All new pet parents will know that puppies are bundles of fun and energy, and are always on the go exploring the world! Getting out for walks with your new pup is an adventure for the whole family, but just how much exercise does your puppy need?
Exercise is essential for your puppy’s health and wellbeing. Not only does it allow them to form a close bond with you and other dogs they meet, but it also helps to control their weight, reduce behavioural problems, increase their agility, and strengthen their muscles. Exercising your puppy should be a part of your daily routine, but many new pet parents worry about whether they are giving their pup enough exercise or too much. This guide will answer your questions by taking you through puppy exercise guidelines, types of exercise, and exercise for different breeds.
How much exercise does a puppy need?
Puppies are growing constantly, so their bones and joints are vulnerable to damage from too much exercise and not enough time to rest and repair. Too much exercise at a young age could increase their risk of joint disease as they get older. But too little exercise can cause puppies to become bored, leading to destructive behaviours. So it can be tricky for many pet parents to find the right balance. Whilst the amount of exercise a puppy needs is a subject of hot debate amongst veterinarians and behaviourists, there are some exercise limits that you need to be aware of.
The puppy exercise guidelines recommended by vets are 5 minutes of exercise for every month of age, up to twice daily. So, this means that a 4-month-old puppy can have up to 20 minutes of exercise twice a day. However, this is not a hard and fast rule, and every puppy will have different exercise limits depending on their breed, age, and personality.
- Large Breeds
Larger dogs, such as Labradors and German Shepherds, are more susceptible to developing joint problems. This is often due to genetics, but too much exercise at a young age can be a risk factor for hip and elbow dysplasia. Large breeds grow more slowly than smaller dogs – they are fully grown at around 2 years old. The 5-minutes-per-month-of-age rule is very important here, and you should avoid high-impact activities like stairs, jumping, and chasing toys until your dog is fully grown.
- Working Breeds
Breeds that are naturally designed to work, such as Border Collies and Spaniels, can have very high energy levels. These breeds typically need more exercise and stimulation; however, the same 5-minute rule should apply to protect their growing bones. You can keep your Collie or Spaniel stimulated with games and toys that involve less physical activity to keep them mentally alert and occupied.
- Small Breeds
Smaller dogs develop faster, so they are ready to tolerate more exercise at a younger age. But remember they only have little legs and can’t walk as fast as you! So, it’s best to stick to shorter walks.
- Flat-faced breeds
Puppies with flat faces, such as French Bulldogs and Pugs, cannot tolerate the same exercise as other breeds. The shape of their face means that they can have difficulties breathing whilst exercising. Keep play time short, and allow plenty of time to rest. Their breathing issues can be worse in hot weather as they struggle to regulate their body temperature, so avoid exercising flat-faced dogs on a hot day.
How to exercise a puppy
There are a whole host of fun ways to exercise your puppy. It’s important your pup has plenty of variety in his exercise routine, as this will keep him healthy mentally as well as physically and teach him balance, coordination, and control.
So, what counts as exercise? Well, anything that involves physical activity. Playing with humans or other dogs, walking, training, and swimming can all count as part of your puppy’s daily exercise.
Taking your dog out for a walk should form a part of their daily routine. You can walk your puppy somewhere safe where he can meet other people and dogs for 5 minutes of walk/play per month of age. But there are lots of other fun ways to exercise your puppy that will help their development and build a strong bond between you. Dogs have a great sense of smell, so scent trails can be a good way to train this sense! Even just providing plenty of toys to play with can keep your pup busy whilst also making sure they stay active!
Puppy exercise tips
- Remember that puppies cannot play with other dogs until they have had all their vaccinations. Find out more about what vaccinations your puppy needs.
- Never exercise a puppy on a full stomach.
- Have plenty of treats and poo bags in your pocket.
- Keep your dog on a lead near roads or water.
- If they start to slow down or look tired, then let them rest.
- Let your puppy sleep after a walk.
Exercise to avoid with a puppy
Some types of exercise put added pressure on your puppy’s growing bones, and regularly taking part in these activities could cause lasting damage. Your pup should not be allowed to freely go up and down the stairs or jump into the car until he is fully grown. You should also avoid high-speed toy chasing, agility, and flyball as lots of twisting and tight turns is too much for a pup’s delicate joints.
It’s easy as a new pet parent to worry about whether you are giving your pup the right amount of exercise and to find the right balance. Not enough exercise can lead to boredom and destructive behaviours, whilst too much can cause lasting damage to your pup’s bones and joints. The best rules to follow are to ensure plenty of variety, routine, and making sure you don’t exceed 5 minutes per month of age until your pup is fully grown. But remember to consider age, size, and breed requirements, and if you aren’t sure about this, your vet will be able to advise you!
By Dr Holly Anne Hills