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Puppy running exercise

The essentials

  • Breed type can play a part in exercise — While dogs of all ages need exercise, an Australian cattle dog will likely have more energy and heat tolerance than a pug.
  • Too much can be a bad thing — Overexercising your puppy can potentially lead to joint and bone damage.
  • Exercise changes with age — Very young puppies should be limited to short walks, while older puppies may even be able to go on short runs.

We know that exercise is beneficial to a dog’s body and mind, but understanding what’s too much and too little for your dog’s puppy stage can be difficult. From what’s ideal to what to avoid, we break down how to properly exercise your puppy in this handy guide.

How much exercise does your puppy need?

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to understanding exactly how much exercise a puppy needs, but we have some helpful considerations for when you start to plan how to keep your pup active.

One of the most important factors in determining what and how much exercise your puppy needs is their breed. Some breeds are more active and have higher energy, while others may have physical limitations, like breeds with flat faces (brachycephalic breeds) that may affect their breathing.

Your dog’s size and age also matter when considering exercise. A study on large- and giant-breed dogs showed a higher prevalence of developmental orthopedic disease in these breeds. Exercise and caloric intake have both been tied to this phenomenon, so while your large-breed puppy may look like they can keep up with strenuous exercise, it’s in their best interest not to.

The older that your puppy gets, the more exercise they can do. Even if you think they can, avoid taking your young puppy (under six months old) on a hike, run, or long walk. When they’re older than six months you can potentially lengthen their walk time, but always consult with your veterinarian on what is best for them.

If you’re curious about ways to invigorate your play and exercise routine with your pup, we share five of the best ways to engage with them.

Take short walks

Puppies can enjoy walks, but remember to keep them short. A general guide for determining walk length is to multiply your puppies’ age in months by 5 minutes. So, a two-month-old puppy should only go on a 10-minute walk maximum, but they can do so twice a day if you’d like. For larger breed puppies, shorten the walk by half to be safe.

Over time, you can slowly build up your pup’s walk length and time out. Always ensure you’re factoring in plenty of breaks and water if necessary to prevent overexertion or injury.

🚨Be sure to fit your pup with the proper collar and leash for their needs, size, and age. 


Typical playtime activities also count towards your pup’s exercise for the day! It’s a great opportunity for them to let off some steam by themselves or with other dogs in the house. Puppies are also fairly good at managing their own exercise, so you may see chaotic play for a few minutes before your puppy lays down for a break or nap.

Despite this, you should always watch your puppy to ensure they don’t injure themselves or exert too much energy. Like a toddler, sometimes puppies don’t know their own limits and you may have to step in to calm them down.

Running around

Running around can be a great chance for your puppy to exercise on their own. This can be done inside or outside, but it’s helpful to have them in a safe, enclosed space just in case. Remember, this is different from taking your puppy on a run, which we don’t recommend.

While the ample space in a dog park may seem like a good idea for your puppy, we recommend waiting until they are at least four months old. Even then, you should look at your dog’s behavior and size to determine if a dog park is the right fit to get their exercise and socialization.

Puzzles & thinking activities

Puppies are busybodies, and with that, comes a busy mind. Puzzles and enrichment games are a great way to keep their minds and bodies active. As noted in our guide to training tools, enrichment should be provided 1-3 times a day, depending on your pup’s activity level and needs.

Plus, the science backs up these claims. A study on enrichment and dog behavior showed that a mixture of environmental enrichment benefits a dog’s mental state and physical behaviors.


Training is a great opportunity for you to teach your dog important lessons and commands while keeping them active and attentive. Whether you’re potty training or teaching them basic commands, training is a wonderful opportunity to bond with your pup.

Remember to be patient with your puppy. Training of any kind should be a gradual process with positive reinforcement and consisteny.

Puppy exercise chart

It can be confusing to determine exactly how much and of what exercise is most beneficial for your pup, depending on their age. That’s why we’ve created a handy chart to help.

8-12 Weeks 12-16 Weeks 4-6 Months 6-12 Months
Continuous walking Short distances with frequent sniffing/stopping breaks.

Formal leash training should be extremely short. A few minutes at a time.
Gradually increase walk length.

Listen to the puppy if they want to keep going or stop.
Continue to increase walk length for a total of 200-400 feet.

Can increase formal training length.
Walks can increase in length and can introduce short hikes.

Sustained walking can take up to 30 minutes on a soft surface.
Running No directed running.

Puppies can run on their own in play.
No directed running. No directed running. No directed running. Older than one year can be introduced to directed running.

Sniffing and strolling Informal walks for sniff purposes can be up to 15 minutes. Can increase informal walks to 20 minutes. Can increase to up to 45 minutes. By 12 months, puppies can sniff and stroll for up to 60 minutes.
Chasing and tugging Keep balls and toys low to the ground to avoid neck injury.

Don’t pull on toys in their mouths.
Keep balls and toys low to the ground to avoid neck injury.

Don’t pull on toys in their mouths.
Keep balls and toys low to the ground to avoid neck injury.

Don’t pull on toys in their mouths.
Can toss or lob toys, but don’t recommend long games of fetch.
Free play Play dates are up to 15 minutes.

Puppies can have free access to other household dogs.

Enforce positive behavior (nice play and naps) by having treats on hand.
Play dates are up to 15 minutes.

Puppies can have free access to other household dogs.

Enforce positive behavior (nice play and naps) by having treats on hand.
Play dates are up to 30 minutes.

Puppies can have free access to other household dogs.

Enforce positive behavior (nice play and naps) by having treats on hand.
Play dates are up to 30 minutes.

Puppies can have free access to other household dogs.

Enforce positive behavior (nice play and naps) by having treats on hand.

Every dog is unique in their needs and what their threshold for exercise is. It’s important to always consult with your vet or animal trainer when trying to create a solid plan for exercise for your pup.

The debate around puppy exercise

For puppies, too much exercise is just as bad as too little. Unfortunately, there isn’t a perfect formula for calculating how much exercise your pup needs. Vets, breeders, trainers, and other professionals all agree that it’s important to manage your pup’s exercise closely.

The best way to monitor how much exercise a puppy needs is by looking at how fast they are breathing, monitoring their temperature, monitoring their energy level, and feeling how quickly their heart is beating. If any of these seem excessive compared to what they are when they first start exercising, then it may be an indication they need to have a cool-down period.

Dr. Dwight Alleyne

Tips for a safe and fun puppy exercise session

Exercise is a great way to get your dog’s energy out and keep them healthy, but it should always be fun and safe for your pup. We have some great tips to follow when going about your pup’s first foray into exercise.

  • Keep them away from unknown dogs. If you don’t know a dog’s vaccination status, keep them away from your puppy.
  • Limit high-impact exercise. To prevent injury, limit jumping, sliding, twisting, etc.
  • Check the weather. If it’s too hot or too cold, don’t take your puppy out.
  • Step in when needed. Your pup might not realize they need a break. Always know you can remove them from a situation to recover.
  • Check their harness and collar. Puppies grow fast, so ensure their collar or harness still fits safely.
  • Teach your pup to walk on a leash. This will make walks easier as they grow in distance.
  • Don’t get carried away. Sometimes we get excited or lost in a moment. Stay vigilant and don’t overdo walks or play time.
  • Carry your pup when necessary. To avoid unknown dogs, animal feces, or trash, carry your pup to keep them safe.
  • Stay vigilant. If your pup shows signs of lethargy, injury, or lameness, contact your vet.
  • Responsible exercise for your puppy is extremely important. While each dog has their own specific needs and limitations, you can start small with your puppy and monitor their progress with the help and support of your puppy’s care team. Start small, stay patient, and you’ll help support your puppy in their growth to adulthood.

Frequently asked questions

Is 2 walks a day enough for a puppy?

Walks for puppies should always be short, no matter their age. Puppies don’t have the same stamina and endurance as adult dogs. If you want to take your puppy on two walks a day, ensure they’re extremely short and only a few minutes at a time.

How much exercise for a 4-month-old puppy? A 6-month-old?

Each month of your dog’s age equals five minutes of exercise. If your dog is 4 months old, that’s a maximum of 20 minutes of exercise, twice a day. For a 6-month-old puppy, that’s 30 minutes twice a day, which can be broken down into separate walks.

Can you over-exercise a puppy?

Yes. Over-exercising can present in multiple different ways, such as rapid panting, fatigue and weakness, lameness and stiffness, or increased body temperature. Always pay attention to your pup when they’re exercising, and be prepared to step in and stop them from continuing if you suspect they’re nearing their limit.

How much exercise/playtime do puppies need in general?

Puppies don’t need the same amount of exercise as an adult dog might. Generally speaking, the 5-minute rule is best to follow.

🧠 Age in months x 5 minutes = amount of playtime (twice per day)