Veterinarian and stress expert Gabrielle Scheidegger-Brunner explains how much exercise a puppy really needs.
When a puppy moves in, the new owners naturally want to do everything right. The puppy should not lack for anything. But finding the right balance between exercise and resting phases is difficult with young dogs.
Vet: It depends
Veterinarian Gabrielle Scheidegger-Brunner, who specializes in sport and service dogs in her practice, explains that the workload required for young dogs is very individual. Different factors influence how much exercise the puppy should:
1. Influence of dog breed
You have to be even more careful with fast and large breeds such as the German Shepherd or Great Dane than with small dogs. Dwarf breeds are much earlier mature from the bone structure.
2. Prefer frequent, but short sequences
Several sequences make the most sense in the first few weeks. The most important thing is not the total duration, but how much is loaded in one go. The exercise should be increased slowly, starting with ten minutes at a time, but about six to eight times a day.
It’s not until the age of six months that you should go for an hour’s walk every few days. You should get at least three to four times the rest for one unit of exertion. But this is only a rough estimate, watch your dog. It will signal: I’m fit and alert again!
3. Keep physical stress low
Physical stress should be kept to a minimum. Veterinarian Gabrielle Scheidegger-Brunner only recommends very short concentration exercises and several coordination exercises. For example, you can place agility obstacle poles on the ground and let the dog run over them, but never let them jump over them.
The dog expert only recommends hikes from the age of one. Then of course initially easy tours with many breaks, which you can slowly increase over the months. First of all, no more than half-day tours without extreme gradients. And the general rule is: uphill is better than downhill. Of course, such tours should not be made every day, but days off should be inserted.
These activities are especially fun for the puppy
If you observe your puppy closely, you can quickly assess how long the dog will be happy and focused. But less is usually more! The puppies should also be well shaped and socialized. According to veterinarian Gabrielle Scheidegger-Brunner, a well-run puppy play session is more important than physical activity alone.
On the one hand, it depends on what the breeder has already done with the young dogs. On the other hand, the duration is also decisive here. Ten or 15 minutes is no problem in the puppy play lesson. But anything that lasts longer than half an hour is too much, according to the veterinarian. Mentally, this would completely overstimulate the pup.
When visiting a puppy lesson, you should therefore definitely get a suitable puppy bag in which the dog can retreat and rest. From a behavioral point of view, a game played by overtired puppies can quickly degenerate and turn into aggression. The dogs no longer learn anything positive for socialization, but only learn negative things.
Puppies of certain breeds
Temperament and resilience vary significantly with the breed. However, this is only a guideline: the temperament of each dog is individual and can deviate from characteristics typical of the breed.
1. Large dog breeds
You have to be particularly careful with fast and large dogs, as they quickly develop joint damage. The muscles and ligaments are too weak, and so the immature bones and joints have to bear the brunt. This quickly leads to damage and developmental disorders.
2. Temperamental breeds
Of course, there are also breeds that would never notice because of their temperament that they are stressed enough, e.g. many terrier species, Malinois and Border Collie & Co. These dogs then have to be forced to take a break. A dog’s nature is designed to want to keep up with the pack. The desire for rest would be interpreted as a weakness.
Consequences of too much movement
Whether stress has harmful consequences for the dog depends on the dose and duration. Most overwhelmed puppies become excessively withdrawn, trying to find rest. They often associate being overwhelmed with people, which means they also withdraw from their caregivers. Other puppies, often those from stress-prone breeds with weak nerves, tend to become aggressive because they don’t know what else to do.
If the dog owner realizes that he has overwhelmed the puppy, that’s a good thing. If possible, he will not do it again. In the opinion of veterinarian Gabrielle Scheidegger-Brunner, individual cases of excessive demands are not tragic for a normal, healthy, and previously well-developed dog. If you have the feeling that the dog is overwhelmed, you should give it enough space to retreat. Let the pup back off, he’ll signal when he’s ready for activities again!