How far can I walk my puppy?
A slow 20-minute “stroll” once or twice a day is a good rule of thumb for most puppies. Read on for my longer answer on puppy exercise!
There’s a lot of fear right now about walking a puppy or young dog too far and potentially damaging the pup’s developing joints. While it’s good to be cautious, this is too often taken to the extreme.
Before you read on, you should know that I was a professional dog runner for 8 years and now I train for ultra marathons with my dog. My general approach to dog training and puppy exercise is a tired dog is a good dog.
I lean towards exercising all dogs (including puppies and seniors) as much as I can within reason. I tend to exercise dogs in general more than the average person would be comfortable doing.
How long and how far can a puppy walk at:
It’s good to be cautious when walking a puppy, but don’t be afraid to walk your puppy!
The reason it’s good to be cautious when exercising a puppy is because a puppy’s growth plates don’t close until they are around 12 months old (it varies quite a bit, depending on breed), and some vets say puppies that experience heavier exercise are more likely to develop joint issues at some point.
It’s good to lean on the side of caution and not overdo it with a puppy’s exercise. But you should be safe walking your 10 week old Lab puppy for 30 minutes at least once a day, for example. A half-hour is a safe distance for most puppies at 8 weeks, 10 weeks, 16 weeks, etc.
It comes down to common sense. You know your puppy best, and you can always consult with your puppy’s vet or breeder for another opinion because every breed is different. A Jack Russell terrier puppy might be more energetic than a cocker spaniel puppy, for example.
1. 8-week-old puppies that get out for walks are getting socialized.
2. Slow, steady walking helps puppies build strong muscles.
3. Sitting in a kennel/crate all day is not healthy for a little puppy’s developing joints either!
4. Puppies that get more exercise are generally better behaved & easier to train. See my post: Why is my puppy so wild at night?
5. Many of the young dogs in shelters are there for behavioral problems related to poor socialization and too much energy.
6. Genetics and other factors like early spaying/neutering play a strong role in a dog’s likelihood of developing joint issues.
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The math equation: Multiply 5 by your pup’s age in months
I’m sure by now you’ve come across “the math equation” about multiplying your puppy’s age in months by 5 to get a magic number. For example, an 8-week-old puppy is 2 months old so you would multiply 2 x 5 to get 10. As in 10 minutes of walking per day.
I do not believe in following this equation. It highly underestimates the amount of walking a puppy can safely do.
If you were to follow the above equation, here are some more examples for puppy exercise:
Exercise for 10 week old puppy: 2.5 (months) x 5 = 12.5 minutes of walking per day.
12 week old puppy: 3 (months) X 5 = 15 minutes per day.
16 week old puppy: 4 x 5 = 20 minutes.
6 month old puppy: 6 X 5 = 30 minutes.
Puppy walking schedule
I strongly do NOT believe in following the above puppy walking schedule. Instead, use common sense based on the puppy in front of you. They are all so different depending on breed, size and personality.
I have a Weimaraner puppy, and this dog would be at the humane society by now if I had to follow that silly puppy walking equation. Instead, I believe in using common sense and taking your puppy for short walks 20 to 30 minutes or so per day if he seems to be comfortable.
What kind of exercise is safe for a puppy?
You shouldn’t be running with your young puppy obviously or dragging him down the street. Generally, I recommend you think about running with your puppy once he’s older than 6 months to a year.
Walks will naturally be slow with puppies. You’ll probably do a lot of stopping so he can sniff and explore and go potty. We’re not talking about power walks, necessarily.
Visiting the park or going on a slow stroll are both great ideas for exercising a puppy.For more ideas: see our post on exercise ideas for puppies.
Each puppy is unique!
I was comfortable walking my 16-week-old puppy Remy for about 35 minutes at least once a day. Ideally twice. (And let’s just say he was not at all tired after this.)
In addition to that, Remy ideally got the opportunity to run and play at his own pace off leash for 20 minutes or so each day.
I talked with my puppy’s vet and my puppy’s breeder and this is what worked for us. It doesn’t mean it’s right for your puppy. I’ve received some unkind emails warning me I’m doing everything wrong. 🙁
How far can I walk my puppy? My puppy is bred for endurance!
Remy’s parents and grandparents are working, competitive bird dogs.
There’s no way I could live with a working weimaraner if I could only walk him 20 minutes a day.
For me, keeping Remy’s walks to 35 minutes or so (around 1.6 miles for us) is my way of limiting his exercise.
Despite what some people think, I am actually worried about my puppy’s joints and that’s why I limit his exercise to 35-minute walks or so.
I don’t run with my puppy yet, and I don’t encourage him to jump on or off obstacles.
How far should you walk your puppy?
When can your puppy go for a walk?
I’d say right away!
A slow, 20-minute stroll should be safe for most puppies 8 weeks or older. By that I mean you’re letting the puppy set the pace. You’re stopping and letting him sniff, etc.
Beyond that, I would discuss it with your puppy’s vet and with your puppy’s breeder (if you have a breeder pup). They are the experts and can give you the best advice. It also doesn’t hurt to talk with more than one vet as veterinarians don’t seem to have a clear consensus on this issue. No one really knows.
What it comes down to is you know your puppy better than anyone else.
I personally lean on the side of providing as much exercise as possible, within reason. But as with everything else in the dog world we all have to make our own decisions.
See my post: Exercise ideas for hyper dogs.
How far should I walk my puppy?
Other factors to consider when exercising your puppy:
1. Puppy shots. If your puppy is not fully vaccinated, he has a greater risk of catching parvo or other diseases on walks. Another post all together.
2. Breed. Some breeds are more prone to joint issues than others.
3. Genetics. Genetics are a factor for predicting whether or not a pup will develop hip dysplasia/elbow dysplasia. Other factors include weight, overall health, diet, etc.
4. Early spay/neuter. It’s common practice for shelters and rescues to spay and neuter puppies at 8 weeks old.
Pups that are spayed or neutered that young are much more likely to tear their ACLs down the road and develop all sorts of health problems. For this reason, Remy will not be neutered until he is closer to a year old. Here’s another article on the effects of early spay/neuter.
How old should puppies be to hike?
If you take your puppy hiking, you should follow the same approach as you would with walking.
Plan on hiking slowly and turning around before you’d like. You might have to carry your puppy if he gets tired! Generally, your puppy should be able to handle a short, 30-min hike once he’s 12 weeks old or so. Each puppy is different, though!
It’s also a good idea to check with your vet about what vaccinations are a good idea in your area before taking your puppy on trails. Each area is different depending on dog traffic, wildlife, etc.
See our post: Should I walk my puppy before he’s had his vaccinations?
When to start leash training a puppy
Walking your puppy on a leash
It’s OK to start training your puppy to walk on a leash right away from when you bring your puppy home. I recommend you use a light leash that is not too heavy for your puppy.
Most likely, if you start walking, your puppy will follow you. Reward her with treats and praise.
When can puppies be around other dogs?
This is a good question for your vet. Generally, it’s safe for your puppy to be around adult dogs that are vaccinated. If you have friends with calm, friendly dogs it’s great to start socializing your puppy right away.
It’s also a great idea to sign your puppy up for a puppy training class or “puppy kindergarten” class. This is a great way to work on training and socialization at the same time.
When can my puppy visit the dog park?
As far as dog parks go, I personally prefer to keep my puppies away from dog parks for at least the first 6 months.
Dog parks are not necessarily “bad” for puppies but they can be very overwhelming and you have little control of the other dogs’ behavior. I do not want to scare my puppy during this important socialization window. I would rather set up smaller “playdate” with appropriate dogs.
OK, enough from me! I’d like to hear your take on puppy exercise.
What is your approach to walking and exercising a puppy?
How do you find the right balance for puppy exercise?
Let me know in the comments!
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