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.
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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 healthy 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, twice per day if he seems comfortable.
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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. Using a long leash is also a great idea in an open area because you can let the puppy sniff and explore at his own pace.
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. Weimaraners are fit and lean. They run all day in the field. They are designed for endurance!
There’s no way I could live with a working weimaraner puppy 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.
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Your puppy’s vet is the best resource
I would discuss this issue 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. There are no studies that say walking a puppy will damage his joints. I will update this post if that ever changes.
What it comes down to is you know your puppy better than anyone else. Dog owners mean well and sometimes people feel the need to share their very strong opinions about not to walk a puppy too far. I would say, trust your gut and be reasonable. If you are concerned, then back off a bit.
I personally lean on the side of providing as much exercise as possible, within reason. For me, that meant about two 35-min walks a day for my puppy. 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 before walking your puppy.
If your puppy is not fully vaccinated, he has a greater risk of catching parvo or other diseases on walks. Another post all together. The real risk for this depends highly on where you live, so it’s best to get your local vet’s opinion on this.
For example, my puppy grew up in a nice neighborhood near San Diego and our vet said there was very little risk of our puppy getting sick as nearly all dogs in our area were vaccinated and leashed.
So I was comfortable taking my dog for neighborhood walks but I waited on the dog park and dog beach until he was fully vaccinated.
2. Your puppy’s breed matters.
Some breeds are more prone to joint issues than others. For example, we’re planning to get a Lab puppy in 2021, and our breeder recommended we do not run with our Lab until he or she is fully matured. Walks, however, would be OK.
My plan is to take it a little more cautious with our Lab vs. our weimaraner because Labs are a bit “bulkier” and prone to joint problems. However, we will still be doing lots of walking and hiking when the puppy is 8 to 12 weeks old.
3. Genetics affect how far a puppy can walk.
Genetics are a factor for predicting whether or not a pup will develop hip dysplasia/elbow dysplasia. It is more important to go through a good breeder that does genetic testing than it is to reduce a puppy’s exercise. Other factors include weight, overall health and diet. Overweight dogs and puppies will struggle more.
4. Early spay/neuter and a puppy’s joints.
It’s common practice for shelters and rescues to spay and neuter puppies at 8 weeks old.
There are many studies now that say puppies 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, I did not have my weimaraner puppy neutered until he was 10 months old. When we get a Lab puppy, I do not plan to have the puppy neutered until he or she is around 12 months old.
Here’s another article on the effects of early spay/neuter. However, if your puppy is already spayed or neutered, do not worry. Rescues and shelters typically spay or neuter puppies as young as 8 weeks old, for example. This is OK. Early spay/neuter is only one factor.
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Can you walk a puppy too much?
If you took your puppy on a long walk or hike before reading this, don’t worry. Your puppy will most likely be just fine! Even if you took your puppy on a couple of runs, don’t stress too much.
While it’s good to be reasonable, don’t beat yourself up if your puppy was running at the beach all day or if your puppy was able to keep up on a long hike with the adult dogs. Just use common sense from here on out.
Like I’ve said several times, a good rule of thumb is to shoot for about 30 minutes of walking twice a day for most puppies, maybe even a little more for older puppies and active breeds.
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. 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. Even 45 minutes to an hour is great for older puppies. 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/thin nylon leash so it is not too heavy for your puppy.
Most likely, if you start walking, your puppy will follow you. Reward her with treats and praise.
If your puppy is already starting to pull you, here are my tips for loose-leash walking.
When can I walk my puppy around the neighborhood?
With your vet’s approval, I would begin right away! I took my 8-week-old puppy for a 20-minute walk through our neighborhood right away on the day we brought him home! He did great!
The only reason you might want to wait on walking your puppy in the neighborhood is if your puppy still needs some vaccinations. This is only the case if there is a higher risk of parvo or distemper in your area.
In many parts of the United States, the risk is so small that it’s silly to avoid neighborhood walks. In other areas, the risk is higher so you might decide it’s better to wait until your puppy’s final round of shots around 4 months old.
Again, it’s all about making the best choice for your specific situation!
When can puppies be around other dogs?
This is a good question for your vet. Generally, it’s safe to introduce your puppy to 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.
However, you might think about taking your puppy to a dog park during the middle of the day during the week or late in the morning when it is quieter. Socializing with one or two friendly dogs might be a positive experience for your puppy. Leave if your puppy is scared or overwhelmed.
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!
Lindsay Stordahl is the founder of That Mutt. She writes about dog training and behavior, healthy raw food for pets and running with dogs.
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- Safe puppy exercise ideas
- Why is my puppy so hyper at night?
- How I run 15 miles per day with dogs
- How to exercise an old dog
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Best Exercise Tools for Puppies:
- A Long Leash:
A 15 or 30-ft long leash allows your puppy to explore, run and play on his own when you don’t have a fenced area.
- Treat Pouch:
A treat pouch allows you to easily carry treats so you can help your puppy focus. This is helpful on walks as well as for short training sessions.
- Kong Flier Fetch Toy
The Kong Flier Frisbee is a durable toy that’s soft on the puppy’s mouth. It’s great for playing fetch in the yard and getting in some much-needed activity!