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Exercising Puppies

Large and giant breed dogs like German Shepherds, or Mastiffs grow at a truly phenomenal rate, and are very sensitive to abnormalities of development. The main diseases of development are hip dysplasia and osteochondrosis, and both are heavily dependant on diet, exercise and genetics.

The general rule is that exercise is good, but too much exercise is bad. So how do you know what is too much? There are no hard rules, but basically, you should limit large and giant breed dogs to light exercise only. That means a few short walks (say 15-20 minutes) a day, rather than one long one. Try to avoid playing games like fetch for any length of time because the sudden acceleration and deceleration forces that are placed across the joints are particularly harmful. Taking the puppy off hill walking every weekend, while he spends most of the week confined to the house is not good either. So, in summary:

Give large and giant breed puppies regular, light exercise only.

You should continue with this regime until puppy has finished growing, generally 12-18 months old for these large dogs. It might sound like a long time, but it's only a small proportion of your puppy's total life, and it's better to be a bit frustrated that you can't go off hill walking with the puppy every weekend, but if puppy gets hip dysplasia, or osteochondrosis, he may never be able to go hill walking again. This is very important.

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Last updated 16 February 2004.