Puppy exercise is a Hot Topic at the moment, and there’s so much conflicting advice it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction!
It really does depend on your pup as an individual!
Their breed is important, especially if it is prone to joint problems. BUT they can still do some exercise.
The type of exercise they do is probably more important to consider than how long they do it for: high impact, twisting and jarring exercise can damage joints and long bones when they are growing
Your pup’s current level of fitness is also a consideration - just like people, we need to build exercise up gradually
There are other ways to exercise your pup than ball throwers! Try a Sniffari, do some recall training, and remember movement at home counts too!
If you’re not sure what exercise to do with your pup, your vet will be happy to help!
How should I exercise my puppy?
So your pup is fully vaccinated, had all their parasite treatment, and you’re both ready to get outside! They can be a bundle of energy at this age, but can they do too much exercise?
Some breeds are more at risk of joint and limb growth problems.
It is wise to avoid certain types of exercise in pups of these breeds - high impact, jarring and twisting movements in particular.
Studies have shown that pups without joint concerns can do “moderate” exercise without causing damage to their joints
But exercise is so much more than hurtling about! Stay tuned for some top tips for keeping your pup active and entertained!
What does this mean in real life?!
Joint and bone problems aren’t always immediately obvious in our pups, so being cautious and sensible about exercise is always wise.
It’s been widely publicised that you can use ‘5 minutes per month of life’ as a guide for estimating how long to exercise your puppy for. We feel this is unhelpful - each pup has individual needs; some 3 month old pups might need more than 15 minutes, so might need less!
High impact exercises: the perils of the ball flinger!
Probably the more important thing to consider is the type of exercise we do with our pups. Our pups joints are still developing, and their long bones have areas of cartilage called growth plates that produce new bone, making them taller. Studies have shown that high impact, jarring and twisting forms of exercise can cause damage to these delicate developing areas - yes, that means ball throwers, I’m afraid! And sticks, but that’s a whole other story…
The good news is once they are fully grown, provided they have no joint issues and we are sensible and build their fitness up gradually, all the evidence suggests they can enjoy a lifetime of lower impact exercise. So when are they fully grown? Well, the growth plates close at a predictable time in most dogs:
For small and toy breeds that’s usually between 6 and 8 months of age
Large and giant breeds may not be fully grown until 14-16 + months
So how can I keep my pup active and entertained?
Here are some ideas that you can do with your puppy that will mix up your routine, help with training, bonding, learning and socialising.
Go on a Sniffari! The world to a dog is a sensory overload, and a slow, meandering walk with lots of sniffs is super interesting for your puppy and they will learn a lot!
Start recall training from an early age. It can be a great way to bond, and also helps with off-lead confidence when your dog is older so you don’t worry they will whizz off and not return! When they are young, keep it short, use high reward treats, always keep it positive and stop before your puppy gets bored so you don’t end on a bad note.
Your puppy might be out for 30 minutes but that doesn’t have to mean 30 minutes of running! We can do lots of sniffing, plenty of stops, lots of watching the world go by from a distance so we learn about other dogs, children, cars, buses etc so that we are happy and confident when we meet them throughout their lives.
Don’t push your puppy into a situation it’s uncomfortable in. Stay back and watch the world go by with plenty of positive rewards for calm behaviour.
Get involved in enrichment like scatter feeding, lickimats, puzzle feeders, slow feeders and scent games. Doing things at home counts as exercise too!
We can exercise our pups, so long as we are sensible, and remember their individual needs, breed, and fitness
Avoid high impact, jarring, twisting forms of exercise at least until they are fully grown
There are lots of ways to get exercise without running them ragged!
Getting them out and about is so important for their mental health and social skills (and ours!)
Keep it positive! Lots of rewards, lots of fun!