I’d grown up with dogs and fostered dogs, but I’d never been solely responsible for raising and training a puppy. One of the biggest things that I under-appreciated was the importance of not over-exercising a puppy and causing a lifetime of structural health issues.
It’s tempting to want to run and play with puppies as soon as they’re home, but over-exercising a developing puppy can be dangerous. Think of them as babies – their muscles and bodies are underdeveloped for most activity.
Be wary of over-exercise
Over-exercising puppies can affect bone and muscle development, particularly in large and giant breed puppies (e.g. Great Danes, Mastiffs, etc.).
You can see in this x-ray of a 2-week old puppy, that their bones have a lot of growing to do. It can take closer to a year for this to occur in those larger breeds. It’s also why some dog foods aren’t suitable for large breed puppies until they’ve stopped growing in height as incorrect calcium:phosphate ratios can promote the overgrowth of bone.
What about jumping?
It is also wise avoid encouraging your dog to leap into the air (e.g. Frisbee or high ball throwing) as they can land awkwardly risking an injury to their limbs. Personally, chasing and running are things that I avoid with young puppies altogether.
A study in Norway actually found that dogs that had to regularly deal with steps from a young age were more likely to suffer from hip dysplasia, so take care of those hips and keep them on the ground if you can help it.
How much should you exercise a puppy then?
There’s a pretty simple rule that’s done the rounds. It’s not law by any means, but it’s an easy concept to grasp – a puppy should only walk for five minutes for every month of his age.
E.g. a four-month-old puppy should get a 20-minute walk.
An eight-month-old puppy can have up to 40 minutes of exercise.
Personally, we think that’s a little too extreme but if you want to play it safe, it’s good advice to follow.
What you don’t want though, is for your puppy to become overly exhausted. If they have a backyard to run around in at home of their own accord, they probably won’t even need a walk for the first six months of their lives.
I hope we haven’t scared you off walking your dog. Still, please take them to explore new environments and enjoy some healthy socialising – just don’t overdo it and err on the side of caution if your dogs natural inclination is to jump around like a maniac 🙂