extremely fast metabolisms, meaning they have little in the way of body fat to insulate them against the cold.
If the weather is below 40 degrees, inside exercise is recommended.
They can be Aggressive
Make sure your Chihuahua is on a leash if you walk them outside.
Chihuahuas can show aggression toward other animals, especially if you failed to discipline them when showing signs of aggression.
And, considering they don’t have the necessary er….. weapons to back up all that doggy bluster, you need to keep them on a leash to prevent them becoming entangled with other dogs.
In most cases larger dogs will show bemusement toward smaller dogs displaying aggression, but take the necessary precautions just in case.
While many of us with backyards tend to think our dogs probably get all the exercise they need there are numerous benefits to deliberate exercise e.g. exercise that is purposeful.
But also keep in mind as responsible Chihuahua owners there are health and developmental issues we need to be aware of, especially in younger dogs.
But all things considered if you can provide your Chihuahua 30 minutes per day of exercise, the benefits for you and your dog are enormous.