Puppies are little bundles of energy, but for them to stay fit and healthy, it’s important they get the right type of exercise, at the right time. Discover our 7 tips for exercising your puppy safely.
Getting the balance between the right amount of exercise and too much can be tough. Especially as this will change as your puppy matures! So, what should you know about exercising your puppy safely?
1. Take care not to over-exercise your puppy
Puppies are so full of energy that it can be easy to overdo things. But too much exercise can damage your puppy’s developing joints, bones and muscles. So, how much exercise does a puppy need? The general rule is five minutes of exercise per month of age, twice per day. Therefore, a four-month-old puppy needs roughly two walks of 20 minutes each. But this time limit can also include playing and training, which offer lots of mental stimulation. You’ll also need to adjust things for your puppy’s breed.
As you’re exercising your puppy, keep an eye on their energy levels. Signs of an over-exercised puppy include:
- Excessive panting
- Sitting down during walks
- Sleeping more than usual
- Behavioural changes
- More wear on their paw pads (the pads may appear red or worn away, or have tears. If they are infected, there may be swelling or pus)
If you think you might be giving your puppy too much exercise, speak to your vet for advice.
2. Match exercise levels to your puppy’s breed
Different dog breeds need different amounts and types of exercise. Some breeds are more energetic than others so will benefit from more opportunities to stretch their legs. Breeds like German Shepherds and Border Collies need more exercise than smaller breeds like Lhasa Apsos and Shih Tzus. Large dog breeds like Great Danes take longer to mature and you’ll need to build up their exercise more gradually.
Your puppy’s breeder or rescue centre should be able to provide advice about what’s average for your breed of dog, but you can also use our daily exercise guide, or ask your vet or a trainer for advice as well.
If you’re looking to buy a puppy, but haven’t got one yet, try our handy breed selector quiz to find the dog that’s right for you, based on their exercise needs.
3. Make sure your pup is vaccinated
Before you start taking your puppy outside to exercise, make sure they’re fully vaccinated. This protects them from a range of common canine infections that can be picked up from the environment (such as puddles), as well as germs deposited by unvaccinated dogs.
Puppies will usually have their first vaccinations at around eight weeks old, then another round of vaccinations at 10–12 weeks old. It normally takes two weeks after the second vaccination before they are fully immune and ready to socialise with other dogs at training sessions or in the park. Before then, you can offer your puppy plenty of opportunities for short bursts of exercise in your garden or other safe area at home.
4. Remember to include opportunities for play and training
For puppies (and older dogs), exercise isn’t just about going on walks. Play and training also count. Many puppies will be worn out after a short game of fetch in the garden, and will need a quick nap as they recover their energy levels. Socialisation and exposure to new environments are also great ways to keep your puppy mentally stimulated without overdoing the exercise.
Whether it’s chasing a ball, wrestling with a toy, playing in the garden or spending time learning a new trick, play and training are a vital aspect of your puppy’s exercise and development. During the first few months, keep exercise, play and training sessions short and sweet, with plenty of recovery time in between.
5. Focus on making exercise easy and fun
Puppies don’t need intense exercise sessions or long walks, and your goal should be to keep sessions brief and enjoyable. Even though walks can be one of the most enjoyable aspects of dog ownership, and an essential part of your puppy’s development, there’s plenty of time for longer, strenuous walks once your puppy is fully developed.
Taking your puppy out for their first walk is a big occasion for you both. There’s plenty you can do at home to prepare, from getting your puppy used to wearing their collar, lead and perhaps harness to working on walking nicely through doorways and following basic commands. Don’t put too much pressure on you or your puppy to do too much too soon, and instead focus on making the exercise event a pleasant experience!
6. Include plenty of variety
If your puppy exercise schedule simply includes two walks around the block each day, you’ll both get bored pretty quickly. Instead, focus on a blend of walking, playing, training and socialising. This will help your puppy develop not only physically, but mentally.
In addition to including different types of exercise, it’s also important to extend that variety to the environments your puppy experiences. Playing sessions in the home and garden can be complemented by walks through local streets and visits to both urban and rural settings. Not only does this help your dog’s cognitive development by familiarising them with the sights, smells and sounds of the wider world, but it also helps them learn how to respond to a range of scenarios.
7. Exercise is good for your dog and good for you
Regular exercise with your puppy isn’t just great for them, it can also help us stay fit and healthy, both mentally and physically. In addition to providing a boost to wellbeing, exercising with your dog can also save hundreds of pounds in gym membership!
Once your puppy is fully mature, why not combine a new fitness regime with your dog’s daily exercise? But remember that while lots of people love to run with their dogs, your pup shouldn’t be taken on long runs or bike rides until they are skeletally mature (between nine months for toy breeds and 15 months for larger breeds, such as Labradors). Furthermore, not all dog breeds are suited to this kind of exercise.
Finally, remember to have fun together
As you and your puppy spend time together, the bond between you will grow stronger by the day. But exercising with your puppy should always be fun, too! And as they mature into an adult dog, you’ll be able to choose from even more ways to exercise together – from swimming and paddle boarding to dancing and canine cross country – there are so many options for spending quality time with your pup!
What’s your favourite way to exercise with your puppy? Let us know using the #PethoodStories tag on social media.