The importance of not over exercising a puppy

Long walks can be extremely damaging for a puppy.

If you are a dog walker, trainer or a new puppy owner it’s important to remember that unlike most adult dogs long walks are not recommended.

Group walks should be avoided and new dog owners should have positive introductions with other dogs when out and about, avoiding pushy dogs or dogs that are nervous/dislike other dogs.

In fact long walks can be extremely damaging to their growth plates, result in sprains and strains aswell as other factors you will find discussed below:

Growth plates

Too much exercise can affect the development of the pup’s growth plates, the areas of cartilage at the ends of the leg bones. An injury or damage to the growth plates before they are mature can cause deformities and problems with healing. This may affect the pup’s movement for the rest of their life.

Remember new puppies are keen to explore the new world and often don’t know when to stop. This includes puppy play sessions and introducing to new dogs. Think calm and positive introductions with brief pauses in play.

Sprains and strains

A pup that is still growing into their body can be rather clumsy, increasing the potential risk of hurting themselves in exercise by pushing themselves too far or trying to keep up with adult dogs.

Minor strains and sprains can put your pup out of action for some time, as well as causing them pain and discomfort, so try to limit exuberant play to short bursts with plenty of rest in between.

This includes injuries from incompatible playmates, an older dog with perhaps a rougher play style.

Damage to the pads of the paws

While your pup’s paws are young and soft, they will be at greater risk of damaging their paws, particularly if running around too much on hard ground. In hot weather take even more precautions, avoiding midday walks and direct sunlight in high temperatures.

Too much stimulus

Puppies can run the risk of becoming overly excited or the risk of exerting themselves too much. This may have consequences on learning and to the more sensitive pups may be a little overwhelming.

This is one of the main reasons that group walks may become overwhelming. Think short interactions with other dogs, preferably one to one rather than big group situations.

Tiredness

Puppies will tire faster than adult dogs, and this usually provides a cue for when your pup has had enough and needs to recharge their batteries. You should never push a tired puppy to carry on past their comfortable limits.

It’s ok to carry them in your arms if you want extra opportunities to introduce them to the big wide world, but even on group walks this is not reccomended as you won’t have full control over the rest of your dogs.

  • Walk alternatives

✔ Take a break

Puppy’s tire much more easily than the adult dog. Make sure you take lots of breaks, this will not only encourage your puppy to settle but give it time to take everything in without the risk of becoming over stimulated.

✔ Increase mental stimulation

For times when you can’t walk, get creative with some fun training. You could teach your puppy to ring a bell, pick up it’s lead or perhaps give it’s paw. This will help keep boredom at bay and is a great outlet for expending some of their energy.

✔ Beyond the bowl

Food from a bowl seems like a wasted opportunity when you could be encouraging your dog to forage naturally for its food by a game of ‘find it’ or interacting with a food puzzle toy. Enrichment makes life more exciting and helps keep your puppy occupied when you can’t have long walks.

How to remember a general rule of thumb for walking puppies:

A good rule of thumb or how to remember how generally long to walk a puppy is a ratio of five minutes 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 four months old etc. Once they are fully grown, they can go out for much longer, but remember this is all dependent on breed, temperament, health and many other variables. There is never a one size fits all approach.

Article written by Helen Motteram, 2019

References and resources: RSPCA 2018, Pets4vets 2018, Social Paws, 2018, Helen Motteram business coach 2019, Kennel Club 2018.

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