“How long should I walk my puppy?” Ah, the age-old question asked by many a new Puppy Owner. On one hand, your little ball of fluff has oodles of energy. You know they’ll sleep better through the night if only they can expend it. On the other hand, your little ball of fluff has even littler legs that aren’t yet used to long walks on the beach (or around your neighbourhood). And all that walking could indeed be detrimental to their development. Not quite sure how long your puppy needs to walk, whether with you or your trusted Dog Walker? Read on to find out.
How long should I walk my puppy?
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news: there’s actually no single answer to the question “How long should I walk my puppy?”. It all depends on your pupper’s age, size, breed, vaccination status, and exercise requirements.
What to consider when asking “How long should I walk my puppy?”
Your puppy’s age
To begin with, you can use a general rule of thumb for walking your puppy: walk them for five minutes for every month of age. That equates to 20 minutes when they’re four months old and 40 minutes when they’re eight months old.
However, this should really be used as a rough guide. There are many other factors to consider when walking your puppy, which will impact how much exercise they need.
Their breed and size
Small breeds like pugs, dachshunds, corgis, and Jack Russells tend to struggle with long distances. This is simply because of their compact size and little legs. Shorter walks are also best for dogs who have short legs relative to their body size, such as dachshunds, corgis, and basset hounds. The same goes for dogs with snub noses, like pugs, shih tzus, and French bulldogs – especially in hot weather.
Big dog breeds such as Great Danes, Irish wolfhounds, bloodhounds, Newfoundlands, and German shepherds can cover larger distances than smaller dogs. This is mostly thanks to their long legs. In saying that, these breeds have joints and bones that mature at a slower pace. Walking them over a long distance too early can cause serious orthopedic issues that affect them later in life.
Their vaccination status
When puppies are young, their immune system isn’t fully developed. This means they’re at risk of contracting nasty viruses, like parvovirus. If you get your puppy before their final vaccination, it’s best to hold off on taking them out in public. Doing so will significantly reduce their risk of catching a virus.
Vets usually recommend that puppies start to venture outside around two weeks after their final vaccination. Typically, this is when your puppy is between 16 and 18 weeks old.
In saying that, it’s also important to socialise your puppy during the earlier weeks. This ensures good behavioural development and that they’re capable of handling the outside world. To help socialise them, you can carry your puppy in your arms on a walk, or take them to puppy preschool. Usually, all the puppers are at the same stage of their vaccination schedule and can safely interact with one another.
Their attitude towards exercise
Just like people, dogs come with their own peculiarities around exercise. Some are total couch potatoes, while others are constantly chomping at the bit to go on their next outdoor adventure. A few only like certain types of exercise, while several go mad for any kind of physical activity.
Your pupper might prefer running around the garden or playing indoors over going for a walk on a leash. You’ll soon get to know your pupper’s exercise style as they mature. Then, you can adapt their fitness regimen to suit.
How often should I walk my puppy?
Many of the above factors also determine how often you should walk your puppy, especially their age.
In your puppy’s very early stages, you might end up “walking” them several times a day. This is because a walk doesn’t have to be a walk in the traditional sense. When you get your puppy, you’ll no doubt spend the first few weeks or months completing their potty training. Each time you take them outside to wee can be considered a short stroll.
As they get older, they may be able to tolerate slightly longer walks a few times a week. And when they’re an adult, they’re likely to need one to two walks per day depending on their breed and exercise requirements.
Is it bad if I exercise my puppy too much?
It definitely can be!
Your puppy’s joints and bones are still developing. Puppies have these things called growth plates, which are soft bits of cartilage at the ends of their bones. In small dog breeds, the growth plates usually close when a puppy is between four and sixth months of age. In larger breeds, however, the growth plates can take up to 14-16 months to close.
Over-exercising your puppy before their growth plates close can cause terrible long-term damage. Forced exercise in the early stages of bone and joint development increases the risk of certain complications. These include elbow dysplasia (when the elbow joint degenerates and can become malformed) and Osteochondritis Dessicans (a condition that causes joint pain and potentially impaired movement).
This is why it’s crucial you start with gentle walks in the early stages and build up to longer walks as your dog gets older. It’s also why jogging with your puppy is typically a big no-no.
Also remember that just because a puppy appears to have lots and lots of energy, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re up for a long walk. You may be better off expending that energy through indoor play rather than a walk.
In summary: Go at your puppy’s pace and observe their needs
Looking at the factors that affect your pupper’s walking ability is all well and good, but as we know, each dog is different.
When taking your puppy for a walk, be observant and pay close attention to their behaviour. If they suddenly lie down after a few minutes of walking, it’s a clear sign that they’ve had enough. Scoop them up in your arms and carry them home – it’s unlikely they’ll want to walk the return journey. When you get there, let them rest and recuperate.
Still unsure whether your puppy is ready for a walk? You can seek advice from your trusted vet. If you’ve taken out comprehensive pet insurance for your pupper, your visit will be covered!