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.
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 have been a professional dog runner since 2008 and I train for ultra marathons. My general approach to dog training 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 far can a puppy walk at 8 weeks? 10 weeks? 16 weeks?
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 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.
It’s important to consider the benefits of walking your puppy, even at 8 weeks old:
1. Puppies that get out for walks are getting socialized.
2. Slow, steady walking helps build strong muscles.
3. Sitting in a kennel/crate all day is not healthy for a 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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How much exercise is too much for a puppy and what kind of exercise is safe?
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:
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.
I have a Weimaraner puppy, and this dog would be at the humane society by now if I had to follow that 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.
You shouldn’t be running with your puppy obviously or dragging him down the street. 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.
How far can I walk my puppy? Each puppy is unique!
I am comfortable walking my 3-month-old puppy Remy for about 35 minutes at least once a day. Ideally twice. (And let’s just say he’s not at all tired after this.)
In addition to that, Remy should ideally be getting the opportunity to run and play at his own pace off leash for 20 minutes or so each day.
I’ve talked with my puppy’s vet and my puppy’s breeder and this is what works 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?
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:
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.
OK, enough from me! I’d like to hear your take on all of this.
What is your approach to walking a puppy? How do you find the right balance?