Adding a puppy to your household is like installing a backup generator on full power. There’s just so much energy, and big puppies are no exception!
It’s no secret that puppies can be mischievous, and sometimes a sleeping puppy is the best puppy. We might feel inclined to exercise our big puppies constantly, both to keep them distracted from their destructive habits and to wear them out.
However, there is a right and wrong way to go about proper puppy exercise. Big dogs, in particular, are prone to certain health problems that can be exacerbated by over-exercise. So how much exercise does a puppy need, and how do we make sure we’re not over-doing it?
Read on to find out more about large breed puppy exercise!
How Much Puppy Exercise is Too Much for Large Breeds?
No matter the breed, large dogs are prone to joint problems. You’ve probably heard that mixed breeds are less likely to have health problems and, for the most part, that is true. However, mixed breed dogs have the same chance of developing issues like hip dysplasia and other common medical issues as their purebred counterparts, and you should still be mindful of their size.
What We Do Know
In spite of their oftentimes shorter lifespan and quick growth, large dogs take a long time to develop. The younger they are, the shorter your exercise times should be.
Even if your four-month-old German Shepherd is more than happy to keep up with you on a long hike, you should save that kind of exercise for when they’re older. Because large breeds don’t develop fully until they’re fully grown at about 15 months old, you won’t want to start any activities like agility training early. Any strain in underdeveloped joints can lead to bigger problems in the future.
You should also let your puppy nap when she wants to. Shorter bouts of exercise will give her the chance to rest when her body tells her it’s time!
Finally, there are joint supplements for dogs that can help promote healthy joints. Just be sure to choose the best joint supplement for your dog’s breed and age. You still have to be mindful of their joints when you exercise (or even take your puppy walking), but joint supplements can give you some peace of mind when you do!
There’s a lot of talk out there on puppy health and exercise, and some of it is pretty alarmist. If you tried to follow every preventative measure on the internet, you would go crazy trying to monitor your puppy’s every movement!
Some of these rumors or unreasonable rules include not letting large breed puppies run on hard surfaces and not letting them jump or twist. Of course, we all want to keep our puppies safe and healthy, but some behaviors are unpreventable!
Tips for Safe Large Puppy Exercise
There are a few things you can teach your puppy and that you yourself should bear in mind as you learn how much and how often she needs exercise.
The first is to teach her how to walk on a leash. In the beginning, puppies tend to see leashes as toys. You might only get a few paces before your puppy is wiggling around on the ground with the leash in their mouth!
Keep their attention away from the leash and on you by carrying treats and working on skills like sitting throughout the first several walks. Over time, they’ll get used to the leash and get better at walking with it, which is one of the safest forms of puppy exercise.
You’ll also need to think about the timing and how long to walk a puppy. Start with short, slow-paced walks and work your way up to longer walks. Don’t start jogging with your large breed dog until they’re at least 6 months old, and keep the jogs short until they’re at least 15 months old.
Finally, try not to walk at the hottest and coldest parts of the day. Puppy pads are sensitive; when the sidewalk or pavement is extremely hot or cold, it can cause cracking or blistering that will make it painful for them to stand and walk. On extremely hot days it may be best to exercise your puppy with short walks.
Types of Puppy Exercise to Try
We’ve talked a lot about walking and running, which are great forms of exercise for you and your puppy (and a great way to explore a new park). However, there are plenty of ways to get your puppy moving, active and exercising that will let your puppy play and help wear them out without causing them strain or stress.
Playing With Toys
We all know that puppies love to chew, tug, and tackle. Toys are a great way to hold their attention, expend some of their energy, and even show them what’s okay to chew.
Keep in mind, however, that puppies have baby teeth that will finish erupting around a month and a half of age and will start to fall out when they’re around 3 months old. By six months old, they should have all of their adult teeth, but until then you should find toys that are designed for teething.
Fetch is okay, but if they decide to sit and chew on their toy rather than bring it back, they’re telling you they need a break. For puppies under six months old, games of fetch should last no longer than ten minutes at a time, once or twice a day.
Tug-of-war is also okay, but again, remember those baby teeth. They’re all going to fall out eventually, but that doesn’t mean they should be yanked out prematurely! Let your puppy do the tugging while you hold the toy firmly in one place.
Learning how to sit and lay down may not be a high-impact exercise, but it still involves activity.
Work on basic commands for ten minutes at a time, once or twice a day. Don’t stay in one spot as your puppy learns their new tricks. Move around the house or yard and test their ability to focus despite distractions.
Mixing low impact activities into your puppy’s daily routine can increase the amount of time they’re active without crossing into the zone of too much activity.
Exercise Combined with Mental Stimulation
We tend to think of bad puppy behavior resulting from too much physical energy. However, puppies tend to act out when they’re bored, too! Walking and playing fetch are stimulating to their senses but you should also encourage playtime that is mentally stimulating.
Scent games are a great way to get them moving and using their brains. Use treats and toys that they are drawn to and hide them around the house or in the yard and let them sniff out the location. Doing this a few times in a row or throughout the day will spark their interest and wear them out!
There are also plenty of toys that are designed to create similar challenges. Oftentimes, these toys are made of rubber and have one or several small holes that you can fit treats into. Then, leave it to your dog to solve the puzzle of getting them out!
So, How Much Puppy Exercise and How Often?
The truth is, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Even under the umbrella of large breed dogs, there’s a lot of variety in size and agility, but it is possible to exercise a puppy too much.
One way to gauge how much exercise a dog should get is by understanding how much they need to sleep. On average, puppies sleep anywhere from 18 to 20 hours a day. Bigger breeds have a tendency to snooze more than little breeds, so don’t be surprised if your mastiff puppy only gives you 4 to 6 waking hours a day.
Of those waking hours, only a fraction should be spent on exercise. With puppies six months or younger, plan on two to three bouts of high-impact exercise lasting around 10 minutes each. That might mean two walks up and down the block a day and one game of fetch.
Work in one to two bouts of mentally stimulating playtime and exercise that also last about ten minutes each. Don’t feel like you have to take away the toys with treats inside after ten minutes, but don’t keep doing things like hiding their bones for too long.
As your puppy gets older, you can gradually increase these times, especially when it comes to puppies walking. By the time they’re one year old, 30- to 45-minute walks should be okay.
Mostly, you’ll need to learn to read your dog. If they’re ready to sleep, let them.
However, if it’s time for them to sleep for the night and they suddenly get the zoomies and want to crash all over your house, that doesn’t mean that they’re wide awake. Just like toddlers, puppies can get overtired and throw tantrums. There’s a good chance that as soon as you get them calmed down and into bed, they’ll fall asleep immediately!
Enjoy the Puppy Months
Raising a puppy can come with a steep learning curve. Sometimes it’s exhausting to keep up with puppy exercise, and it can feel like there are a lot of ways to go wrong. Just remember that you’re trying your hardest and that, whether it seems like it or not, your puppy is too.
At Big Dogs Rule, we love our giant pups and we love yours, too! We’re here to answer all of your big dog questions, so please feel free to contact us if there’s something you want to know that we haven’t addressed.