Anyone who has an energetic puppy will tell you that it can be tough to tire them out, and anyone with a mouthy puppy (which is pretty much every puppy parent) can show you the flayed hands, wrists, arms, ankles and clothing to prove it. In an effort to curb puppy craziness, most people try to exercise their puppies into peaceful snuggles and slumber. That leads to questions I often hear in puppy classes, such as: “How far is too far to walk with my puppy?” or “When can I start running with my puppy?” and “When do puppies stop acting like little sharks?”
As far as physical energy is concerned, research doesn’t exactly abound as to how much is too much. However, there seems to be a general consensus among experts that puppies should be allowed to walk with you at their leisure, run short distances if they want, and play with puppies of their own age group until they tire out (another reason to keep up with puppy classes!). In other words, avoid “forced exercise.” If your puppy plays with teenage or adult dogs that have built up stamina, they’re likely to run themselves ragged trying to keep up. Likewise, taking your puppy jogging with you can result in the same “I need to keep up” mentality. Both scenarios can lead to injury or joint problems, now or in the future. Bottom line: Use common sense when exercising your puppy – is he just so excited he’ll keep going forever? Is she just trying to keep up with big sister? When in doubt, err on the side of caution and use your brain (and your puppy’s!) to tire them out safely in a different way. Which leads me to my next point…
Every puppy needs an outlet for their mental energy, and using their brains tires them out surprisingly well. Think about it… Are you more exhausted after a challenging day at work or after 45 minutes of walking? Of course, to an extent it depends on your level of physical fitness, but for most folks the answer is that a challenging day at work is more tiring. The same goes for our canine companions, so give them a job to do!
One of the easiest ways to do this is to let your puppy apply a focused effort by working for its food. Give your puppy a Kong stuffed with a mixture of kibble and either canned or pureed pumpkin, plain yogurt, or wet dog food and let them occupy themselves during their breakfast, lunch and/or dinner. Once this is too easy for your puppy, you can freeze the Kong more and more, making it last longer. If you did this three times each day, that’s about 5 minutes of work for you (make a few at night and freeze them), and probably 2+ hours of work for puppy! It’s hard to say which is better, the peace and quiet, or the fact that they’re busy gnawing on their dinner instead of shredding your hands, wrists, ankles and clothing!
Our Favorite Puzzle Toys: Kongs aren’t the only way to get your dog to work for its food…