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How much should I exercise my puppy?

Activity is essential to prepare your puppy's body for what it will do later in life, especially if it is a sports dog. 

- There are many misunderstandings and myths when it comes to puppy training - one of them is that "puppies should not do any physical activity," says Line Østerhagen at Nordisk heste- og hundeterapiskole.

She has worked with physical therapy for horses and dogs for 20 years. This summer, Line is releasing a book about physical training of dogs, where puppy training is one of the topics. 

In this episode of our podcast "Unleashed," she is sharing some tips about how to exercise puppies and younger dogs.

Stimulate the body

For young puppies, it is essential to experience a variety of surfaces and stimulation to the body. With military dogs in countries like the USA, stimulation of the puppies start already at ten weeks of age.

- This will gradually build up the body to manage what it will do later in life. If you do not "teach" the body anything, it is weak and prone to injury.

At the end of every bone in the body, there is cartilage. This cartilage will form as we are stimulating the body. 

- If you don't stimulate the body, this cartilage will not develop normally, so it's important not to be afraid of letting the puppy be active and do what they want to do. 

However, this does not mean that you should exaggerate the level of activity. Your puppy should not do anything that it does not manage to do by itself. 

- Your puppy control the amount of exercise. If it gets tired, it is time to rest.

How do I know if my puppy is tired?

The most typical sign that a puppy is tired is that it starts walking slower or wants to sit down. It might also get more clumsy in its movement. 

- Puppies can also get overtired, and get even more active than they usually are. It is important to get to know your puppy to be able to see these signs at an early stage. All dogs are different!

Line Østerhagen

Can my puppy walk in the stairs?

Some carry their puppies up and down the stairs for several months, but what happens when the dog is older, and suddenly has to walk in the stairs itself? The body is not prepared for this kind of movement, and injuries might occur.

- As long as your puppy manages to walk in the stairs by itself, it should be allowed to do so. 

This should also not be exaggerated, of course. If your puppy keeps running up and down the stairs all day long, you need to stop it. 

How far can I walk my puppy?

The so-called "5-minute rule" says that the puppy should increase with 5 minutes of walking every month. For a six months old puppy, that means about 30 minutes of exercise.

 

- If I kept my puppy from walking or moving more than 30 minutes a day when she was six months old, she would go crazy. After a hike to the woods, she could run hours in the garden. I think that the puppy must decide itself. As long as it's not human-driven exercise, they should be allowed to move as much as they want. 

This also depends on how well-prepared their body is.

Can my puppy jump?

Line would not let a puppy jump as human-driven exercise.

- Running around in the garden or forest, jumping over trees or branches is fine, as long as they physically manage it by themselves.

When it comes to jumping up and down of sofas, it is important to be careful to avoid broken legs or other injuries.

- Don't let the puppy jump down before it manages to jump up by itself. 

When can my dog start to pull or carry weight?

Line recommends teaching the dog how to manage different tasks with their own bodyweight only, before gradually adding resistance or weight. 

- They need to build up their muscles and learn how to move for the first year or two. This is also relative - the dog has to be prepared for the work. It doesn't matter if the dog is two years old if it just laid on the sofa for that long. If the dog has been active and is well-prepared, it can start pulling or carrying weight at about two years of age. 

If having a sports dog, Line recommends starting preparing the dog's body for the sport it is going to do later in life from the beginning - gradually and progressively.

- Also, remember that all dogs are different. Some mature later than others. 

Have a vet check your dog!

Before you start training your dog for pulling, carrying weight or dog sports in general, you should have it checked by a veterinarian. 

- Make sure that your dog is fit and capable of doing the task. Read about physical training and get help in building a training program for your dog and your goals.

If your puppy is showing lameness or pain, you should also have it checked.

- If it is only for a minute or two and you never see it again, it is not necessary, but every puppy that shows lameness should go to the veterinarian. It can be a severe developmental disease. This is important to take seriously. Some puppies are struggling for too long. Then the prognosis will be bad, even though they could have had a good life if they had got the right help earlier.

If you want to learn more about how to prepare your puppy for an active and healthy life, listen to the podcast episode with Line!

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