Exercise is a very important part of a puppy’s life. Without adequate exercise, few puppies will be able to control their energy. Families see an out-of-control puppy and immediately think exercise is the answer to their problem. Often it is, but exercise can also be overdone. There is a balance. Most people don’t know exactly what is an appropriate level of exercise for a Golden Retriever puppy. The information below has exercise guidelines for large breed puppies along with a broad range of various ways for your puppy to get that exercise.
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Off-leash strolls are a great way to get exercise for a growing puppy if you have a safe place. Make sure that you have a fenced area or that you are far from any place that cars or other dangers might be. For off-leash strolls, let the puppy set the pace. If he lies down, let him rest. Don’t go so far from home that you’ll have to push your puppy to keep him moving when he’s tired.
Here are a few general guidelines. However, keep in mind that puppies that are used to active lifestyles can handle longer excursions. Conversely, puppies that have not had opportunity to exercise off leash need to start off at a slower pace. For your average puppy, start off with 10-15 minutes for an 8-week old puppy. Increase to up to 20 minutes for 12-16 week old puppies. By the time your puppy is 6 months, the time can be increased up to as much as 45 minutes and for a 12-month-old puppy, you can go for as long as an hour as long as you are going at a slow pace with plenty of opportunities for your puppy to sniff around.
How to Increase the Distance
If you are a very active person and want your puppy to participate with you, increase the distance very slowly, starting with only ¼ mile and adding ¼ mile every other week, going up to 3 miles when your puppy is at least 5 months of age. If you miss a week or two of the work, decrease your distance when starting back and gradually build up the distance again. This long distance exercise must be off-leash so that your puppy can take breaks and slow down as needed. The puppy must set the pace. Forced running on a leash is never good for a growing puppy.
On Leash Walks
Leash walking can be a good form of exercise if it is done in the right way and if it is not the puppy’s only form of exercise.
Leash walking can be overdone. One of the biggest causes of growth plate and soft tissue injury in young puppies is repetitive exercise. Leash walks for puppies must be broken up with training sessions or opportunities for free off-leash play or time to sniff around on the leash. 15 minutes should be the maximum for an 8-week old puppy. If your puppy gets tired, flops down, or doesn’t want to go, it’s time to stop. At 3 months, you can go for 20 minutes and at 6 months, you can walk up to 30 minutes. You must be much more careful with leash walking since you and not the puppy control the pace.
Leash walking provides an excellent way of combining a little bit of physical exercise with mental exercise, obedience training, socialization, and environmental desensitization. It is a fantastic way to introduce a puppy to his world. It gives a bit of exercise while at the same time giving opportunities for socialization and training. However, strolls on a leash are not enough. Puppies must have an opportunity to run and play. Again, off-leash walks are best if your goal in your walk is to provide adequate exercise.
Running With a Puppy On Leash Should Be Avoided
Many people have plans to run with their dog, but running on a leash can be harmful to a puppy’s growing joints, growth plates, and soft tissue. Wait until your puppy’s growth plates have closed, which can be anywhere from 18-24 months. Similarly running on a treadmill or any other types of forced running are not appropriate forms of exercise for a puppy.
Free play is always an excellent form of exercise. Dogs and puppies of all ages can play as long they like in your safely contained yard. If he is playing with another dog in the family, make sure you supervise their play until you are sure that they play well together and that the older dog is not too rough. End the play if the other dog is getting too rough, if your puppy is starting to annoy the other dog, or if your puppy shows signs that he is ready to quit playing.
Dog Parks and Playing with Friend’s Dogs
If your puppy is on a “play-date” with a dog outside of your family, limit the time to 20 minutes and supervise closely. Limit your play-dates to dogs that you know well and are confident that the experience will be a good one, especially during your puppy’s first year.
I don’t recommend a dog park for any dog. I’ve heard too many stories of dogs having one bad experience with a strange dog and then becoming fearful for life.
Playing With Your Puppy
Many (in fact most) people don’t have a clue as to how to play with a puppy. Getting on the ground or running around with your puppy can be one of the best ways to exercise your puppy. Fetch and tug can be options if played within certain guidelines. Not only does play with your puppy provide a way to meet your puppy’s exercise needs, play can serve as a bonding experience between you and your puppy.
Whether you are playing tug or fetch or just running around with your puppy, there are a couple of rules that need to be followed. First of all, you need to be the one initiating the game and second of all, you need to teach your puppy an “off switch”.
In other words, if your puppy comes up to you demanding that you play with him in an inappropriate way, don’t oblige him. Instead, ignore him. For instance, if he starts pulling on your pants legs or barking at you, don’t begin the play session. Wait until your puppy is behaving. If he’s jumping around out of control, physically hold him still until he relaxes before starting the game. Then, once you begin playing with your puppy, periodically, stop the game and make him gain control of himself before resuming the game. Ask him to do a simple behavior such as a sit or a down. Then start playing again.
Another popular form of exercise for dogs is the game of fetch. We recommend teaching your puppy the game of fetch at a young age. Going and getting a toy, bringing it back, and giving it to you is easier to teach when they are young. However, fetch shouldn’t be a form of exercise unless several guidelines are followed.
Start With a Toy
When puppies are young, don’t throw balls. Chasing balls causes puppies to twist, roll, jump, and tumble while trying to grab a moving ball. These actions are not good for puppies’ developing joints. Instead, use toys. Then, combine your game of fetch with a game of tug. Tug is discussed in detail in another section. Once your puppy has learned to tug, teach your puppy a release command.
Don’t throw a toy more than 10-15 feet for puppies under 12 weeks of age. Save longer throws for your dog until after he is over 2 years of age.
Teach The Wait Command
Once your puppy has learned to bring a toy back to you reliably, you can begin teaching your puppy to safely retrieve a ball. Before moving from a toy to a ball, teach a wait command. Playing fetch with a dog with a wait command is a tremendous exercise. It not only provides physical exercise, but it also provides a super opportunity for a puppy to learn self-control.Here is how to teach it.