Some common questions we hear when talking about puppy exercise are ‘how much is too much?’ and ‘will my puppy continue to need more and more exercise (i.e. endurance)?’. Both topics will be discussed in this article in addition to some tips on getting your puppy started!
Puppies need exercise. The question is how much exercise they need. Although some people might think that the question is an easy one to answer, they’d be wrong. There are great debates online and offline, with vets, trainers, and owners of all experience levels offering different opinions. The U.K. Kennel club offers a guideline of 5 minutes of exercise per day for each month of the puppy’s age. They suggest this amount twice a day. The AKC encourages speaking to your veterinarian and points out that the dog’s breed is just as important a consideration as his age. And, of course, the dog’s overall health must also be factored in. Keep in mind that, although too little exercise is bad for your puppy, too much exercise can also cause damage. Taking a three month old puppy on a two mile hike or jog is too much exercise too soon. This all seems to lead right back to the initial question of how much exercise is best for your dog. If you can, talk to your veterinarian. He or she will have suggestions to get you started. If you can’t talk to your vet, the U.K. Kennel club’s recommendation of 5 minutes of exercise per month of your dog’s age is a good starting point. You have to be the ultimate judge of your dog. A border collie may be able to handle more than that, while a bulldog may not need that much. Watch your dog for signs of overheating or excessive tiring. Ultimately, your dog will love the time you spend walking/tugging/jogging/playing with her. It is good for both her physical and mental well-being!
On to the next question – if you exercise your puppy regularly, will it produce the need for more exercise in the future? As discussed in the paragraph above, as your puppy ages and grows, he will require more exercise. When you have reached the level of time you have to play/exercise with your dog each day or the level of endurance you want your dog to have, you can stop increasing the playtime. Just like a human, a dog’s stamina will increase with increased exercise. If you want your dog to run a 5k with you, train him as you train for it. If you don’t continue to increase the distance each day, your dog’s endurance won’t continue to build. He’ll still be tired and happy at the end of the run, and if he’s anything like me, ready for a rest! Six months in, he won’t be as tired as when he first started but should still be satisfied with the run. The same goes for a walk around the block, a good game of tug, or a session of fetch. Again, it is important to know the characteristics of the breed before you adopt a dog. A high energy dog will build endurance quickly and does require a lot of exercise. If you are very active and want a dog to partake in activities with you, this is the kind of dog to look for. If you are the more sedentary type, look for a dog that matches that lifestyle. There are dogs that will fit into almost any routine – just do your homework before adopting!
Last but not least, let’s talk about how to get started exercising your puppy. A young puppy may have tender paws. Start out in the grass or on another soft surface to allow the puppy’s pads to toughen up a bit before moving to the pavement. Keeping in mind the amount of time you want the puppy to exercise, let the puppy run in a safe, enclosed area or walk him on a lead. He can chase after a ball or play tug with you for a short time. It is always important to keep an eye on the dog. Puppies will tire easily, especially if the temperatures are extreme! Watch for signs of overheating. If you notice heavy panting, or the puppy lagging behind or sitting down, let the puppy rest. If you’re playing ball or tug, keep it short at first and be gentle. Bones and muscles are still developing and it’s important to keep the play light in order to avoid injury.
A little bit of research and planning will have your puppy enjoying a healthy exercise routine and will build bonds between the two of you that will last a lifetime!