At some point, most new GSD puppy owners ask the question:
“How much exercise should I be giving our puppy?”
This comes comes up quite frequently from new GSD puppy owners and the advice we give is always the same – and based around a fairly simple formula that comes from the UK Kennel Club:
“Puppies need much less exercise than fully grown dogs. If you over-exercise a growing puppy you can overtire it and damage its developing joints, causing early arthritis. A good rule of thumb is a ratio of five minutes exercise per month of age (up to twice a day) until the puppy is fully grown e.g. 15 minutes (up to twice a day) when 3 months old, 20 minutes when 4 months old and so on. Once they are fully grown, they can go out for much longer.
It is important that puppies and dogs go out for exercise every day in a safe and secure area, or they may become frustrated. Time spent in your garden, however large it may be, is no substitute for exploring new environments and socialising with other dogs. Make sure your puppy is trained to return to you when you call their name.
You should never exercise your puppy on a full stomach as this can contribute to bloat.”
Below are some images from a ~2 week old puppy, that shows just how much development of the joints is required (image 1 courtesy of Dog Solutions).
Inbetween each joint at this age is a lot of cartilage. At the end of each joint is a growth plate, and any damage due to over-exercise can cause uneven growth of the plate, causing long term issues.
When you get your 8/10 week old puppies, please keep these images in mind. Their bones do not even touch yet. They plod around so cutely with big floppy paws and wobbly movement because their joints are entirely made up of muscle, tendons, ligaments with skin covering. Nothing is fitting tightly together or has a true socket yet.
When you run them excessively or don’t restrict their exercise to stop them from overdoing it during this period you don’t give them a chance to grow properly. Every big jump or excited bouncing run causes impacts between the bones. In reasonable amounts this is not problematic and is the normal wear and tear that every animal will engage in.
But when you’re letting puppy jump up and down off the lounge or bed, take them for long walks/hikes, you are damaging that forming joint. When you let the puppy scramble on tile with no traction you are damaging the joint.
You only get the chance to grow them once. A well built body is something that comes from excellent breeding and a great upbringing-BOTH, not just one.
Once grown you will have the rest of their life to spend playing and engaging in higher impact exercise. So keep it calm while they’re still little baby puppies and give the gift that can only be given once.
Kennel Club Breed Guide for German Shepherd Dogs: here