How Much to Exercise Your New Puppy

Here are some things to think about when determining how much to exercise your new puppy.


Helping a puppy develop into a strong, adventure-ready adult dog is a fun process that takes time. A puppy’s abundant energy can easily make an owner think a pup needs a lot of exercise. But Russ Kelley, the Science Lead Nutritionist at Eukanuba’s™ Pet Health and Nutrition Center says, “take your time when bringing along a puppy. Watch his rate of development, and if you have any doubt concerning exercise then err on the side of caution.” Here are some things Kelly recommends thinking about when determining how much to exercise your new puppy.


“Let puppies be puppies, and that means let them have fun and learn about the world,” says Kelley. “A puppy’s brain and nervous system is almost fully developed at 16 weeks, so that time is best spent teaching him new skills. His body will be nearly fully developed around a year (15-24 months for large or giant breeds), and that’s the time for more physical exercise. For now, let puppies run around the yard. Keep socializing run times short, regular, and less intense. There are other things to work on besides pushing puppies physically in the two-to-six-month timeframe. Those include basic commands like come, sit, stay, heel and kennel. Introduce them to lots of people, the environment, vet visits, basic grooming, and all of the situations they’ll encounter during their lives. There is plenty to do, so save the more aggressive physical exercise for when their bodies are ready.”


“This age is a great time to connect with your pup in a natural environment and to establish a working bond,” Kelley says. “Teach him about the activities he’ll do when he’s older. Introduce him to trail running terrains, hiking trails, the water, and anywhere else where he will go with you. It’s also a good time to teach your pup that there is more to an activity than simply running fast. Puppies don’t know their limits, so help them learn how to pace themselves by exercising in short, focused sessions.”


Kelley is a big fan of exercising puppies in water. He says, “not only do most puppies love to swim, but the water also works more muscle groups than land-based exercise. It’s a low impact, strengthening, and conditioning opportunity that puts less strain on developing muscles and joints. Introduce puppies to swimming in shallow pools with no current and progress from there.”


Young dogs are susceptible to injuries, and an injury at a young age can shorten the active years of a dog’s life. “If a dog’s growth plates aren’t fully formed there is a risk that rigorous exercise can cause injury,” says Kelley. “Common ailments are osteoarthritis, lameness, and joint strains, each of which can come from the kind of twisting and jarring common in dogs that run or hike with their owners. Physical injuries can be managed but seldom undone, and that’s why I take my time with puppies.”


Different breeds can mature at different rates. But littermates can mature at different times, too. Kelley says, “With the exception of giant breeds that take longer to mature, I suggest waiting until a puppy is a year-and-a-half old before pushing him to the max with exercise. That way you’ll be reasonably sure that all growth plates, muscles, tendons and ligaments are fully developed. I’d also vary his type of exercise between land-based activities and swimming. That diversity helps build a strong, well-balanced dog.”

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