Today, we're talking about something super important for your puppy: The amount (and type!) of exercise they need to be a happy and healthy dog.
Just like us, puppies benefit from activity. However, if you over exercise your puppy in the hope that he’ll be tired, you may have a *body* tired puppy who still has an inquisitive and active brain!
And if you don't keep an eye on him (because you’re expecting him to be napping!), that’s when he may explore his woodworking skills on your kitchen table!
Conversely if you have a long training session, hoping that he’ll be mentally fatigued and want a nap, he may be running laps through the house, trying to burn off all of his physical energy.
So the answer is to create a balance between exercising the body and brain.
The amount of exercise your dog needs depends on a few variables, from your puppy’s age to their breed and size.
In addition to who your puppy is, make sure you pay attention to the environment! Keep in mind where you live. A 15-minute walk around the block in Arizona in January is not the same experience as the same walk as a 15-minute walk around the block at the same time in Colorado!
So, how much exercise does your puppy really need?
We answer this question (and more) in today’s episode of Dog Sense, so tune in now!
For 8 to 12-Week-Old Puppies
When your puppy is between 8 and 12-week old, the best thing you can do for them is taking him on short walks. 15 to 20-minutes should be enough, but keep in mind that these are just guidelines. Depending on your dog’s size, breed, and activity levels, you might need to go on shorter (or longer) walks.
You also have to make sure your puppy is comfortable on your walk. You don’t want them burning their puppy paws on hot pavement. When I lived in Florida, I always put my hand on the sidewalk to check the temperature — especially during the summer months —. If it was too hot for my hands, then it was definitely too hot for my dog’s paws.
But, should I really take my puppy out when they’re this young?
My stand on the issue is the same as the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior’s stand on it: As long as you’re staying safe, you should be able to take your puppy on walks (even when they’re not fully vaccinated). But as always, consult with your vet for their guidance.
My advice to my students is to avoid dog parks and other places where you could encounter sick dogs, but your puppy also shouldn’t live in a plastic bubble. Those first few weeks are crucial for him to experience the world; and you want to make the most out of that small window of opportunity!
My friend Gayle says ”Expose your puppies to anything, but protect them from everything.” At the end of the day, it’s all about being sensible.
Our Favorite Types of Walks
I’man adventure walk enthusiast. I love taking my dogs to the woods! But if you don’t have woods near you, you can always go to an area where your puppy can climb and walk on different surfaces, which is great for your pup’s body. But that's not the only perk of adventure walks.
They’re also a great way to bond with your new puppy!And if the physical exercise wasn’t enough to motivate you to try an adventure walk, you should know that new environments are also a fantastic mental exercise for puppies. All those different sounds and smells are great stimulation!
Games You Can Play With Your Best Friend
Let’s say you spent all day at work, but you still need your puppy to be active. How about having a play session in your yard or during your evening walk? Do games that are training oriented, to achieve the magical ‘brain-body workout’. You’ll finish the night with a tired, happy puppy, which is the perfect recipe for a good night’s sleep for you both!.
Our favorite ‘train ‘em and wear ‘em out’ game is the “Get it! Get it!” game. But there are a few things you need to keep in mind: if you’re going to play on pavement, and it’s painted black, make sure the cookie you throw is light-colored so they can see it. Also, young puppies can’t see as well as older dogs, so don’t throw the cookie too far away. It’s better to put the cookie by their nose.
You can also use toys to tire your puppy out, but be very careful with them. For example, if I’m using a frisbee, I’ll start with a gentle game of tug on the frisbee. The critical thing to keep in mind is that your puppy's body is fragile, so you don’t want them to hurt themselves while playing. Being aware of how high you throw the toy, how far, and how they jump (and land!) is important.
What About Older Puppies?
You can pick up the pace for 12 to 16-week old puppies. You can play with them for longer, and your walking sessions can now be about 30-minutes to an hour long.
Pro-tip: Taking your best friend to a kids’ playground to play on the equipment (if they’re permitted!) is a great way to challenge them physically and mentally, so don’t hesitate to do that (safely).
If you live in an apartment and can’t take your dog out, use what you have around. You can create obstacle courses in your house using sofas, cardboard boxes, or even pots. It’ll be a bit chaotic, but it'll also be super fun (for you and your puppy)!
At this point, you can also add in more tug and fetch play sessions. If you’ve been practicing, , you most likely have built in more value for the game, so you can play longer (about 10 to 15 minutes) with extended engagement from your puppy!
Playing is such a great way to add mental stimulation to exercise AND create a strong bond/relationship with your puppy.
When your puppy is at the 4 to 8-month old mark, they may start being a little naughty — think ‘teenager’ — which is *totally* normal. My students with ‘perfect’ puppies are often confused (distraught!) when this stage hits.
This time period is when exercise and walks and games become even more critical. It’s an essential piece of your puppy's life, so you have to find the time to play with them and take some adventure walks.
But how long should I play/walk with my puppy?
Unless I’m trying to create an athlete, I stick to half-hour play sessions. You don’t want to condition your dog to need more than you can give them. Adventure walks can be longer, but I never go over the one-hour mark with puppies.
Exercise is crucial for a dog’s well-being. If you want your puppy to be happy and healthy, make sure you build time into your day to play and train with them as much as possible!