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I’ll never forget the look my puppy obedience class trainer gave me when I told her proudly that my puppy had gone on a two-mile hike with me. As she explained, puppies, especially large-breed puppies, should not be exercised too much, as over-exercising could cause joint and bone problems, and two miles was definitely too much for my three-month-old dog.
While I never made that mistake again, it did leave me with a few questions. Just how much exercise is too much for a puppy, and how do you know when enough is enough?
Subject of Debate
There is a lot of debate in the dog world about puppies and exercise. Veterinarians, breeders, and trainers all seem to agree that too much exercise is just as bad as not enough, but there is no set formula for calculating your puppy’s progress.
While it would be nice if there were a 100-percent-accurate chart you could look at that broke down puppies by breed and age and explained how much exercise they needed each day, complete with mileage and a puppy activity tracker, the reality is more complicated.
Veterinarian Dr. Patty Khuly points out that some of this confusion stems from a combination of a lack of scientific studies and a variety of personal opinions. She compares the debate about puppy exercise to the ongoing debate about exercise, sports, and children – there are many different approaches to exercise, and each has its ups and downs.
How Much Exercise Does Your Puppy Need?
We may not have exact measurements, but there are a few common-sense considerations that can help you come up with a plan to keep your puppy active and healthy.
For starters, consider your dog’s breed. A Bulldog puppy and a Border Collie puppy will both love playtime, but a Border Collie will probably have a higher exercise tolerance than a Bulldog, not to mention a higher heat tolerance for outdoor play.
Breed size matters, too. There have been studies that show potential links between too much exercise and orthopedic disease in large-breed dogs. Forcing your 8-week-old Great Dane for a two-mile walk every day, for instance, is probably not a great idea, even if he could keep up. Most people would not consider taking a smaller-breed puppy for a hike that long, but with higher energy levels, larger breeds can fool us into thinking they need longer walks than is good for them.
Learning as much as you can about your breed is a good place to start. Large and giant breeds grow quickly and mature slowly, which may mean you have to put off certain activities, like jumping in agility, until they are fully grown. Toy breeds, on the other hand, mature more quickly but require small, frequent feedings throughout the day as puppies, which can mean you may need to adjust their exercise accordingly.
All breeds require mental stimulation, but high-drive, working breeds, such as Belgian Malinois, Border Collies, and German Shepherd Dogs need more mental stimulation than other breeds. Working training sessions and interactive toys into their exercise routine is just as important as exercise itself.
Your puppy’s exercise needs will change as she grows. When your puppy is very young, veterinarians recommend keeping exercise limited to short walks and multiple play sessions throughout the day, with plenty of time for naps.
Older puppies will require more exercise. A six-month-old dog might be capable of taking longer walks or even short jogs (if your vet helps you determine he’s in good overall health and up for it), for example, but long hikes over rough terrain or strenuous agility classes are still potentially dangerous.
You can slowly build your puppy up to longer walks with time, taking plenty of breaks to keep him from tiring out or hurting himself, but how long is too long? And what about puppies that never seem to get tired, no matter how much they run around?
No Easy Answers
As with humans, all the recommendations in the world boil down to an inconvenient reality: the amount of exercise your puppy needs depends on your puppy.
“On the one hand, we know wolf pups run with their packs for miles. On the other, we know that the risks for a sedentary puppy with a weekend-warrior exercise pattern are worse than for a puppy that gets continuous, self-regulated exercise,” says Dr. Marc Wosar, MSpVM, DACVS, an orthopedic specialist. “Unfortunately, there are no hard-and-fast rules in these cases.”
This leaves owners struggling to come up with the answers themselves. Talking with your veterinarian is a great place to start, and Dr. Kuhly cautions against spending too much time focusing on “how much exercise is too much,” and instead advises owners to remember that while there are no fixed rules about what is too much exercise, not getting enough exercise over a lifetime is far more dangerous.
Your veterinarian is a great place to start your research. You can also talk to your breeder, contact breed enthusiast groups for advice, or talk to other owners about their experience with puppies of a similar breed. Most importantly, watch your puppy carefully for signs of excessive tiredness or lameness, as this could be more than just a symptom of too much exercise and could be a sign of a more serious problem.
Puppy Exercise Safety Tips
Regardless of your dog’s age, there are a few safety tipsthat can help keep your puppy safe during exercise.
- Teach your puppy how to walk on a leash.
- Begin with short walks, taking frequent breaks.
- Increase the length of the walk gradually.
- Avoid walks during the hottest and coldest parts of the day.
- Walk on safe footing, avoiding slippery or sharp surfaces.
- Call your veterinarian if your puppy shows any signs of lameness.
Types of Exercise
Puppies love to play, whether that involves romping, chasing, wrestling, or tugging. This is good news for owners, because it provides lots of variety in exercise for their pups. Variety may also help reduce some of the risks associated with repetitive exercise, and can help you bond with your new dog.
Consistency is important for puppies. Taking long runs on the weekend and short walks during the week can hurt your puppy’s growing body, but consistency doesn’t mean you have to repeat the same activities. Vary the type of your puppy’s activities. If the weather is warm, try taking your puppy swimming to help get her used to water. Go for walks on different surfaces, like grass, wooded trails, and even pavement to help her grow comfortable in new environments. Find puppy playgroups and obedience classes, and introduce her to new toys and games.
Above all, make sure she gets at least three exercise sessions a day. Two of these could be short walks around the neighborhood to work on her leash training, while the third could be a rousing game of tug in the yard or hide-and-seek in the house. As you get to know your dog, you may find that she tells you when she is too tired to keep playing, which is your cue to enjoy a few moments of peace and quiet while your puppy takes a nap.
When your puppy is very young, veterinarians recommend keeping exercise limited to short walks and multiple play sessions throughout the day, with plenty of time for naps.What is considered too much exercise for a puppy? ›
Running on hard surfaces. Running—or even walking—on slippery surfaces (while slipping and sliding can lead to an adorable splayed-out puppy puddle, this isn't good for Fido's growing bones) Any extended physical activity (depending on the activity, more than 5-10 minutes at a time can even be too much)How do you tell if a dog is over exercised? ›
Changes in Behavior
Some irregular behaviors include: excessive panting or difficulty breathing, dehydration, abnormal drooling, fever, change gum color, lack of urine, rapid pulse, tremors, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness. Exercising your dog is an important part of their daily routine and overall health.
As a rule, where physical exercise is concerned, other than free play with toys or with other pets, the average puppy who is still growing could do about five minutes for every month of their age, once or twice a day. For example, a puppy of five months old can do 25 minutes of exercise up to twice a day.How far can a 12 week old puppy walk? ›
A 12-week-old puppy can walk about 15 to 20 minutes. Again, allow your puppy to choose the speed and take plenty of breaks for sniffing. Avoid trying to pull the puppy. Puppies are still developing their muscles and bones, so long walks can be too hard on their bodies.Can you Overwalk your puppy? ›
Your puppy needs exercise, but walking too much can be harmful for growing dogs. Too much exercise, or “forced exercise,” can overtire your puppy and potentially damage developing joints. So, what counts as “over-exercise?” According to vets, anything beyond what your puppy would engage in with puppies their same age.Is 2 walks a day too much for a puppy? ›
A general guide for exercising puppies is to allow them one to two sessions of five minutes walking for each month of age, so for example, a four month old pup could enjoy walks of 20 minutes at a time, once or twice a day.Is an hour walk too long for a puppy? ›
In fact, when it comes to continuous puppy walking a good rule of thumb is that puppies should have no more than 5 minutes of exercise for each month of age, twice a day. So a five-month-old puppy would have no more than 25 minutes of walking twice a day – and this should be decreased in larger breeds.How do you calm an overstimulated puppy? ›
- Bringing them to a quiet place (such as their crate) to sleep.
- Remove stimulating toys.
- Turn the lifts off or put a blanket over their crate.
- Talk to your puppy in a quiet, soothing voice.
How Often Should You Walk Your Dog? We recommend that you walk your pooch, on average, 3 to 4 times a day for about 15 minutes. However, frequency also depends on the particular dog's: Breed.
|Puppy age in months||Walk Duration (maximum twice per day)|
Although they are often far more energetic, puppies require shorter periods of exercise than adult dogs. Too much puppy exercise can result in exhaustion and joint damage, especially in larger breeds. Exercise needs vary among breeds, but most dogs can benefit from at least one to two walks per day.How far should a 5 month puppy walk? ›
How Much Exercise Does A Puppy Need? If you're wondering how much exercise should my puppy get, a general rule of thumb is to take your puppy's age in months and then multiply it by five to work out how many minutes your puppy can walk for each session. This is based on an average of two walks per day.Can a 3 month old puppy walk 2 miles? ›
As she explained, puppies, especially large-breed puppies, should not be exercised too much, as over-exercising could cause joint and bone problems, and two miles was definitely too much for my three-month-old dog.Can a 3 month old puppy walk 1 mile? ›
Your puppy's age
Very young puppies don't have much endurance. They shouldn't be walked too far. What is this? A rule of thumb is a puppy can walk five minutes for every month of age starting at eight weeks.
You'll know your dog best, and the amount of exercise a dog can manage will vary between breeds and dogs, but a good rule of thumb is a ratio of five minutes of formal exercise per month of age (up to twice a day) until the puppy is fully grown i.e., 15 minutes (up to twice a day) when three months old, 20 minutes when ...How many walks is too many for a puppy? ›
You'll know your dog best, and the amount of exercise a dog can manage will vary between breeds and dogs, but a good rule of thumb is a ratio of five minutes of formal exercise per month of age (up to twice a day) until the puppy is fully grown i.e., 15 minutes (up to twice a day) when three months old, 20 minutes when ...Is a 2 hour walk too long for a dog? ›
Your Dog's Exercise Tolerance
Most dogs can tolerate a daily 20–30-minute walk if they have a relatively good body condition. Dogs in great physical health can tolerate walks for up to two hours or go hiking for hours at a time.
- Being in a constant state of alert.
- Barking frequently at noises.
- Hard time calming down after exposure.
- Constant licking.
- Inability to sleep well.
- Reduced REM sleep.
The Five Minute Rule
The five-minute rule states, “for every month of age, your puppy can have up to five minutes of exercise.” This means your bouncy new 8-week old puppy is only allotted ten minutes of exercise per day.