raising your puppy, Responsible Ownership

How much should puppies be exercised?

Those of you who are Facebook friends know that puppy exercise has been a bee buzzing around my bonnet for a while now.

Recently, there has been a flurry of “shares” for a few puppy exercise recommendations. All of them suggest restricting puppy exercise rather dramatically. Advice is given to calculate a certain number of minutes per day based on how old the puppy is (five minutes per month, for example) or to restrict walks to a few hundred feet or play dates to fifteen or twenty minutes at a time. The strong implication is that you will hurt (injure, even destroy the joints of) your puppy if you do not follow this advice.

My Facebook discussions showed that when I expressed horror and disbelief gentle doubt about these recommendations, the immediate assumption was that I was criticizing the person or people who put them together. Since that’s the last thing I want – I don’t personally know any of them, and they are probably amazing humans – I am not going to go piece by piece through the recommendations and explain or rebut. I’m just going to offer a chart of my own, based on the way we raise our puppies and on the advice we give to our puppy buyers. Clicking on the image will download the graphic as a PDF, which you are welcome to distribute at will.

If I can have you take anything away from my personal feelings on exercise, please let it be this: Puppies do best when they exercise all day long. They really are, biologically, wolves. That means that aside from breeds whose face shapes necessitate more caution – obviously, you know your breed best – once they are past the infant stage they should be hard, fast little rubber bands, who can easily move from a day-long play date to a run by the ocean or a child-paced hike up a mountain. If they cannot make those transitions, they need MORE exercise, not less. A well-exercised puppy is a protected puppy. Soft, underexercised babies who are asked to be weekend warriors (when they are used to barely moving during the week) are the ones who are injured. The only “bad” exercise is forced exercise. Never force, never jump, and never roadwork a puppy. Aside from those rules, the more the better.


Puppy exercise poster

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  • Reply Melinda June 6, 2015 at 7:09 am

    Yeah! Thank you, thank you, thank you. I keep seeing these people saying to restrict exercise in a puppy and all you get is a frustrated puppy with way too much energy and a weakend body. I have a Pyr Shep and had to crank up the amount I had to exercise him just to keep him from driving me nuts! No, nothing was forced and there was a lot of mental games, but the thought of too much crate rest would have driven that dog insane. I feel for all the poor puppies who are bored out of their mind and end up with weakend muscles because of enforced crate rest. I’m all for crate training and teach a puppy to be patient in a crate, but I’ve had to deal with some of these dogs that had enforced rest and they hate the crate, they are wild when they get out and they have no restraint because they have too much energy built up. Keep on preaching it!

  • Reply Ruth June 7, 2015 at 12:14 pm

    Hmm….I always took those recommendations (so many minutes per age of pup) as the time for “going for a walk” exercise. Ie: very structured walking on a hard surface. Not as the overall time the pup should be allowed to run around. Not that most of those recommendations specify that!

  • Reply Jennifer July 28, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    The only restrictions on exercise I have heard of is “forced” exercise. Free play is a must for muscle development and coordination.

  • Reply Christina August 4, 2015 at 6:42 am

    I agree with Jennifer and I wonder sometimes if that gets lost in translation. I know I’ve been telling my puppy students the 5 minutes/month rule for on leash walks in the neighborhood, but impressing on them the need for unlimited free play. I know some of them come away only hearing the former, so we readdress it multiple times.

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