It's worth building up exercise levels gradually in young dogs as excessive or uncontrolled exercise in immature animals can cause damage to developing joints, and any dogs with pre-existing joint disease (which can occur in young dogs) are particularly susceptible.
Long walks aren't a good idea and can stress growing joints and muscles leading to future health problems. A leisurely 15-minute stroll two or three times a day will be plenty for most dogs until at least six months old, and older for large breeds. After this time, slowly increase the length of time you're out for.
Appropriate activities for puppies include:
- Puzzles/mental stimulation.
- Running — at their own pace on non-slippery surfaces.
- Walking — building up stamina gradually.
Activities for puppies to avoid:
- Stairs — especially under three months old.
- Jumping — especially from a height.
- High-impact activities such as agility and flyball.
- Ball chasing.
- Sustained exercise such as running.
Should you restrict how much exercise your puppy has?
There is a careful balance to be struck with puppies between protecting their joints and giving enough exercise to allow the bones and joints to develop normally. The most critical time for normal hip development in breeds such as Labradors is before 12 weeks. Puppies with access to stairs or raised on slippery floors during this time have a higher risk of developing hip dysplasia.
Puppies don’t need to go out for long walks on the lead, and should be allowed to take their time and rest as they need to. Free play on their own is usually safe, and you will see short bursts of running and jumping followed by flopping down for a rest. Repetitive jumping over obstacles, on and off sofas, and other high-impact activities such as agility are not recommended for growing pups.
If your puppy is allowed on the sofa, lift her until she can jump on cleanly with less risk of falling. Falling and landing awkwardly can cause greenstick fractures in a pup’s soft bones. The same precautions should be taken when getting in and out of the car. Having some controls on exercise in place until your puppy is fully grown might reduce the risk of hip, elbow, and stifle problems in later life.