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  • Writer's picturemaxine cooch

Top Tips for Exercising your puppy

It's that time of year again, PUPPY SESSON 🐶

Getting a new puppy can be so exciting and you really want to ensure that you are doing the best for the latest member of your family;

Vaccinations ✅

Puppy socialisation ✅

Puppy training classes booked ✅

But what about the bits in between? When they are at home and your are first staring on your exercise journey together. How much is too much? How much is not enough?

Here are some key things that I would recommend from a physiotherapy perspective to ensure that your puppy has the best start in life.

1. Allow freedom of movement

This means let them explore their environment. Allow them time to climb clamber and sniff around your back garden. Let them get muddy, climb into a paddling pool or explore the rock garden. Studies have shown that dogs are less likely to suffer from aliments such as hip dysplasia if they have been allowed this freedom in the early months.

2. Avoid high impact activities

Whilst we want them to explore this should be done in a controlled, or fairly controlled manner. Try to prevent any high impacts such as launching off high walls, bounding up stairs or constantly running.

3. Avoid slippery floors

Where possible lay down runners or old strips of carpet to help your puppy gain traction on slippery floors. Where our puppies are constantly growing, this can make it really difficult for them to have good awareness of where their body is in space, add a slippery floor and its like Bambi on ice and an accident waiting to happen. Make it easy for them.

4. Avoid repetitive movements (such as ball throwing)

Ball throwing can be detrimental for both you and your puppy, its a shoulder injury waiting to happen for you and all sorts of problems for your pup. Instead enjoy a sensory walk such as described below.

5. Build a sensory path

You can do this out on walks by letting your pup lead the way (not into danger of course!) but let them sniff their way around their walks. Struggling to get out? try building something around your home. You could use different surfaces, such as bath mats, door mats and different pile rugs, hide treats under plastic cups along the way to make it really interesting for their feet and their nose!

6. Avoid letting them use stairs until at least 3 months

Studies have shown that puppies under three months old were more likely to develop hip dysplasia if they were allowed to use the stairs. If they really need to come up with you, please carry them or if they are too big lead them up and down in a harness so you are able to control the speed and where possible do this only once per day.

7. Keep lead walks short.

Allow 5 mins per month of their life (this is for lead walks, not exercise.) In addition to lead walks you can also do one of the following:

8. Go for an exploratory walk in the woods.

You may wish to use a long lin

e or extendable lead for this, you do not need to walk far, in fact you may barely leave the car park, the point of this exercise is not to go for a hike, but to allow them to explore a new environment, let them sniff, climb over logs, explore up and down hills and experience a new terrain.

9. Take them to a secure field to let them explore on their own.

You may take a puppy pal or a gentle older dog with you. This can be great for socialising as well as exercise through gentle play. However try to avoid encounters with boisterous dogs or where play becomes a bit too fast and excitable!

10. Teach them how to relax and allow plenty of down time


Recognise when they are ready for a rest and have fun!

Maxine Cooch

Veterinary and Chartered Physiotherapist


If you ahve any concerns with how your puppy is moving or how they are coping with the exercise you are doing with them then please contact your vets. If appropriate you can ask your vet for a physiotherapy referral.


Housing- and exercise-related risk factors associated with the development of hip dysplasia as determined by radiographic evaluation in a prospective cohort of Newfoundlands, Labrador Retrievers, Leonbergers, and Irish Wolfhounds in Norway (2012) 73 (6) Krontveit et al.

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