Q: I’ve heard you can over-exercise a puppy and that they need to sleep a lot. How much play time is too much? —Puppy Love in Princeton
A:Ah, the life of a puppy. Wouldn’t it be nice if your biggest problems were overdosing on cuddles and hearing, “Awww, how cute!” fifty times a day?
Young puppies seem to sleep all the time (and doggone it, they’re adorable even then!). Counting naps, snooze time comes to roughly 18 to 20 hours per day. unless a pup is sleeping way more than is normal or appears lethargic—in which case a visit to the veterinarian is in order— there’s no need for concern. The canine body will naturally engage in the right amount of restorative sleep in order to maintain health.
Play and exercise are trickier issues, partly because humans often control those activities. Although working breeds generally require more exercise than, say, lap dogs, care must be taken with all puppies to guard against over-exercising. If you’ve got another pup the same age at home, chances are the two will engage in play and rest in a natural pattern. But if you have an adult dog in the house, that dog’s stamina level will be higher than the pup’s, so you may need to provide periodic enforced rest periods.
Taking your pup for brief walks in a health-safe area is fine, but jogging with him or allowing him to jump or engage in high-impact activities is not. A pup’s bones are soft and are therefore at risk of damage—they don’t ossify until approximately 18 months of age. Don’t allow young pups to run up and down stairs, jump in and out of vehicles, or engage in any type of jarring activity.
Daily short periods of controlled exercise are best. Play with your pup in the house, and practice basic obedience exercises such as sit, down, and come. Teaching a retrieve is another fun way to combine training and physical exercise. Above all, if you are not sure how much exercise is appropriate for your particular puppy, check with your veterinarian.