As any new puppy-owner can attest, while puppies are sweet, adorable and lots of fun, taking care of them can sometimes be tiring. Like all young mammals, puppies have energy to spare - and then some. Between chewed shoes, potty-training accidents and wakeful first nights, even the most experienced dog-owner might start to feel a little weary.
If you’re currently facing shredded cushions, chewed-up shoes and one very rambunctious puppy (or more!), then you may well be wondering how to tire out a puppy. Luckily enough, we have all the advice you need so that you can give your pup the physical and mental exercise they need while helping get your own energy levels back to normal.
How Much Exercise Does A Puppy Need?
While energetic puppies require lots of physical exercise and mental stimulation, there can be such a thing as too much exercise. Overdoing it can potentially lead to health issues such as early arthritis, and could even affect your puppy’s growth development.
As a general guide, multiply the age of your puppy in months by five in order to get the amount of exercise (in minutes) that they require. This can then be repeated up to 2-3 times a day. For example if your puppy is four months of age, they should get around twenty minutes of exercise throughout the day. That said, an additional factor to consider when calculating this is the breed of your pup.
Know Your Breed
Some puppies are more lively than most, especially “working” breeds such as border collies or any other dog originally bred to hunt or herd. High energy breeds such as these are also highly intelligent and focussed and require plenty of mentally stimulating activities such as games or training exercises (especially useful for preventing destructive behaviours such as chewing, which can result from boredom).
For this reason, knowing the breed of your puppy is key - even if they’re a mixed breed, if they happen to be crossed with a working dog breed, it’s highly likely they’ll share some of those traits with one of their parents. Because of this, the advice for knowing how to tire out a puppy is not dissimilar to the advice given to owners of energetic adult dogs: tire them out - before they tire you out!
The obvious answer to how to tire out a puppy might be to take them on a long walk - but if they haven’t yet had all of their vaccinations (and if they haven’t had much experience socialising), they may not be ready just yet. Giving them opportunities to socialise early on helps them expend mental and physical energy while preparing them for life as an adult dog.
One option in this case is to seek out a local dog park or puppy socialisation program, where your puppy can meet other pre-vaccinated puppies who are still too young to venture outside. Not only can this be a great way to tire your puppy out - it can also act as an introduction to socialising with other dogs later on.
If they have had their vaccines - but are still not quite ready to go for a long walk just yet, ask a friend or family member with their own dogs if your puppy can join them for a play session in the back garden (the larger the space, the better). Make sure before you do that their dog is comfortable with meeting puppies, as some adult dogs might become anxious or even aggressive.
The Name Of The Game
Meeting other dogs isn’t the only aspect of socialisation: it’s also important that you spend time playing with your puppy. Play is vital to supporting your puppy’s development and can be done indoors or outside. While playing with your high energy puppy, offer plenty of encouragement and always follow up with lots of cuddles. If you’re short on ideas, here are a few suggestions:
The Muffin Game
Take a standard muffin tin and fill with dog-friendly balls and hide treats under three of each of them. Teach your puppy how to play by picking up one of the balls to reveal the treat, then let them sniff out each one (you can replace the ball once they have retrieved the treat to add even more of a challenge).
Hide and Seek
A lot of children’s games translate well to puppy play, including the classic game of hide and seek. In this version, you can hide treats around the house and encourage your puppy to sniff them out.
Instead of a holey sock (or something even more unpleasant!), use clicker training to teach your puppy to bring you their favourite toy or ball. If you can do this on an incline, such as a gentle hill, this can make an ordinary game of fetch even more effective, as the extra effort to run up and down burns off even more energy.
Pet Safe Toys
Not all toys are safe for dogs to use: even sticks can be somewhat hazardous, as they can potentially cause injury or infection if chewed. While your puppy may be intent on chewing everything they can get their jaws around, it’s important to steer them away from chewing textiles, as these can cause digestive issues.
Additionally, some toys such as ordinary tennis balls contain chemicals which can be toxic to your puppy if ingested. Instead, opt for pet-safe toys: look in pet stores for puzzle toys (these can include snuffle mats or a sturdy chew toy containing treats) can be especially useful to energetic dogs as they provide mental and physical exercise all in one toy.
Getting The Rest They Need
When it comes to getting a good night’s sleep (for both of you!) timing is everything. As much as they enjoy the stimulation they get from variation in their diet, play and socialisation, puppies also thrive on structure and routine. The average sleep requirement for puppies is around 18-20 hours a day, which helps aid their cognitive and physical development. This can be spread out throughout the day, but it’s also important they are able to sleep through the night.
This means building their days around a timetable which allows them to wind down after a busy day, rather than being wide awake by bedtime. Try to time their last feed so that they’re less likely to want to wake in the night to go and toilet: around d to d hours is best - and reduce the amount of stimuli in the house: dim the lights, settle your pup down with plenty of reassurance and cuddles and prepare for bed in much the same way as you would normally.
The Great Outdoors
Altering your routes when going for walks can be more mentally stimulating than taking the same walk each day. Once they are old enough to venture further afield, you can take your puppy to some wide open spaces: a dog park, the beach or countryside are ideal for letting them race round in.
Be mindful of safety - especially in the countryside where there may be livestock, or near bodies of water - and make sure your puppy has the correct basic walking gear, such as a properly-sized dog harness. If you’re not sure they’re ready to go off-leash just yet, consider longer dog leads that allow them to sniff around and explore.
Incorporating games into your walks - you can play fetch with a frisbee, a game of tug of war with a pet-safe rope, or teach your dog some new commands. All of these are a great way to tire out your puppy while providing them the mental and physical exercise they need to feel rested.