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Exercise for growing puppy – how much?

puppies-in-basketDuring the first 10 – 14 days of a puppy’s life, his movements comprises mostly of drinking and sleeping.

Therefore, a puppy’s movements are limited to searching for warmth and milk, that is to say, his mom.

Likewise, even while sleeping, his movements are mostly of his face, ears and legs.


By week three, your puppy begins to discover his surroundings.

His area of movement slowly starts to increase. He starts to investigate and learn about his surroundings.

This has a huge impact on his brain development too.  He learns about his world, his interactions with his mother, siblings and people.


As he explores, the mind-body connection starts to rapidly develop. puppy with cute snarl

Stimuli from the movement of muscles and joints trigger the motor system.  As more impulses from the motor system are received in the brain, the better your puppy’s motor system becomes.

As your puppy grows older, his movement will become more co-ordinated, varied and sure-footed.

Puppies naturally move around until they are tired. They will move, sleep, rest and move some more. A puppy’s mother does not limit her healthy puppy’s from moving around.


Puppy Goes To His New Owner

It is time for the puppy to go to his new owner.puppy-in-grass

If the new owner limits the puppy’s movements to only a few minutes to toilet outside, carries him around and starts to “bubble wrap” his life, there is a significant negative impact on your puppy’s life.

Research has indicated a direct, clear connection between physical activity and brain activity.

Increased physical activity causes increased brain activity and vice versa.


The Impact of Physical and Play Activity

Physical activity supports and promotes brain activity. New brain and nerve cells grow, connect and network.  This accelerates the brain’s metabolism.

This is why physical activity is extremely important for developing:

  • emotional control
  • memory and
  • learning activities

in puppies and young dogs.

Play activities after a training session greatly contribute to improving a dog’s ability to learn new skills.

Physical and play activities help various areas of the brain to develop.  These areas include perception, spatial recognition, physical awareness, coordination, balance, etc.

Movement and activity boost metabolism and helps strengthen bones, joints, build and develop muscles and organs.


Types of Activity for Puppy Exercise

Your puppy learns through repetition and practice. This is true for intricate movements too.

A puppy’s movement is restricted to walking or trotting when they are walked on a leash. This means that leash walking alone is not challenging enough to a growing body that needs to learn new and complex activities.

Healthy physical and emotional development occurs when a puppy is able to have free running, exploratory activities on a daily basis. Climbing over and negotiating through objects strengthens thigh muscles and good muscles protect joints.

Safe free-play with other dogs trains the muscles and assists with body coordination and social skills. These benefits overlap with improved impulse control and frustration patience, preventing numerous behavioural problems.


What About Rest?

After any physical and mental activity, it is very important for a puppy to recover. A good sleep of 1 – 2 hours relaxes the body and brain and your puppy can process the day’s experiences. This is where he learns how to separate the important from the unimportant and how learning takes place.

Therefore, ensure that your puppy has enough recovery time between activities.


Most 8-week old, medium-sized puppies are awake for 6 to 7 hours per day. In addition, they also experience about 2 active phases that last 30-40 minutes each.

In between activities, puppies will sleep for 1 – 2 hours and normally sleep up to 8 hours at night.  Their nighttime sleep sessions may be broken into 2 sessions.

Let your puppy move and tire naturally in an unrestricted, safe environment.

To clarify, don’t keep your puppy busy for longer than necessary. An overtired puppy will lack concentration and muscle coordination making him more susceptible to injury.

Suggested Activities

Outside excursions with your puppy are encouraged. However, long distances are to be avoided. Instead, allow your puppy to determine the tempo and distance of the outing. Keep excursions to no longer than 20 – 30 minutes.

A young dog or puppy should not be engaging in repetitive sports activities, for example throwing balls, frisbees, jogging, bicycling, etc. These may easily overstrain a young dog’s body and cause an injury.

Explore and discover new surroundings together. This is a much better and more rewarding way of growing your relationship with your puppy.

Encourage and promote:

  • Free play with other safe dogs. Ensure that the other dog has a safe temperament and is not too big or too heavy for your puppy to play with.
  • Learning through experience
  • Allowing a puppy or young dog to make decisions and good choices.


Developmental Condition and Puppy Exercise

As your puppy grows older, increase your distances slowly. Remember to keep a watchful eye for signs of tiredness.

Overdoing activities, just like doing too little, is harmful to your puppy or young dog’s development and must be prevented.

At his adult maximum size of 15kg, a puppy should have developed enough muscle and conditioning by the age of 6 months; dogs up to 30kg at the age of 8 months and larger dogs at the age of 10 months, for normal, everyday movement and activities.

Caution:  the muscle condition is sufficient for the normal movement and enjoyment of a puppy/young dog.  The muscle condition at these ages is NOT sufficient for the rigours of resistance, strength or speed exercises involved in dog sports.


Please contact me at The Biokinetic K-9 for more information on foundational puppy conditioning for the sporting prospect.


From an article by:
Dr. Marianne Furler, Veterinary behaviourist STVV, Animal physiotherapist SVTPT
Nov 2018 – Association Vétérinaire Suisse Pour La Médecine Comportementale

Physical Activity and Cognitive Functioning of Children: A Systematic Review
Ilona Bidzan-Bluma, Małgorzata Lipowska, Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018
„Hunde in Bewegung“, Martin S. Fischer und Karin E. Lilje, 2011

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