Introducing a puppy into your life is a special and exciting time – there are many crucial things to be aware of in these early days, including the importance of exercise. Not only is exercising your puppy beneficial for their health and behavioral development – it’s a great opportunity for your puppy to socialise with other friendly puppies, dogs and people too.
It is possible for us to get lost in the excitement and forget that puppies are just babies – and like babies, puppies have limited physical abilities while they’re still developing. So, it’s just as important to ease your puppy into all things, including exercise.
Here are some tips on exercising your pup!
Preparation is key
To ensure your puppy’s safety, it’s important all their routine vaccinations are done before going to public places like the park, to reduce their risk of catching a preventable infectious disease through contact with other dogs or a contaminated environment. It’s a good idea to check with your veterinarian when your puppy will be fully vaccinated and when it is safe to visit public places with them.
If your puppy is not yet vaccinated, it is important to carry them and limit their exposure to other dogs and areas where dogs might have been. Although you can take them to a puppy preschool properly conducted in a clean environment.
Puppy preschool is a great first step
These early days with your puppy are crucial for socialisation and training.
A puppy preschool that uses reward-based methods in a safe environment can be a great way to help your puppy learn how to interact in a friendly way with other dogs and puppies. Talk to your vet about when your puppy can start – they might be able to refer you to puppy schools close to your area.
Keep the walks short
When you’re ready to start walks, remember, safety first! Before taking your pup for their first walk, ensure they are comfortable and familiar with their collar/harness and leash – this may take some time. Once they are all set up and ready to go, start by taking your puppy on slow, short walks. While your puppy is growing, it’s important to avoid over-exercising and overexertion (over-exercising puppies can affect bone and muscle development). Remember to give your puppy some time for sniffing plants, posts, and other things as this is a very important natural behaviour that they need to engage in and really enjoy.
During walks, it is common for puppies to get tired and want to rest – look for signs such as your puppy sitting or lying down mid-walk (puppies are often highly excitable so the signs may not be so obvious). It’s important to let them rest and wait until they choose to start walking again. If they appear to be too tired to continue, stop the walk and head home, carrying them if necessary.
Free time counts too!
Playing with your puppy at home in a safe enclosed environment such as the backyard or a designated dog park with fences is also a great way to get some exercise. This way your puppy is free to play and run with the option of stopping and resting as desired.
Interactive toys are another great way to exercise your puppy at home – it is also mentally stimulating. Avoid excessive ball throwing and catching which may over-exercise your pup without you being aware of it. It is best to avoid encouraging any activities where your pup leaps into the air (e.g. Frisbee or high ball throwing) as they can land awkwardly and potentially cause damage to growing limbs and joints.
With all this in mind, no doubt you and your puppy will be off to a great start for a safe and happy life together.
For more information and tips on how to exercise your puppy visit the RSPCA Knowledgebase.
This piece was originally published in Australian Community Media newspapers