Puppies naturally get lots of exercise by scampering around the house, but formal exercise helps them bond with their humans. A daily exercise regimen also sets puppies up for a lifetime of health and wellness; the ASPCA notes that exercise reduces digestive problems, keeps dogs agile and limber and helps them maintain a healthy weight.
Walking with your puppy helps you form a bond that will last a lifetime. “What I see in a dog and person walking together is a rough blueprint for the relationship, a brief overview of the quality of the connection between person and dog,” says trainer and author Suzanne Clothier. Take your young puppy for short walks on soft, grassy surfaces. Take time to let your puppy sniff and explore interesting things along the way. Train your pup to walk with a leash so he doesn’t get distracted by wildlife and run away from you.
Swimming builds strength and increases aerobic capacity. It’s easy on puppies’ developing joints, too. Introduce a hesitant puppy to water play with a small wading pool in the backyard. Fill it with just a few inches of water and place a large rock in the center. Put some puppy treats on the rock to encourage your puppy to get his feet wet. Every week, fill the pool up another inch or so until it reaches your puppy’s belly. As your puppy grows, you can take him to a lake or the ocean. Toss a toy into the water, close to the shore so your puppy can touch the bottom while he fetches it. Always supervise your puppy closely around any body of water.
Help your puppy get some exercise and develop his brain at the same time by creating obstacle courses. Have him jump over low barriers, walk in between cones, up and down stairs and across benches. Mix it up every few days so your pup will be newly challenged with each exercise session. Obstacle courses will increase your puppy’s stamina and help him develop balance and strength.
Playing games with your puppy gives him plenty of exercise and lets you bond and have fun with him at the same time. Fetch is one of the easiest games to teach your puppy. Throw balls, a Frisbee, a soft toy or just about anything that your puppy can carry in his mouth. Hide-and-seek is another game that will get your puppy running around. Have someone hold him while you find a hiding place. Then make soft noises, or call his name until he finds you.
Puppies’ developing bodies need gentle exercise; too much exercise overtires them and can damage their joints. The Kennel Club recommends five minutes of exercise per month of age, twice per day. Remember that puppies are much more sensitive to heat than humans. During summer months, exercise with your puppy in the early morning or evening hours. Offer plenty of water and avoid walking on hot pavement that will burn and blister your puppy’s paws.
- ASPCA: Exercise for Dogs
- Bones Would Rain From the Sky: Deepening Our Relationships With Dogs; Suzanne Clothier
- Georgia SPCA: Puppy Exercise
- The Puppy Whisperer: A Compassionate, Nonviolent Guide to Early Training and Care; Paul Owens and Terence Cranendonk
- Animal Planet: 5 Active Games to Play with Puppies
- The Kennel Club: Puppy and Dog Walking Tips
- Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images