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EXERCISE FOR PUPPIES

Lots of love and good nutrition are critical to a growing puppy, but exercise is also a necessity to raise a pooch who's healthy and happy for a lifetime.

Dogs can suffer from the same types of obesity-related illnesses as people, so establishing a physical fitness routine from the start is not only good for your pup, but can help you achieve your fitness goals, too. Plus, a good exercise plan for your puppy enhances good physical development and can help avoid arthritis and other joint-related problems later in life.

Physical activity is also key to a dog's psychological well-being, just like it is for people. Regular exercise promotes a substantially improved quality of life for your pup, both physically and mentally. It also can help decrease - or even eliminate - so-called "boredom behaviors" like chewing, digging, and endless barking.

What are good activities for puppies? Puppy workouts don't have to be time consuming or physically exhausting. It's all about moving and having fun. Here are some great activities you and your puppy can participate in together.

Walking

All dogs need walking. It's just that simple. Walking doesn't stress the joints, can be done in almost any weather, and provides time for you to spend together that will strengthen your bond with your pup. This is an activity that you and your puppy can enjoy together starting when your dog is about six weeks old, or as soon as he's leash trained.

Jogging/Running

Many dogs, especially the "running" breeds such as Siberian huskies, malamutes, and other dogs bred for endurance enjoy jogging or running with their owners. However, because joints and bones aren't fully formed for the first year of their lives, puppies should never be taken out jogging or running. After your pup is over a year old, though, it can be a great activity for you both.

Swimming

If your puppy likes water - as many of the retrieving breeds like Labradors and setters do - swimming can be an excellent exercise for a lifetime. Remember, though, that not all dogs like the water, and never force your puppy to get in the water if he doesn't want to. Also, be sure to provide a step or ramp system for your pup, in case it gets into your pool or spa when you're not around. Of course, the best bet is to treat dogs like kids and not let them near your pool or spa when you're not around to supervise.

Playtime

Puppies love to play, and playing is not only one of the best ways to develop a strong relationship with your dog, but also to sneak physical activity in without either of you noticing! Fetch is almost always a favorite game, and your puppy will probably enjoy playing with you using toys like soft balls, squeaky toys, and fleece toys. Choose softer toys for puppies, since their teeth and mouths aren't as strong as an adult dog's. Sticks and bones aren't good choices for play toys, as they can damage the tender mouths of dogs at any age.

Exercises to Avoid with Your Puppy

Because of his stamina level and still-forming body, running is not a good option for puppies. Extended periods of physical activity are also ill advised, since puppies' endurance levels must be built up slowly, just like a human's. Biking, rollerblading andĀ skateboarding with your dog are unsafe, regardless of age. The chance for injury is high when you involve your dog in those types of activities - either from traffic or from the leash - and most dogs simply won't be able to comfortably keep up with you.

Exercise Guidelines for Puppies

As your puppy grows, more intensive or longer workouts are fine. Here are some guidelines by age on appropriate physical activity for your pup:

6 Weeks to 4 Months

  • Short walks on soft terrain
  • Playing with soft toys in a contained area, such as a fenced yard
  • Swimming in warmer water for short periods
4 to 8 Months
  • Longer walks on soft terrain
  • Playing with soft toys
  • Swimming and playing with toys in the water
8 to 12 Months
  • Faster and/or longer walks on soft terrain
  • Playing with soft toys
  • Swimming and playing with toys in the water for longer periods
12 Months and Up
  • Walks on terrain that has been checked for hazards such as unseen glass, holes, ditches, wires, stakes, and metal fragments
  • Jogging with you (begin with short distances on softer terrain until endurance is built up)
  • Playing with appropriate toys
  • Swimming and playing with toys in the water
Regardless of your puppy's age, always be aware of signs of exhaustion, overheating, or dehydration, and stop the activity immediately. Dogs overheat more quickly than people, so be particularly alert to your pup's behavior during exercise in warmer weather.

Tips to Make Exercise Fun for You and Your Puppy

  • Tailor the activity to your puppy's breed, fitness level, age, and interest level
  • Take your pup to the vet before starting a physical activity program
  • Never force your puppy to do something he doesn't want to do
  • Start slowly and let your puppy's endurance (and yours) build up to avoid injury
  • Never feed your puppy immediately before or after exercising
  • Check paws and pads after a workout for any cuts or tenderness
  • Join a local dog club (many are breed specific) to participate in activities crafted especially for your type of dog (e.g., sled dog races, agility exercises, herding competitions)
  • Let your commitment to ensuring your puppy's physical fitness help you meet your own exercise goals!
First and foremost, make sure you and your puppy are both having fun during the activity and the time you get to spend together. The bond you build while you're working out together can become unbreakable when you truly enjoy each other's company.

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