Puppies should be exercised differently to adult dogs.
Their bone growth plates have not fully formed (closed), and a puppy’s body cannot safely handle long periods or high intensity exercise.
See our article on Puppy Exercise Growth Plates.
A puppy who is over exercised is much more at risk of injury, with both short term and long term effects.
Puppies should avoid any “extreme” exercise.
Extreme is a relative term but if you have any doubt if they are nearing an extreme level, you may have already gone too far.
It is possible to construct a program providing your puppy with sufficient but safe exercises during their growth period into adulthood.
Zink and Van Dyke, in “Canine Sports and Rehabilitation”, provides a reasonable list of allowable exercises for a puppy at two ages, 6 months and under, and 6 months to growth plate closure. The suggestions below are mostly from their recommendations.
REMEMBER: check with your vet before determining when a puppy’s growth plates have fully closed! Most dogs will have their growth plates close in 12-18 months.
Allowable Exercises for Puppies 6 months and Younger
Most of the exercises below should be performed for 20 minutes or LESS.
- Short duration walks. Keep a slow and steady pace.
- Short duration swims.
- Light tug of war with a pull toy, keeping the tension and intensity very light. I recommend keeping the tug games at 5-10 minutes maximum as this exercise/game can easily get intense.
- Chase the toy. Use a toy that lets you control the movement of the toy at eye level or lower (so the puppy won’t be inclined to jump high). 5-10 minute sessions maximum.
- Balance work on a cushion or board.
- Circles using a toy to lead the puppy in a circle in both directions. Keep the pace slow and steady.
Allowable Exercises for Puppies 6 months and Older
Besides the exercises listed above, a 6 month or older puppy should be able to perform the below listed exercises.
- High Five/Waves.
- Short runs up inclines (becomes more of a strength exercise than endurance exercise).
- Jumping over low obstacles (LESS than elbow height).
Once your puppy has reached young adulthood and is cleared by your vet, they can then safely begin more endurance training including jogs/runs of 20 minutes (building up time and distance as the dog gains stamina), agility work, and other longer duration or more intense exercises.
During this time from 8 weeks to adulthood, you can protect your puppy’s joints with Sashas Blend. Sashas Blend is recommended for complete joint health!