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Anyone who’s been around puppies knows that they’re little furballs of energy. Between work, family time, and rest, it might be difficult for you to set aside time to not only train your puppy, but also make sure that they get the exercise they need. Remember: an active puppy is a healthy puppy. Keeping yours active is an important building block to their overall health and relationship with you.
Why Exercise is Important
Exercise is essential to your dog’s mental and physical wellbeing and, when done together, it also helps you form a strong bond that continues throughout their life. Just as regular exercise is important for your health and happiness, the same is true for your puppy. Exercise (when done correctly):
- Reduces risk of obesity and associated health risks.
- Improves cardiovascular health.
- Strengthens muscles and increases agility.
- Supports training when walking is done on a regular schedule.
- Increases your puppy’s ability to cope with your absence.
- Reduces behavioural problems through physical, intellectual, and social stimulation.
- Reduces digestive problems and constipation.
- Builds confidence and trust, especially in timid puppies.
- Provides socialisation opportunities with people and other dogs.
Puppies are busy and inquisitive as they learn about the world they inhabit, and activities like running, playing and exploring provide a great natural outlet. Without those outlets, your puppy’s energy can manifest in problematic or destructive behaviours instead, such as:
- Hyperactivity and restlessness at night.
- Chewing, digging, or scratching.
- Raiding the rubbish bin.
- Knocking over furniture.
- Jumping on people.
- Playing rough and biting.
- Barking and whining as a result of frustration.
How much exercise does a puppy need?
The exact amount of exercise a puppy needs depends on a number of different factors such as their age, breed, and level of fitness. It is important to remember that getting too much exercise can be just as bad for them as not getting enough. Although they are often far more energetic, puppies require shorter periods of exercise than adult dogs, followed by long naps. Too much puppy exercise can result in exhaustion and joint damage, especially in larger breeds.
According to Blue Cross, a good starting point is to aim for five minutes of exercise, once or twice a day, for each month of age. For example, three-month-old puppies should have 15 minutes of exercise twice a day, then 20 minutes twice a day at four months, and so on). Always pay attention to how your puppy handles this amount of exercise and decrease the amount if needed.
How to exercise a puppy
Even if you have a big garden for your puppy to run around in, they need more than that to burn excess energy. Short walks and jogs are healthy activities for both you and your puppy. Structured games like fetch, hide-and-seek, and tug-of-war can also help strengthen the bond between you and your puppy, as well as teach them self-control. When your puppy is home alone, keep them occupied with safe chew toys and food-dispensing toys that burn mental energy.
Avoid forced exercise, which can lead to injury and a lifetime of health problems for your puppy. Forced exercise can include excessive running, bicycling or skating with your puppy on a lead, very long games of fetch or chase, and long, fast-paced walks.
Reviewed by Dr. Aileen Pypers, BSc, BVSc, PGDip