6 Safe Ways to Exercise Flat-Faced Dogs

three pug puppies playing in grass

Dogs with flat faces are known to have respiratory issues. This means they are prone to overheating and overexertion. And, it can be easy to overexercise them, especially as they age and their respiratory issues worsen. But, you can’t let them become couch potatoes as these dogs need exercise too and weight gain makes their breathing problems worse. Here’s what you need to know as well as some safe ways to exercise flat-faced dogs:

What is a Flat-Faced Dog?

Brachycephalic dogs are also called flat-faced or snub-nosed dogs. Brachycephalic means “shortened head” and refers to dog breeds that have short muzzles.

Pugs, French Bulldogs, and English Bulldogs are classic flat-faced dog breeds. Other snub-nosed dogs include Chihuahuas, Chow Chows, Shih Tzus, Pekingese, Bull Mastiffs, and more.

Because of their flat faces and short muzzles, these dogs often have breathing problems, especially later in life. They pant more easily and, because their panting is not as effective, they are easily overexerted and are more sensitive to heat.

6 Safe Ways to Exercise Flat-Faced Dogs

Although you do have to be careful about heat and overexertion, you can still exercise with your flat-faced dog. You just have to be more aware of certain things and keep your eye on them. Here are a few safe ways to exercise flat-faced dogs:

1. Go for an Easy Walk

A walk around the block, park, or neighborhood is a great activity for any dog. It gets them moving and you have some control over how intense it gets.

If your dog is prone to running around and wearing themselves out quickly, then keep your walks shorter and close to home. This way, you can cut the walk short and head home before your dog overexerts themselves too much.

2. Grab Some Puzzle Toys

Puzzle toys can be a great solution for providing some mental stimulation and even some indoor exercise for your pup. Because they have to pause to figure out the puzzle, your dog’s playtime has some built-in breaks. This can help give them some exercise through short bursts of energy while also keeping them from doing too much.

3. Try Short Playdates

A 20-30 minutes playdate with another dog can be a great way for your flat-faced pooch to get some exercise. Not only do they get to play with a friend, but both dogs can get some exercise and some socialization.

This works out great if you have a neighbor or a friend with a friendly dog. Just make sure the dogs are taking a break every few minutes to prevent overexertion.

4. Play Fetch

Whether you are inside or outside, playing fetch with your dog can be a great way to give them some exercise. With your flat-faced dog, just make sure you’re keeping plenty of water on hand and that you building in breaks so your pup has a chance to catch their breath.

5. Train for Dog Sports

Although they are prone to overexertion and overheating, flat-faced dogs can still train for dog sports like obedience, flyball, agility, rally, and more.

The keys to making it work are making sure outdoor conditions are good for them, sessions are kept short with built-in breaks, and that you are monitoring them carefully for signs it’s time to stop.

6. Use a Hallway for Indoor Games

A hallway in your home can become the perfect place for some indoor games. In the summer, an air-conditioned hallway can easily become part of a game to help your dog get some exercise. You can play fetch or even set up a mini indoor obstacle course for them.

5 Workout Safety Tips for Flat-Faced Dogs

Regardless of the activities you’re doing with your dog, it’s important to make sure you are keeping them safe. Here are some workout safety tips for flat-faced dogs:

1. Be Aware of the Weather

Brachycephalic dogs are sensitive to extreme weather of any kind. They are particularly sensitive to heat and humidity and also to colder temperatures.

So, you need to be aware of the weather. If it’s too cold or too hot, make your trips outside quick and keep the playtime inside as much as possible.

2. Know the Signs of Heat Exhaustion

Because these dogs are more sensitive to heat and humidity, they are also more prone to heat exhaustion. This can lead to heat stroke in dogs, which can become fatal quickly.

If your dog is panting rapidly or laboring to breathe, showing extreme thirst, or seems to become lethargic or disoriented, it’s time to help cool them down as they are on their way to heat stroke.

3. Keep Water Available

Whenever you are exercising your dog, make sure you have fresh, cool water available. This can help keep your dog cool and also make sure they stay hydrated.

This can also help them recover faster, so they can get back to playing for a little bit. If they seem like they are getting too hot, you can also wipe them down with some water to help them cool off a bit while you find shade or head home.

4. Stick to Short Bursts

Short bursts of activity with plenty of time to relax and refresh are best for flat-faced dogs. This ensures they get some activity that raises their heart rate without exerting them beyond what their panting capacity can handle.

This is a good rule to follow both with individual activities and also with exercise throughout the day. Instead of exercising your snub-nosed dog in large blocks of time, break it up throughout the day into short segments that they can handle better. You can even relax a little and break things up with a dog yoga session!

5. Use Your Air Conditioner

When it warms up outside, an air-conditioned space inside your home will be your flat-faced dog’s favorite place. Because these dogs are so sensitive to heat, you need to make sure you are keeping your home cool enough for them.

These are just a few safe ways to exercise flat-faced dogs. The most important thing is to keep an eye on them and monitor their behavior. You’ll be able to tell when it’s time to take a break, breathe, and relax.