Dogs sleep a lot–and puppies sleep even more, averaging about 18 to 20 hours per day. As a general rule of thumb, puppies should aim to exercise about 5 minutes per month of age, twice a day, and balance it out without about twice as much time spent asleep. For example, an 8-week old puppy should have 10 minutes of structured exercise twice a day, with structured exercise defined as walking on a leash, hard running or fetching, etc. and then follow each session with a 20 minute nap.
Your dog’s exercise needs vary by age and breed. The standard wisdom is that a tired dog is a good dog–and that’s true! Keep in mind that you can tire your dog out through training and mental stimulation. While there’s no consensus on how much is too much, Veterinary professionals, breeders, and trainers agree that overexercising can be as bad as under exercising.
Activities to tire your dog out
Enrichment reduces stress and provides an outlet for your dog’s instincts. It can loosely be divided into five separate types.
- Social: Supervised playgroups, positive contact with other dogs and humans
- Nutritional: Puzzle toys, food games
- Occupational: Training sessions
- Sensory: Nosework
- Physical: Toy rotation, access to different surfaces or environments
- Nina Ottosson Puzzle Toys
- Sniff mats
- Lick mats
But don't think you need to buy a bunch of stuff right away – toys can also be DIYed using cardboard, blankets, towels, and other items you have at home!
The importance of enrichment
Research has shown that increased mental activity results in improved mental health and cognitive function. Enrichment activities, especially paired with new environments, can help your dog build confidence and become more comfortable. As a bonus, having an outlet for natural, species-appropriate behavior can lead to decreases in unwanted behaviors such as barking.
Interested in taking it further? Gentle Beast covers canine health and nutrition in greater detail. Each workshop is led by veterinarian Dr. Jessica Lowe or pet behavior expert Alex Sessa. They walk you through the basics of dog ownership step-by-step.