Training and Behavior
Puppy Exercise 101: Stay away form activities that stress your puppy’s growing body.
M. Christine Zink, D.V.M., Ph.D.
We’ve all heard the expression “a tired puppy is a good puppy.” However, your veterinarian or trainer might also have cautioned you about putting too much stress on growing bones, tendons and ligaments. Nonetheless, puppies still need exercise to stimulate their bodies and minds. Use these guidelines to ensure your fit puppy stays safe and sound.
8 weeks to 6 months
At this age, your puppy shouldn’t engage in any exercise to build strength or increase endurance. Instead, expose your puppy to a variety of surfaces, places, people and animals. Take it to a hiking trail and let it walk on the mulch, climb over fallen logs and check out the squirrels. Your puppy can also wrestle with puppies its own age and size, chase a toy that you drag on the ground and run free around your yard.
For now, your puppy dictates how much exercise it gets and when it rests. If you have no way to exercise your puppy besides leash walking, take short walks (no more than 10 minutes each) two to three times a day. You can also use a 30-foot-long line or retractable leash in an unfenced yard or park to allow your puppy more freedom to run without letting it loose.
Playing with adult dogs is fine, but they have more stamina than a young puppy and are often bigger and heavier. Supervise to ensure fair play, and make sure your puppy gets lots of rest. Young puppies can also do skill training, such as one or two toy retrieves, attention games, sits, downs and tunnels, and simple jumps no higher than the dog’s carpus (wrist) height.
6 months to 14 months
Puppies can begin exercises designed to strengthen muscles when they are 6 months old. Strength training involves low-repetition, higher-weight exercise (the weight usually being your dog’s body), such as sitting up (begging), waving with each front leg, retrieving a ball repeatedly and swimming short distances. Tugging is also a strengthening exercise, but veterinary dentists recommend waiting until your dog’s adult teeth are fully erupted (usually about 7 months old) before playing tug.
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