Exercising your puppy safely
Now your pup is a bit older, to help keep them, (and you!), fit, healthy and mentally stimulated, start taking part in some fun doggie groups or outdoor activities together. These types of activities will help strengthen the bond between you, keep your pup as fit as a fiddle and keep them mentally stimulated which can help prevent problem behaviours.
When choosing an activity for your pet, you must always consider:
What activities are right for your dog breed?
Short-nosed or flat-faced breeds
Shorter nosed or flat-faced breeds (also known as brachycephalic breeds), such as French Bulldogs, Pugs and Boxers, may struggle with higher levels of intense exercise due to common breathing difficulties and their ability to regulate their body temperature. Make sure that the exercise you choose is suitable for your pup, that they’re able to take regular breaks when showing signs of fatigue, and most importantly, that they’re having fun!
Larger breeds like Labradors and Collies have a lot of energy to burn and may require more training and mental stimulation. Looking at outdoor activities which include their favourite toy can help keep them focused and interested in the activity you chose. Trying new games can also help keep them mentally stimulated while staying active.
How much exercise is too much?
Some dogs may seem like they can’t get enough of running around, however, strenuous or long periods of exercise can cause problems with their bones and joints as they grow older. A pup should be walked until they are tired, but no further. The distance and length of time will depend on the breed of dog; some small breed puppies may get tired after only ten minutes of walking.
If your puppy lies down on a walk, becomes less coordinated, starts walking with their head drooped, or seems uninterested in their surroundings or training, stop, pick them up and return home. Make a note so that next time you can remember to do a shorter loop. It is also best to exercise your puppy on softer ground, such as grass and woodland rather than concrete pavements, avoid steep hills and stairs on your walks and avoid ball play and sprinting as these can all damage their developing joints.
Should I be sticking to a routine?
It is important to consider your exercise routine, as all pups deal better with routine. Regular exercise at consistent levels is the best for any pup and they are likely to be looking forward to spending quality time with you. While the routine is good, taking different routes on your walks helps to keep them alert and on their toes.
What activities can I try?
There truly is plenty to choose from when looking at outdoor activities for you and your pet and many are a great way for you to meet other people and different breeds, providing an excellent opportunity to socialise your puppy. Joii has put together a few activities which are suitable for all breeds and all experiences.
Flyball is a team sport for dog lovers and their competitive ball–loving companions. Pups can join a beginner’s team from 12 months old and can start competitions at 18 months.
The sport consists of four dogs on two teams, racing side-by-side, each dog will run through a course of jumps and trigger a Flyball box to release a ball they need to catch before returning over the jumps back to the start line. This is then repeated in a doggy relay with the first team to have all four dogs over the finish line winning the round. Any breed of dog can join, with the jump heights being lowered for the smaller breeds of dogs. Some pups may be quicker than others, but the most important rule of Flyball is that everyone is there to enjoy themselves and have a good time with their pet.
Agility is a great way to train your pup, spend time together, bond and have fun exercising. Dog agility is a recognised sport and is widely popular in the UK, it consists of a handler directing their dog through a course of 17-20 obstacles in an aim to be the quickest and neatest pair.
All obstacles should be performed in a set order and will include the dog walk, seesaw, weave poles and A-frame. Dogs can start competing in agility from 18 months of age, however, training can start at under a year old to help your puppy get comfortable with courses.
Agility clubs will usually cater for pups with lower jumps and simplified obstacles. Again, any dog breed can compete in agility and pups will be put in classes based on their height against similar-sized dogs to give them a fair chance when competing.
Scent work has become an increasingly popular hobby for dogs and is not just used at airport security or in the police force. The hobby involves training your pup to recognise certain smells and locate specific objects with their trusty nose. Any breed can participate in this activity and it offers young dogs a way to manage their extensive energy levels without getting into trouble, keep their brains ticking, teach them how to focus on certain commands and build their confidence.
The basics of this can be taught at home with the ‘which hand game’, asking your pet which hand the treat is in and encouraging them to sniff out their treat as a reward. The pup can then move to more challenging tasks like seeking out treats in hidden places, and for those who really pick up the scent, there are beginners scent work groups which progress through to advanced classes and even competitions.
Swimming is not just for older dogs or for those recovering from injuries, swimming is a great low impact way to exercise your puppy! More and more canine swimming centres are popping up around the country and offer pups a safe way to have fun in the water.
Some breeds may be less likely to enjoy the water or struggle with shorter legs, but centres generally offer life vests for less confident swimmers to help them get used to the water while they’re young and to help keep their muscles strong. If you are planning on starting a dog fitness regime, need guidance on joint supplements, require suitable dog warm-ups or just want some advice about appropriate exercise to keep your breed mentally stimulated and happy, the Joii nurses are here to help for free as part of any Animal Friends dog policy.