There is nothing more rewarding than getting lost in the wilderness with your dog. My favourite pastime with my two Shepherds is to jump in the car drive to the middle of a forest and walk for hours. They are both fully grown now and I find myself lagging behind their energy levels. But when they were pup’s things were a little different.
How long should you walk your German Shepherd Puppy? – The recommendation is that up until your puppy is fully grown you should look to “Take 5”. I.E. Walk them for around 5minutes per month of age twice a day. E.G. 6 months = 30minutes of exercise per walk or 1 hour per day, however all is not as it may initially seem…..
Let’s take a look:
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When can I start to walk my puppy?
Young puppies are prone to disease if they are walked before they are fully vaccinated. Puppies do pick up some immunity from their mum if the mum was vaccinated which helps to keep them safe when they are very young. It is recommended that you do not look to walk you puppy until they are 16 weeks of age. We know you will itching to take your puppy out sooner but it really is not worth the risk, please see our ‘German Shepherd Shots’ article for more info on vaccinations and the potential risks.
Puppy Exercising – It’s good to be cautious
It may seem surprising, but puppies need much less exercise than you would think. Puppies are still growing and the more they walk the more pressure they are putting on their bones and joints. Studies have shown that over-exercising a German Shepherd puppy may result in damage to their developing joints and cause early arthritis in your puppy. This does not mean you should be locking your puppy up in a cage for the first year of their life, far from it, exercise and socialization is great for your GDP(See what I did there). A slow walk out and about around the neighborhood will do wonders for your puppy in helping them to grow and socialize. This will also help with the puppy’s behavior and make your puppy easier to train.
Take 5 “Rule”
The equation we have recommended earlier in the article is the “Take 5” rule, this rule, (which is recommended by the UK Kennel Club & others) simply states that for each month of a puppies life you should add on 5minutes of walking time. This means that for an 8 week old puppy the recommendation is a total of 20 minutes per day. The Take 5 rule has become the go-to suggestion when recommendations are given for how far a puppy should walk.
Unfortunately, evidence to support the “Take 5” Rule is sparse and, in our opinion, this should be looked at as more of a guideline after the puppy has reached 16 weeks than a hard and fast rule. Before 16 weeks we would absolutely recommend sticking to the rule.
We interpret the rule to be aimed at making people aware of the potential issues overexertion on their pup may cause in the long run. We believe owners should use their common sense and as long as you are taking a leisurely stroll with your puppy (let them set the pace and not a run/powerwalk/hike) a longer walk is absolutely fine.
You know your puppy better than anybody so are in the best position to judge what they can handle and when they are beginning to tire. If you are concerned, then 100% contact the vet and ask for their opinion.
When can we start the more vigorous stuff?
Again, each German Shepherd is different and as their owner you will have to use your judgement on this. Typically, a puppy will be strong enough to go on a faster paced, 30-minute walk when they are 6months or older. If you notice your puppy tiring or struggling then pick them up, don’t force them to continue to walk and shorten the distance a little next time. Forcing your puppy to continue walking when they are already tired is a sure-fire way to book a ticket to the vets! If you would like to go running with your puppy start easing them in very slowly around 6 months of age and gradually introduce running to your puppy. Over time you will then be able to slowly increase the amount of running you and your puppy can do together.
What are the cue we’re progressing too quickly?
If your puppy shows any lethargy, noticeable soreness, limping or difficulty getting up or down you’ve pushed your puppy too far, give them plenty of time to heal fully before attempting more vigorous stuff with them again. Other signs that you are progressing too quickly can be your puppy refusing to walk further while you are out or a reluctance to go out with you again. All these signs are your puppy telling you that they aren’t ready yet.
Hope this article helps and we would absolutely love to hear your thoughts in the comments. How far do you walk with your German Shepherd and at what age? How do you judge if your puppy has had too much? Have we missed some important information out of the post? Let us know.