Exercising Dogs




Dogs housed singly in runs that have at least twice the minimum floor space described by The Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, 8th Ed. (the Guide)1, or dogs housed in pairs or groups that have the sum of the required minimum floor space for each dog do not require additional exercise.

Exercise must be provided for dogs that are housed singly with less than twice the recommended minimum floor area.


Space requirements are calculated using the following formula: minimum floor area (sq. ft.) = ((inches from nose to base of tail + 6)2)/144 sq. in1

For dogs that are housed singly with less than twice the Guide’s recommended minimum floor area, exercise may include:

  • Releasing one or more dogs into an animal room or other enclosed area for at least 15 to 20 minutes three times each week. Compatible animals of the same sex may be released into the exercise area concurrently. Interaction with other dogs or humans during this exercise period is strongly recommended. Exercise periods should be recorded.
  • Walking dogs indoors on a leash for at least 15 minutes five to seven days a week. This will be the responsibility of the investigator.
  • Exercise activities approved by the attending veterinarian.

NOTE: Forced exercise such as swimming or on treadmills does not meet the exercise requirement.


Animals maintained in a laboratory environment tend to be less active than free-ranging animals and should have the opportunity to exhibit species-typical activity patterns. Federal regulations state that dogs should be provided with additional opportunities for activity when they are housed in areas that are less than twice the recommended space1,2. Activities may include being walked on a leash, having access to a run, or being moved into another area (such as a room, larger cage, or outdoor pen) for social contact, play, or exploration1. Dogs benefit from positive human interaction3, so including social interaction with humans during exercise is also recommended.


Exemptions to the exercise requirement may be given under the following conditions:

  • Quarantine and conditioning: During the quarantine and conditioning period, the opportunity for exercise will automatically be limited to the periods when the primary enclosure is being cleaned to prevent the spread of disease between dogs within a group and between groups of animals. The quarantine period will end at the discretion of the veterinary staff but will not exceed 30 days unless authorized in writing by the attending veterinarian.
  • Medical exemptions: The veterinary staff may suspend the exercise requirement for medical reasons provided that the exemption is documented and justified in the dog’s medical record. Medical exemptions must be reviewed and documented every 30 days unless the medical condition is permanent. The veterinary staff may exempt a dog from the exercise requirement if the dog’s behavior is a potential hazard to personnel.
  • Dogs less than 12 weeks old: Regulations do not require pups less than 12 weeks old to be included in the exercise plan. Human contact with 6- to 12-week-old pups is encouraged.
  • Protocol exemption: An investigator may request an exemption from the exercise requirement for scientific reasons. Justification must be provided, and the protocol must be approved by the attending veterinarian and the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC).

Exemptions will be reviewed and approved at least annually by the IACUC or its designated representative.


  1. Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, 8th Edition, NRC, 2011.
  2. Regulations of the Animal Welfare Act, CFR, Title 9, Chapter 1, Subpart A.
  3. Rollin, B. E. 1990. Ethics and research animals: Theory and practice. In: The Experimental Animal in Biomedical Research, volume 1:A. Survey of Scientific and Ethical Issues for Investigators (B. Rollin and M. Kesel, ed.), CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida.

Approved Date

Revised Date

Additional Tags

  • dog
  • exercise