Puppies are the wind-up toys of the animal kingdom. One minute, they’re bouncing off the walls, chewing shoelaces, and chasing toys. The next, they’re utterly pooped.
It’s obvious that playing with puppies is good for us, but what about the puppy? How much exercise do they need, and what kind sets them up for health and success as they grow?
Some pet professionals use the popular five-minute rule to determine how much exercise a puppy needs daily.
The five-minute rule states, “for every month of age, your puppy can have up to five minutes of exercise.”
This means your bouncy new 8-week old puppy is only allotted ten minutes of exercise per day. But that can’t be right, with puppies varying so much in size, breed, and energy level – besides, who could resist playing with their puppy for much longer than that?
It might make more sense to limit your puppy to five minutes of playtime per month per play session. You might play for five minutes in the morning, a few times during the day, and once before bedtime.
Playtime really comes in handy during crate training. Your goal is to train your puppy to only bark if they need to be let outside. A bored, under-stimulated puppy will bark in their crate to be let out to play, and may develop a habit of barking every time they’re in it.
The best way to prevent this habit is to make sure you only lock your puppy in a crate when they’re tuckered out. Play with your puppy 30 minutes before you need to crate them. As they begin to get tired, cuddle with them until they start to doze off. Feeling safe and secure in your arms, your puppy will revert to “floppy puppy mode.”
Only crate your puppy when they’re tired, floppy and happy. It’ll be so much easier for them to fall asleep and associate positive, cozy feelings with being in the crate.
It’s not until around 14 months of age that the puppy’s growth plates close, advises animal physiotherapist Laurie Edge-Hughes. Before then, puppies are prone to injury or stress on the growth plates from strenuous exercise, which can cause bone deformations.
It makes sense to keep leashed walks brief. Not only are long walks too much exercise for a puppy, they’re also too demanding for a puppy that has not yet acclimated to structured walks. It’s best to slowly introduce your puppy to the leash when they’re calm to encourage good leash manners.
Puppies should not engage in aerobic exercise such as running, jumping and jogging. Avoid letting them jump onto beds and couches; use doggy stairs, or pick them up to ease the stress on their joints when they join you on the sofa.
Introducing your puppy to toys early on reinforces healthy chewing, chasing and biting. Get toys in a variety of textures, shapes and sizes to satisfy all of your puppy’s cravings to bite and chew. Keep inappropriate items stowed away from your puppy from day one. Don’t give your pup old socks or shoes, so it’ll be easy for them to distinguish between what’s appropriate to play with, and what’s not.
Playing with toys is a great way to challenge them mentally and physically. Short bursts of play aren’t harmful to your puppy, and quickly tire them out.
Before long, you’ll notice your puppy’s instinctive urge to tug – probably when they reach for your shoelaces, pant legs and sleeves with those needle-like milk teeth. Yowch!
The Indoor Tether Tug is a life-saver for shirt sleeves. Every time your puppy has the urge to tug, redirect them to the irresistibly dangling rope bone. They’ll soon learn to entertain themselves without chewing on your belongings.
So, the short answer is, keep exercise sessions short and fun, and play strategically to reinforce calm, good behavior. Use common sense. Keep running and jumping to a minimum, and get plenty of toys!
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