A guide to exercising your puppy

Puppies might be full of energy, but it’s also important not to over-exercise them. Find out more about how much exercise your new puppy should be getting, and how to help them mature into a healthy, adult dog.

Exercise is essential for the physical and mental health and wellbeing of your new puppy. But it’s crucial to balance the amount of exercise you give your puppy with allowing their growing bodies to develop correctly. Before you head out for those first few walks, check out our tips for how to help your new puppy get the right amount of exercise. 

Once your puppy is fully vaccinated and trained to walk on a lead, you should aim to take them for one or two short walks per day. Remember that puppies need far less exercise than adult dogs. That’s because their bones and joints are still developing. The soft growth plates on your puppy’s leg bones need time to harden, and over-exercising during this time may lead to musculoskeletal problems in later life.    

As a general rule, your puppy can walk for five minutes for every month of their age, twice per day. That means a two-month-old puppy can go for two walks of up to 10 minutes each, a three-month-old puppy for two 15-minute walks, and so on. Don’t take your puppy for their walks straight after they’ve eaten, as this can increase the risk of them developing bloat, which can be very dangerous.   

Remember that every puppy is an individual and the amount of exercise your puppy needs will depend on their breed. An active and energetic Border Collie puppy will likely need a lot more exercise than a laid-back Pug. During walks, watch your puppy for signs of tiredness. If they sit down or start to struggle, cut back on the duration of your walks. Depending on the size of your puppy, you may decide to pick them up and carry them if they’re particularly tired! 

It’s a good idea to find routes where you can mix up the surface. The hard concrete surfaces of pavements or roads can make soft puppy pads sore. If you can find walks that also include areas of grass, sand, or other soft surfaces, your puppy will appreciate it. 

Intense exercise should be avoided for all puppies, no matter their breed. So resist the urge to play boisterous games of fetch, or introduce your puppy to games requiring them to jump. When walking your puppy, never ask them to run alongside you. Even a fast walking pace can be too much for some puppies, so allow them to set the pace. There will be plenty of time for high intensity exercise once your puppy is fully mature. 

In addition to short, structured walks, free time is an essential part of your puppy’s development. Puppies love to play, so make sure you allow your puppy time to bounce around the garden and explore their environment. Most puppies will self-regulate during free time, so don’t be surprised if you see your puppy flop down for a rest! 

Training is a vital part of your puppy’s education and is definitely a good mental workout for them! Your puppy may have less energy for a walk after a training session, so you may decide to spread your training and walks throughout the day rather than close together. Socialisation with other dogs and exposure to new environments is just as important for your puppy’s development as exercise, so make sure to integrate this into your training. 

How will I know when my puppy is mature?

Different breeds mature at different ages, with smaller breed puppies maturing much faster than larger breeds. As a rough guide: 

  • Small breeds: mature at 6 to 8 months
  • Medium breeds: mature at 12 months
  • Large breeds: mature at 12 months
  • Giant breeds: mature at 18 to 24 months

You can use the above figures as guidelines, but your vet will be best placed to let you know when your puppy is considered mature. At this point, you can gradually start increasing the intensity and amount of exercise you offer. 

The first few months with your puppy are vital for building your relationship and creating a lifelong bond. Short walks and plenty of play time should be part of your puppy’s routine as they develop into a mature dog, but slow and steady is always best. Before long, your puppy will be mature and you’ll be able to enjoy longer walks together.

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