Puppy Culture – Exercise Guidelines for Puppies
Getting a new puppy can be exciting as you welcome the playful pet into your home and gain a new family member and friend. One of the most important parts of caring for your dog is providing it with an active lifestyle where they can exercise throughout the week and burn all of their energy to maintain their weight and keep them healthy. When it comes to being a pet owner, it can be challenging to know just how much exercise your pup needs to ensure they can continue to grow and develop properly.
Many studies have been performed over 32 years on Bull Terriers and the best practices for exercise, which may slightly vary based on the breed. Giant breed puppies have growth plates that are known to close at a later time compared to puppies of smaller breeds. There are also breed-specific orthopedic concerns that are not addressed in this review. Puppies that have been neutered under 18 months of age will experience a delay in their growth plate closure, which requires adopting exercise guidelines that are more conservative. If you’re looking to provide your dog with strenuous exercise that is more intense, we recommend the animal undergoes x-rays to confirm they have growth plate closure before they participate in intense training.
Now that you’re ready to get started, there are a few important guidelines to follow to ensure you exercise your four-legged friend enough at each stage of development without pushing them beyond their limits.
SUSTAINED AND CONTINUOUS WALKING
For dogs that are eight to 12 weeks old, walking a range of 50 to 200 feet at a time is ideal. You can consider breaking up the walk by allowing the puppy to sniff and noodle around as they take an interest in exploring and getting to know their surroundings. Those who want to perform formal heeling and leash walking training should limit it to two minutes. Once the puppy reaches 12 to 16 weeks of age, you can gradually increase the duration and length of walks now that it’s older. You can begin to walk 100 to 200 feet once the dog reaches 16 weeks of age and work up gradually to the new distance. Allow the puppy to decide when they want to walk further. Stop the walk once they begin to show a bit of resistance and don’t seem interested in moving forward on the trek. All formal training you perform should be kept under two minutes due to the attention span of the puppy.
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By four to six months of age, your puppy is now ready to take longer walks up to 200 to 400 feet at a time as they’ve grown more and have increased endurance. You’ll need to let the puppy communicate when they’re ready to walk farther or if they want to stop due to any resistance they may show. Continue to keep all formal training that you practice with your pet under two minutes for each session for this stage of their development.
By six to 12 months of age, your puppy has now become accustomed to taking walks outdoors. All walks that are performed on the pavement should be kept short because the hard surface can cause excess wear and damage to the dog’s paws. Pavement can also have a high temperature on warm days, which can be uncomfortable for your pooch. If you walk on dirt or turf with your pet, you can have the freedom to walk a farther distance due to the soft surface that is more gentle and cool. This is also the perfect time to begin introducing more hiking-related activities to your dog as they increase their endurance levels and abilities. We recommend sticking to “sniff and strolls” by their first birthday, but you can also try sustained walking for 20 to 30 minutes on a surface that is level and soft if you find your puppy wanting to walk longer distances. Wait for your puppy to volunteer to go that far to ensure they have enough energy and stamina.
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At 12 to 18 months of age, all walks on the pavement still need to be kept short, but you can continue to walk longer distances if you’re hiking on turf or dirt with your pet. Continue to introduce hiking activities that help your dog get proper exercise and allow you to bond together. Keep the walks to “sniff and strolls,” but remember that now is the time to increase the exercise to sustained walking of 20 to 30 minutes. This exercise should be performed on a soft surface that doesn’t have much of an incline and only if the puppy shows that it wants to walk farther.
Once your puppy reaches 18 months to two years, you have the freedom to increase the walks to be as rigorous as you and your dog prefer. Keep in mind that their tissue is still developing until they’re three years of age, so don’t push them too hard and make it a point to plan for breaks where they can rest. All changes in physical activity should be gradual and adjusted if your pup looks tired or ever appears reluctant to walk further.
SNIFF N STROLL
After you first adopt your puppy and start exercising the dog, you’ll want to perform “sniff and stroll” exercise sessions throughout the week for 10 to 15 minutes. By age 12 to 16 weeks, the sessions can increase to 15 to 20 minutes. By four to six months of age, you can increase their exercise time by 45 minutes. This amount of time should involve moving at a very slow pace while providing your dog with plenty of opportunities to stop and sniff along the way to ensure they can slow down at times. From six to 12 months of age, the pup’s “sniff and stroll” time can move up to 60 minutes as long as they continue to walk at a slow pace and can have the chance to sniff and explore their surroundings while stopping as much as they like.
Dogs who are 12 to 18 months old can still participate in 60 minutes of exercise at a slow pace where they have the freedom to stop and sniff. Dogs that are 18 months to two years of age can grow out of their sniff and stroll time for more sustained walks that allow them to move at a faster pace without taking as many breaks. Although you may be walking quickly, it’s still important to let your dog takes the time to sniff around every few minutes when they feel inclined to do so, which is how they relate to the world around them.
NOODLING AND KIBBLE TRAILS
Part of the exercise that your puppy participates in as he grows and develops is noodling and walking on kibble trails. From eight to 12 weeks of age, the dog can have time to go out in a safe yard and explore the area at their own pace. This can include sniffing, jumping around, and even doing a “Kibble Trail,” depending on what the pet prefers. When they’re 12 to 16 weeks old, they can continue this activity as a way of boosting their physical activity and getting a bit of exercise on their own without any assistance needed. Dogs up to 18 months of age should continue to have time set aside in their schedule for noodling and kibble trails. They can get a bit of fresh air, enjoy the sunshine, and have the freedom to explore as much as they like. Between the ages of 18 months and two years old, the dog will likely enjoy this time outside each day and will continue exploring at his own pace in a secure yard where they aren’t at risk of escaping.
Although running is an effective way for dogs to exercise and stay physically fit, it’s important to limit and monitor how much they run each day. From the ages of eight to 12 weeks, puppies are not directed to run except for short spurts as they spend time playing and interacting with you or other pets. Allow your new pup to run as much as he likes on his own, but don’t try to prompt the animal to run for short or long distances due to their age and physical limitations. This practice should continue up until the age of 12 to 18 months of age to protect their health and development as their body continues to grow.
When your dog reaches 18 months old, you can begin to push your dog to run more gradually with endurance training that is performed. From 18 months to two years of age, the dog can learn how to run at faster speeds and longer distances because they’ve reached the end of their development and are healthy and strong enough to endure more exercise. Avoid pushing your dog too hard at any age and allow them to stop running when you start to notice any hesitation or resistance.
JUMPING AND IMPACT ACTIVITIES
There are many types of jumping and impact activities that puppies can participate in at a young age and continue as they grow and develop. From eight to 12 weeks of age, you can place bars on the ground to the wrist height of the puppy. There should not be more than one or two rows of obstacles present. You can also place out wobble boards and unstable surfaces to help them maintain their physical activity, but make sure the items are placed low on the ground due to the small size of the dog to avoid injuries or accidents. It’s also necessary to carpet all indoor stairs in the home and never allow them to go up and down the stairs or steps without supervision. Gates should be installed at both the top and bottom of the stairs. When your puppy wants to go up or down the stairs at their young age, consider carrying the dog if there are more than one or two steps present to protect their safety.
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The same rules regarding jumping and impact activities still apply when the dog is at 12 to 16 weeks of age and once they’re four to six months old. You can make a few changes and modifications in the six to 12-month stage when the dog has become larger and stronger, which allows them to be capable of performing more strenuous physical activities that are challenging. All jumps can be gradually raised halfway to the elbow height with more challenging ramps, teeters, and wobble boards introduced. The dog can also discover platform work for rear end awareness during this time, but it should be introduced slowly and carefully. At this age, puppies are at a higher risk of suffering from spiral fractures because they have the wherewithal to get on high beds and couches in the home. They should not have any access to high furniture without supervision. There should also be proper traction on stairs to prevent slipping. Carpet should be present indoors, as well as non-skid surfaces outdoors. You may begin to notice that puppies have more traction at this age as they walk and run around, but they still need to be monitored and they shouldn’t run down the stairs with other animals in the home. This can cause them to slip and even become trampled by the other pets.
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By 18 months to two years of age, you’ll need to gradually increase the jumps and contact obstacles to full competition height as the dog grows and becomes larger. At this age, stairs are still considered to be a hazard and put pets at risk of slipping or falling, which makes it necessary to still offer carpeted surfaces indoors with non-skid surfaces on the exterior of the property.
Swimming is a fun activity that allows your four-legged pooch to cool off. When teaching your puppy how to swim in the first eight to 12 weeks of their life, they should always wear a life jacket. They can begin to learn how to wade and play in the water on the shoreline while climbing on and off low platforms and rafts in shallow water. This is when you can interact with your new puppy by teaching them how to retrieve and toss toys in shallow water that is parallel to the shoreline. Prevent the dog from going too deep in the water due to their small size and lack of ability with swimming. Normal puppies should be allowed to swim in the water if they voluntarily do so on their own, but avoid pushing them or forcing them to swim. This can startle your pet and make them afraid of the water. Continue to follow these guidelines from 12 to 18 weeks of age and also four to six months of age.
Once the dog is six to 12 months old, their time in the water can become more advanced. They should continue wearing a life jacket at all times while playing and wading on the shore. Encourage them to climb on and off low platforms and rafts that are in the water while throwing toys or objects in that they can retrieve. At this age, they can begin to participate in short swims in the water. Keep all toys close to the shore to prevent them from going in too deep. High toy-drive dogs are prone to swimming further than is safe to reach a toy that they’re trying to fetch. These rules that are related to swimming still apply when the dog reaches 12 to 18 months of age. Once they’re 18 months to two years old, competition swimming behaviors are safe to introduce. Give your pet the freedom to swim for as long as he desires because he’s at a healthy size and has enough ability to swim for longer periods of time. The dog should continue to have a life jacket placed on him each time he enters the water.
When it comes to chasing, your pup can begin to roll balls and drag toys on the ground in gentle circles at eight to 12 weeks old. This activity will allow them to participate in light physical activity in the first few stages of their life until they reach 18 months old. When the dog turns 18 months to two years old, you can gauge their play style based on their common sense. If you throw a ball and see your pup tumble head over heels to get it, avoid throwing, rolling, or lobbing the ball.
Tugging is one of the most universal activities that all breeds enjoy and can make it easy to bond with their owner while participating in the physical activity and testing their strength. When the puppy first arrives at your home and is only eight to 12 weeks old, you’ll need to keep all of the toys low and close to the ground to ensure the puppy’s neck remains in a straight line because the dog is still growing and developing. Avoid pulling on the toy, but allow the puppy to tug against you as you interact. This tugging exercise and the guidelines included should continue until the dog is 18 months old. From 18 months to two years old, you can begin to hold the rope or toy higher off of the ground to accommodate their larger size and height after they’ve had time to develop more. Although the dog’s neck is stronger at this point in their life, it’s still recommended to allow the dog to tug on the toy instead of pulling on it yourself to ensure they’re in control of their movements.
Dogs are known to perform fast turns due to their high energy levels and the enjoyment they get out of fast-paced movements and activities. When they’re still in the puppy stage at eight to 12 weeks of age, they shouldn’t perform any fast turns or sudden stops. They also shouldn’t perform fast weaves or lure coursing. At this age, you can begin slow shaping of weave poles, but this should be discontinued if the dog shows any signs of speeding up too quickly or weaving through the poles at a high speed that isn’t safe. Continue following these guidelines up until the age of 18 months to protect the health and development of your dog as he continues to grow. When they reach 18 months to two years of age, you can start to introduce full weave pole training and additional activities that involve twisting and turning.
FREE PLAY WITH OTHER DOGS
Playing freely with other dogs can be tricky for a new pet that you welcome into your home, which requires having set guidelines and rules in place. For new puppies that are eight to 12 weeks old, the puppy can participate in 10 to 15 minutes of play time with formal playdates that are scheduled with other dogs to ensure he begins to learn how to socialize and get along with other animals. Provide your dog with free access to other puppies and adults that are already in the household to ensure they become
comfortable around the other residents. The puppy’s access should be limited if he begins to harass other adults in the home or shows any signs of behavioral issues. Make it a point to keep bags of small dog treats on hand and throw it on the floor, which will stop the dog from participating in rough play or fast activity. You can also plan to enforce rest periods and placing the puppy in a specific room or area of the home for their naps to ensure they slow down and get sleep each day.
For puppies 12 to 16 weeks old, continue sessions of 10 to 15 minutes of play time. Discourage their hyperactivity or rough behavior by throwing small pieces of food or treats on the floor. Their nap time should also be in a separate area of the home to ensure they know it’s time to go to sleep and aren’t encouraged to play or continue being physically active. At four to six months old, you can increase their play time to 20 minutes for formal playdates with other dogs due to more stamina and higher energy levels at this age. The previous guidelines described for free play in the home and nap time still apply at this age. By six to 12 months of age, there’s a higher risk of injury due to your dog’s increased body mass if the puppy engages in body-slamming play, turns, or fast sprints. Discourage any type of play that is too rough or harmful to other animals. Their play time during formal playdates should continue to be limited to 20 minutes. Continue to keep treats readily available to use when the puppy is acting overly hyper or is being rough with another pet to remain in control of the situation. We recommend that you continue to schedule a time for rest when the dog can nap to ensure they relax and have a break from physical activity throughout the day. These same guidelines can be maintained and continued into the 12 to 18 month stage of the dog’s development.
Once the dog reaches 18 months to two years of age, you’ll likely need to be more vigilant with your dog’s play time and interaction with other animals with the supervision that is provided. Be ready to intervene by throwing handfuls of food down on the ground if the dogs begin to body slam each other, or the interactions become too crazy. This will discourage the behavior and will prevent it from escalating to the point where one of the animals become injured or aggressive.