Puppy Playtime: Navigating Exercise Boundaries for Your Energetic Pup
Adding a puppy to the family is an exciting adventure. Long walks in the neighborhood, playtime at the park, and exploring new surroundings with your new buddy will bring you endless joy. However, when it comes to owning a puppy, it’s crucial to understand how much exercise they need and how much may be too much.
Although exploring the world and playing with your puppy is essential for their mental and physical development, it’s vital to remember that puppies are still babies and have limited physical abilities. Therefore, exercise should be limited to ensure they aren’t at risk of acute orthopedic injury or developing chronic bone and joint issues as they grow.
Exercise and Your Puppy’s Health
Until a dog reaches sexual maturity (between 7 and 10 months of age), their bones are still growing, and the joints, muscles, and tendons are all working to support this bone growth. Growth plates, which are the areas of cartilage on the ends of the long bones that allow them to grow, stay soft for an extended period, depending on your dog’s breed. This is why your puppy’s bones and the ligaments, muscles, and joints that support them can be vulnerable to injury if exposed to strenuous exercise too early.
Large and giant breed puppies can be especially vulnerable to orthopedic problems due to early and strenuous exercise that is too much for their growing musculoskeletal systems. These larger dogs, such as Great Danes, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Saint Bernards, and Mastiffs take between 18 months and two years to reach full size, so although they may seem big enough to go jogging or participate in athletic events, they are at greater risk for injury, no matter their size and energy level.
How Much Exercise Does A Puppy Need?
Puppy exercise recommendations vary widely. Younger puppies (3-5 months) may only need several play sessions daily, while older puppies (6-7 months) may benefit from a couple of short leash walks and one playtime romp. Each will have different exercise needs depending on age, breed, and size. Your primary care veterinarian is a good resource when considering how much exercise is appropriate.
Although your puppy should not accompany you on long hikes in the woods or runs on hard surfaces, they still can enjoy plenty of activities until they are old enough to be your full-time exercise partner. Limit puppy exercise to 5 minutes per month of age–twice daily. For instance, a five-month-old puppy can tolerate two 25-minute walks per day. Gradually increasing walks as your new pal grows will keep them lean and fit, which has been shown to prevent hip dysplasia in dogs.
Puppy walks should not be marches along the route, but rather an opportunity for your puppy to stop, sniff, and investigate the world around them. Take this time to show them the basics of walking on a leash and build in small training sessions along the way.
In addition to brief leash walks, there are boundless ways to engage your puppy without over-exercising them. A puzzle toy, gentle indoor games, playing fetch in a soft, grassy area, or simple training exercises are great alternatives to strenuous physical exercise and will promote their mental development.
If at any time your puppy seems reluctant, flops down, or resists, it’s time to take a break. Gradual and consistent exercise is the best way to avoid any potential injuries and chronic joint issues. We’re always here for questions or concerns, or to have your puppy evaluated for orthopedic conditions. Call us at (757) 935-9111 for more information.
The COVE’s veterinarians and staff wholeheartedly embrace the core values of community, collaboration, commitment, compassion, and integrity. This focus ensures that pets, the people who love them, and their primary care veterinarians have as positive and affirming a healthcare experience as possible, regardless of the circumstances that bring us all together.