Physical and mental exercise is very important in dog training at any age. The right mental stimulation will give them satisfaction and the right physical exercise will make them tired.
There are a few points that you should take into consideration when properly exercising your puppy.
The Right Type of Exercise
Young puppies have other exercise needs then adult dogs do. Many activities like hiking or riding a bike should be avoided until 12-18 months of age. Best for them is to interact with you and other puppies their age.
It is also important to let your puppy explore the world at his own pace by encouraging self directed play.
Exploring the World
Puppies are incredible curious and react intense to different environmental stimuli. Exploring the outdoors can be very rewarding and satisfying for a young puppy.
If you do not have a backyard, go outside with your puppy to a quiet place and attach a long leash to supervise him. Let him sniff every little leaf and encourage him to look for certain things, for example, by hiding treats in an easy spot.
Providing Him with Toys
Chew toys are best for young puppies and most come in different sizes tailored to your dog’s age. Avoid hard plastic toys with sharp ages as they might hurt your puppy’s gums and teeth.
Choose soft toys that don’t have any small pieces that can be chewed off. Provide him with interested plush toys with different textures for him to explore.
Playing with Your Dog
While getting to know your puppy or dog you will quickly learn what they enjoy the most. Regarding playing, your dog might love to fetch a ball or might enjoy a tug of war.
Playing not only relives access energy but also creates a bond with you and your dog as I said in my blog post Top 3 Dog Training Secrets.
There is a rule of thumb that you can safely exercise your puppy 5 minutes twice a day for every month of age. So if your puppy is 6 months old you can exercise him for 30 minutes two times a day.
Going out for Walks
You need to be careful exercising puppies because their joints are not yet connected and excessive walks or playing can cause injuries or problems when they are older.
Avoid taking your puppy for long walks and try to stay in that ratio.
Every breed is different and I have heard of several dog owners that took their puppies for long hikes and they are now healthy adults.
It can be okay for high energize breeds to go for long walks but with heavy breeds like the Rottweiler, you should be really careful because they tend to have joint problems (elbow dysplasia, hip dysplasia).
Also, keep in mind that the level of exercise you will give your puppy when he is young will define the energy level later on to a certain degree.
So if you train your German Shepherd to go on 3-hour hikes with you every day then he will get used to it and demand to access that energy when he is older.
When you have a young puppy, your walks should mostly consist of free walking. That means your puppy should be able to experience his environment at his own pace.
Studies have shown that dogs who are able to spend 33% of their walks sniffing on the ground are much more happy and optimistic.
Attending Puppy Classes
The best playmates for your puppy are probably other puppies. Puppy play classes are perfect for him to satisfy his needs and to learn the right way to interact with other dogs in his socialization phase.
You can also invite some friends over that also have puppies or very playful toy breeds.
Avoid dog parks with a small puppy as all the dogs are overwhelming for him and he could be run over by larger breeds.
You can also attend early obedience training classes when your puppy is 10 weeks or older. There you can learn basic training commands in a guided and controlled environment.
Hide and Seek
Hide and seek is a great game for dogs at any age. I always play this with my dog especially on rainy days because she hates to go outside then and you have to get out the energy elsewhere.
Start by getting your dog into a sit-stay position or asking a friend to hold him. Hide somewhere easy in the beginning so your dog won’t lose his interest. Then simply call his name and wait for him to find you and reward his win. Over time you can increase the difficulty.
Be careful to not reinforce unwanted behavior like barking or door scratching.
How Much Exercise Is Too Much?
Sadly there is no one size fits all approach when it comes to how much exercise is too much. Many people think that larger breeds can go on longer walks because they can tolerate it while small breeds don’t need as much exercise.
As I said before, large dogs are usually prone to joint issues and too much exercise at a young age might cause problems. You should also take into consideration the energy level of your breed. If you have a high energy breed like a Jack Russel Terrie, you can definitely take him on longer walks than a Great Dane.
Working breeds need more mental stimulation than other breeds and require a type of work they can perform while breeds with short snouts have a hard time breathing when exercised too much.
Vets recommend that very young puppies go on short 15 minute walks with several play sessions a day. Exploring and playing is far more important for a 3-month-old puppy then walking on a leash.
Once your puppy gets older his exercise needs will change and you will need to go on long walks. Pay attention to your dog, if he starts to lay down or refuse to go any further then you know that you have to take shorter a much shorter walk next time.
Strenuous exercises (hiking, agility, jogging) are not suited for young puppies and should be saved for when your dog becomes older.
How to Exercise Your Puppy in the Summer
The summer heat is really hard for many dogs so we want to exercise them safely in hot weather.
Before stepping outside, always check the temperature of the ground with your hand. If it is too hot to lay your hand on it, it will we too hot for your puppy’s sensitive paws.
Generally, we want to avoid exercising our dog in the hottest times of the day. The best times to walk your dog in the summer are in the early morning hours and at night. Pay attention to your dog on walks. If he starts to strongly pant you probably went for the wrong time or walked him too long.
Try cool exercises like swimming in the pool or into a nearby lake. If you do not have access to both of it, baby pools are a great alternative as they can at least get their feet wet.
Always provide him with enough water to drink. What I always like to do in the summer is feeding my dog some watermelon. She loves it and it provides her with so much water.
Let me know what exercises your dog prefers the most in the comments below!