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When is it Safe to Start Running With a Puppy? My Thoughts

I want to have an honest discussion on when it’s safe to start running with a puppy.

I started running with my weimaraner when he was about 6 months old.

We cover more ground when running. Running seems to remove the need for training or leash manners. When I run with my dogs, we naturally ease into the same pace. Frankly, it’s one of my tricks for teaching “heel.”

Distractions that become a big deal while walking (other dogs, friendly strangers, interesting smells) seem to disappear while running. My young dog focuses on the task at hand – being with me.

Instead of pulling, he floats.

Treats don’t even matter. For 25 minutes, we’re a team.

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When is it safe to start running with a puppy?

When to start running with a puppy

My weimaraner puppy is almost 9 months old now (at the time of this writing), and we are doing some light, slow running up to about 2 miles four or five days per week.

This is not a post about what you should do with your puppy. I’m sharing what works for me and my weimaraner.

Many veterinarians, dog trainers and breeders will say you should not run with a dog at all until his muscles and bones have physically matured and growth plates are closed.

This is usually around 12 to 18 months, depending on breed. Larger dogs tend to take longer to mature physically (and mentally).

Too much “forced” exercise can potentially cause damage to a puppy’s developing joints, these experts say.

*If you just got a new puppy, download my free puppy training guide. Click Here

Warnings about running with puppies should be taken seriously

Yet, people can also take this to an extreme.

I’m aware of dog owners who have carried their young Labradors up and down stairs for a full year. The reason? To protect their dogs’ joints.

I’ve seen 8-month old puppies already overweight because they’re not getting walked.

Their owners fear anything over a half-hour will give their dogs hip dysplasia. (I also fear people are using this as an excuse not to walk at all.)

And on the behavioral side of things, the United States has a real problem with young, healthy dogs being surrendered to shelters and rescue groups. Mainly larger breeds such as Lab mixes.

It doesn’t take a scientific study to figure out a real factor here is these dogs are under-exercised, untrained, poorly socialized. Just plain difficult to handle.

Remy the weimaraner puppy
My Weimaraner, Remy, at about 9 months old

How much running should a puppy do?

It’s all about balance and common sense.

Personally, since my puppy is extremely high energy (explosive!) and too smart for his own good, I have always sided on getting him out and about for proper exercise, training and socialization. I said exercise first for a reason. He needs it.

For me, the risk of not exercising my particular puppy enough is a more serious risk than overdoing it. Keeping him exercised keeps him somewhat manageable.

Being a serious runner, I know that 1, 2 or even 3 miles really is nothing for an active, sporting breed. Even for a puppy.

I’m not taking my puppy out for 5-mile runs. YET. We’re not doing intense workouts. We don’t sprint. I don’t even throw the ball over and over and over.

These 2-mile, light runs are my way of taking it easy on him. We might go at a 10-minute per mile pace, tops. Usually slower.

And I still worry I’m overdoing it!

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Remy-and-me!-compressor

Puppy exercise chart I followed with my weimaraner puppy

This is not a guide. There is no science behind this. It’s simply what I’m comfortable with after discussing with my pup’s breeder and my pup’s vet and Good Ol’ Common Sense.

2 to 5 months: No running other than during play. Plenty of leash walks 1-2 miles per day at first and soon 2-3 miles per day walking. Eventually increase up to 4 miles per day walking.

5 to 6 months: 5 to 10 minutes of slow, steady running during our walks once or twice a week. Total distance per day 2 to 4 miles (mostly walking).

6 to 8 months: Slowly begin to add a mile of running a few mornings per week. Continue with daily walks 2 to 4 miles.

8 to 12 months: Running around 2 miles a few days per week, continuing with long walks.

(My pup is currently 8.5 months)

12 months: This is where I’ll probably start running 3, 4 or 5 miles most days and not worry about speed anymore.

18 months: Let’m run! This is where I’ll take him just about any distance, any speed, within reason. If I’m doing 8 miles, he’ll go 8 miles. If I do 20, he’ll probably do 20. And that’s not a joke. My senior dog Ace did long runs of 15 to 20 miles a day in his prime.

Heck, weimaraners are bred for endurance, for running all day long in the field!

Search for a dog friendly race to do with your dog here.

*If you’re enjoying this article, I’d love to send you other helpful puppy tips in my weekly newsletter. Click Here

Other factors to consider when jogging with a puppy

Genetics. My puppy comes from a line of working weims where there are no hip and joint problems. His parents and grandparents are competitive hunting dogs. His grandpa is 12 and still works in the field.

Remy’s breeder gave me the “go” to start running with him at 6 months. I’m taking a more conservative approach and slowly easing into it.

Spay/neuter. Most of the new research says that early spaying and neutering affects a dog’s muscle and bone development, especially for larger breeds.

Remy’s vet advised me to wait on neutering my puppy until he’s at least a year old because of all the studies that link early neutering to torn ACLs, hip problems and other joint issues. Being a runner, I decided delaying the neutering would be best for Remy.

I’m thankful we have a vet who keeps up with the latest research. When people warn about not over-exercising a young dog, perhaps they should also warn about the effects of early spay/neuter.

This is yet another big problem in the United States, with rescue groups regularly neutering puppies as young as 8 weeks old. More here.

remy-ramp-compressor

I’m not saying my approach is best. Perhaps I’m overdoing it with my puppy. No one knows for sure.

This post is meant to start a discussion for those who run with their dogs. I know I’m not the only runner wondering how long I should wait before allowing my little athlete to join me for workouts. God knows he has the energy for it!

When can you start running with a Lab puppy?

You will get a different answer no matter who you ask. You have to trust your vet and breeder and your own judgement. Most people recommend waiting until the Lab is about 12 months old.

We just got a Lab puppy this summer (2021, five years after this post was published originally), and I plan to follow a similar exercise schedule as I did with my weim – starting with short, slow runs. But as of now, I plan to wait until he’s about 8-9 months old and then very slowly build from there.

When is it safe to start running with a Lab puppy?

Our Lab is from a working, field bred line and her parents, grandparents and great-grandparents all have healthy hips. Still, I will keep an open discussion with his breeder and our vet about the best plan.

Our vet recommended I start running with my Lab around 9 months old, so that is probably what I will do, starting with just a few minutes a day and slowly increasing.

When can I start running with an Australian shepherd puppy?

Fill in the blank with any breed … you will get a different answer no matter who you ask. The general rule of thumb is about 12 months for most dogs but we all have to make the best choice for our own dog.

Australian shepherds are another active breed and if I had a working line Aussie, I would probably start running (slowly) at the 6 to 9- month age. They are smaller than weimaraners so that makes me feel more comfortable running with them a little earlier. But that is simply my opinion.

Now I’d like to hear from you …

When do you believe it is safe to start running with a puppy?

Let me know in the comments!

*If you’re enjoying this article, I’d love to send you other helpful puppy tips in my weekly newsletter. Click Here

My favorite puppy exercise tools:

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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!

4. Healthy Raw Dog Food
Darwin’s – I started feeding my puppy raw food from Darwin’s. Get 75% off your first 10 pounds here. No code required.

Additional resources:

Lindsay Stordahl is the founder of That Mutt. She writes about dog training, dog exercise and feeding a healthy raw diet.

Kellie

Monday 27th of December 2021

I have an 8 month old golden retriever puppy. She is a wonderful dog but was driving me absolutely insane. Being a runner myself, I took her for a 1.5 mile light jog on the beach near me. She looked like me like she was saying “thank you, this is what I was meant to do.” And her behavior was so much better for the rest of the day. But I panicked and thought that I had ruined her hips. Someone told me I had to wait 2 years to run with her!

Lindsay Stordahl

Monday 27th of December 2021

No, you haven't ruined her hips. This is probably OK as it's a fairly short distance and you went at a slow pace. Ask your vet and breeder if she's from a breeder. They can give you their guidelines too, although opinions vary greatly even amongst vets. I have a 7 month old Lab puppy now and my vet and breeder agree I can do some short runs with him at 8 months old. I'm going to do just a half-mile at first and slowly build. But right now we walk up to 4-5 miles per day and he loves to run off leash while I walk. So, I think you're just fine!

Jennifer

Friday 12th of November 2021

I have a five month old kelpie pup who I run on trails with. I started with short trail walks (one mile or so) when he was 9 weeks old. I always let him go at his own pace.

I have gradually worked him up to 4 miles of a mix of running and walking. He always drags a 12-foot leash, but he is usually free to go where he wants to as fast (or slowly) as he wants. I pick up the leash and shorten up when we are passing dogs or people. We stop regularly for extra sniffs and for training (mostly on focus around distractions and relaxed downs). The whole run/walk is interspersed with a gazillion recalls. We go through vast amounts of treats.

I usually bring one of my other dogs.

I was injured and am, myself, slowly building up. I am a much slower runner than you! Including walking and stoping for training, our average pace on hilly trails is <20 mins/mile.

Have you seen this article?https://www.mylamedog.com/post/what-is-the-logic-behind-not-exercising-puppies-until-the-growth-plates-are-closed?fbclid=IwAR2T5WY_LOExEOQyUANjOejM9YETTouBqQ3TRtUgPNodmCTRMRYhLmHtba4

Anna

Friday 8th of October 2021

Thanks for this. I have an 8 month old huntaway. I got him because I love to run for hours and days at a time and want a dog I can do this with - he's bred to run with sheep all day but I've been pretty neurotic about how much exercise he gets. I'm hyper aware of joint damage and like you I'm waiting to get him neutered. Our vet said "you can't overexercise a dog" which is probably the other end of the spectrum. I'm getting to the point now where I think we will start doing short jogs - getting him used to running next to me for starters. How is your weina doing now 5 years after writing this?

Lindsay Stordahl

Friday 8th of October 2021

My weim is super fit and muscular with no joint problems at all, that I'm aware of.

Have You Ever Picked the Wrong Dog Breed? : Dog Training Tribe

Monday 13th of September 2021

[…] Maybe a “weekend warrior” who takes on a leisurely Sunday hike. (And no, I’m not trying to run with a puppy yet, for that one person who’s going to freak […]

Kathryn Willis

Thursday 15th of July 2021

We have been exercising our male weim regularly. He is now 10 months old and it is July. This week it has been in the low 80s, not hot for July. Today we ran 1.5 miles, he was off leash on a farm where I jog. It was not a fast pace and he had to lay down under a shade tree. We then walked for another .5 mile. He then went over to my car to let me know he was done. We are home and he seems really over heated. My daughter took him for a 3 mile walk yesterday, again in the 80s, and he was worn out after 1.5 miles. This is not the norm for him. I don’t know if it’s the humidity or he is just a wimp. He is in GREAT shape. Thoughts?

Lindsay Stordahl

Thursday 15th of July 2021

Yeah I bet it's the heat. My adult weim doesn't do the best in the heat either. Maybe try a run earlier in the morning to see if he wants to go longer then. That way you'll know if it's just the heat, which I'm guessing it is.