What do we need to know about puppy exercise? Anything? Don’t puppies just play? Yes, but there is such an industry around all things to do with dogs, cats, our animal family, how do we get it right?

Puppy exercise for me naturally makes me think about PLAY and how important this is.

Yes, puppies naturally play, get tired, sleep, then start all over; but maybe a couple of key points here:

  • Don’t encourage them to overdo it. Pups need to sleep, recuperate, have a safe place to retreat, away from loud tv noise, the kids, people coming and going etc
  • Don’t overdo the ball throwing, so many dogs are focussed on balls, it can lead to possessiveness, aggression, disinterest in all other play options, injuries.

Dogs and puppies are happily playing with an old sock, a plastic bottle half filled with water, your favourite expensive shoes, anything. You don’t have to buy expensive toys, or continually throw the ball.

Puppies are still growing, their skeletons still forming, till at least 12 months of age. Excess running, jumping, and exercise can harm their natural development and lead to arthritic conditions in the future.

There are also breed-specific precautions, e.g. a giant breed puppy compared to a cattle dog pup is going to have different lifelong requirements on all levels. But that’s another topic. Safe to say giant breeds are never going to be as quick, agile or active as a working dog pup.

Pups shouldn’t have to keep up with their owners in the long run. They can’t do it, although they will try. A particularly heartbreaking sight a while back was seeing a dachshund pup being dragged along by his fit adult male owner enjoying his Sunday morning jog. Dad is having fun, probably thinking he’s giving the pup some exercise too (or just being practical, killing 2 birds with one stone? Poor pup).

Exercise and play are important for all of us, regardless of age, or species. Quoting Barbara Allen, an amazing animal communicator, from her book, Canine Spirit: Love of Dog. “We need to be tolerant, loving, patient, aim to have a real relationship with our pup, keep his inquisitive, curious spirit alive, and not crush it with unreasonable demands and our lack of understanding.“ I love Barbara’s description of puppy gardening… ”involves digging rather than planting”… if your pup has uprooted your favourite roses, there would be a way to redirect this behaviour, so all needs are met. Your garden is saved, you don’t harshly reprimand or hit your pup for his innocent behaviour and perhaps crush his spirit, you work on understanding the pup’s needs, and he gets to know what’s unacceptable. There are excellent books and dog trainers to help guide YOU in appropriate responses.

One book I highly recommend is “Canine Spirit: Love of Dog” by B J Allen. This insightful book offers valuable guidance on nurturing a strong bond with your furry friend and understanding their needs.

5 minutes of play every 30 minutes has been suggested as a healthy ratio for humans and their animal buddies. We are so busy with computers, house duties etc… It’s recommended we take a break, every 30 mins, stretch, refresh… and here, a few minutes quality time with your pup or dog, cat, kitten) would be invaluable.

There is an amazing study on “teaching old dogs new tricks “. 2 groups of elderly golden retrievers, both taught the same trick, same conditions, except the control group had 5 minutes of play included in every training session, guess which group had the best outcome? The group with 5 mins play learnt faster and retained the information. This shows play is beneficial for us on so many levels, regardless of age or species.

Last point. Dogs give us so much unconditional love, company, their role in nursing homes, guide and assistance dogs, they are trained now to detect diabetes and cancer etc etc… perhaps a very underestimated gift from them to us is the ability to laugh, play, be silly, destress, stay young.