Whatever happens, the first rule is ensuring that your pet gets enough exercise. The second is to make this routine as consistent as possible, and the third, particularly as they get older, is to make sure their exercise schedule suits their changing needs.
Early morning or evening
Cats and dogs are both naturally crepuscular, meaning that their most active periods are dawn and dusk (which explains why your pet might wake you up in the morning, or start tramping about - often very loudly - at night). For lively or young pets, these can be prime times to help them expel excess energy and settle down before your family goes about their daily routine, or before the household goes to sleep.
Older cats and dogs, or pets suffering from arthritis, however, can take a little longer to get going in the morning, so they might prefer their walk or playtime later in the day. Avoid exercising them just before they go to sleep for the night, which can exasperate their stiffness in the morning.
The middle of the day can be universally enjoyable time for our pets to get their exercise. For dogs who are left alone during the day, a lunchtime walk breaks up their day – and even senior dogs who suffer from stiffness will have loosened up a little over the course of the morning.
Younger or more lively breeds who need lots of exercise often need more than one walk a day, so lunchtime can be a good opportunity to get their first one done, before another one in the evening.
Top tip: During the summer, check the temperature first – midday is often the hottest part of the day. If you can’t hold your palm against the tarmac for five seconds, it’s too hot to walk your dog.
For pets with sensitive stomachs, being exercised too close to meal times can be uncomfortable. If you’re working on their training and use treats to incentivise them, they will be less motivated by food rewards straight after meal times too. If you feed your cat or dog morning and evening, and not at lunchtime, an afternoon play session or walk is perfect.
Depending on your walk route, it may be worth remembering that dogs will have more people and traffic to contend with during the afternoons, particularly near a school. While this is fine for sociable dogs, those with nervous dispositions might prefer a different route or time.