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It seems to be widely believed that puppies should have restricted exercise - the 5 minutes per month of life per day rule. However is there actually any scientific evidence to support this? I have searched on the internet (including Google Scholar) and have been unable to find any. I've just started taking Molly to puppy classes and the 5 minute rule was again mentioned (though the class lasted for 30 minutes!)
I haven't been keeping to this limit (I didn't with previous dogs because I hadn't heard of it, and had no problems). It strikes me that if we weren't out at the park, beach or forest Molly would be tearing round the house or garden anyway.

I would be genuinely interested to hear if there is a solid foundation for this rule, I'm not just trying to be controversial.
 
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As far as I'm aware, there is no hard and fast evidence to support this theory.

There was a study done a few years ago, on a small number of pups, raising them in different ways and then comparing their joints in adulthood and this seemed to conclude that the pups who had plenty of "outside" time (so spent most of their time in the fresh air, but not necessarily exercising) and who had very little access to stairs/steps, had better hips than those raised mostly indoors and were allowed to jump (up steps/stairs) daily. I don't remember it coming to any great conclusions about exercise amounts though.

Of course I now can't find this study for love nor money (can anyone else?).

For me, it's just common sense not to run your pup ragged. I personally very much doubt that exercise on a soft, flat surface (grass, rather than pavement) influences hip formation, as much as many think it does. I do however, think tired pups pull muscles, ligaments and tendons far more easily, just like tired humans do. So this is why I personally don't over exercise my pups, although I've never stuck rigidly to any rules or guidelines, because each pup has a different stamina/energy level.

I firmly believe if a dog is going to develop malformed joints, it is going to regardless of the amount of careful exercise it has. The jury is out in my mind about jumping and regular stair climbing though, so I do try to lessen these as much as possible.
 

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The only study I found was a 1992 study named Diet and exercise as potential risk factors for osteochondritis dissecans in dogs which sort of says that exercise might cause health issues, but I find it pretty unreliable because it's based on a telephone interview. Yet again here's another article from 2012 about the same topic which says:

Varied exercise had a positive effect and dogs that exercised on a daily basis on a lead and running free in different types of terrain were free of symptoms longer than dogs that were less active.
I think we have to rely on common sense for this one, at least for now. For example, I went running with Dante when he was 4 months old, but it was a 20 minute run and I'm overweight and I don't run that fast and we slowed down when he slowed down. Also, when he's very tired he starts nipping and I know that's a sign that he should be crated -- he falls asleep in 30 seconds.
 

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Its not a 'rule' its a 'guide', and its there to try and limit the idiots that, lets say, ALSO have a 3 year old dog and from the minute the pups jabs are finished, would take it an hour and a half every day with their 'other dog'... in a nutshell. And there are PLENTY out there :-(

There is no need to stick to 5 mins per day per month strictly, but its to TRY, like a basic calaorie guide for men, women and children, to give a ROUGH guide to 'not being an idiot'.

I wouldn't look at it too deeply, seeking research etc. fact is, better safe than sorry, dogs have 13 years to walk as far as you want to take them, moderation for the first 12 months *roughly* building up *slowly* is only going to be positive, even if it will NEVER CHANGE WHAT GOD GAVE THEM as regards their joints.

Fact is, if there is a problem, they will go lame on 5 mins a day by about 9 months old. Its to try and police the numpties who have healthy joints there genetically on their pup but seem intent on reversing that by huge great long walks.

And its ENFORCED movement, so movement either on a lead or fuelled by adrenaline, so the pup out and about. Charging about at home and in the garden the puppy can stop and rest whenever it fancies, and will. Out and about, either on a lead or trudging around it can't....and won't.... and thats when strains and sprains occur. So a 30 min puppy class will involve about 15 mins at least sitting on their backsides and frequent breaks, so its not relevent, as such, to what the 'guide' is trying to prevent.

Di
 

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I'm not allowed to post the original link on my website, but this is an article i wrote a while back, I thought was a sticky on here but can't find it...




Puppy Exercise: How much is TOO much?



….Any sensible caring owner is going to be thinking about this issue having bought a puppy. A mixture of experiences from any previous dogs you have owned, coupled with breeder advice (or possibly lack of!), with a dash of scaremongering from well meaning ‘advisors’ may well have your head spinning on how much is too much? How much is not enough? Is I give my puppy too much am I causing it damage, and what’s the cutoff point for that ????

There is never going to be a definitive answer to this burning question. But, of course, there are sensible guidelines. The crux of the matter is, IF your puppy has sound genetically strong joints passed from its parents, and is not horribly overweight, in all honesty, it can take really quite a LOT of exercise without damage. However, how can we KNOW if it has sound joints? Well, hopefully, if you have done your homework, you will of bought from parents who both have at least been hip scored if not also elbow scored (although this is less common so don’t beat yourself up if one or both parents are not). In addition to BEING hip scored, hopefully both have GOOD hip scores, so therefore making buying from scored parents basically as worthwhile as possible. However its important to stress that doing so is you doing your very best to give yourself a head start in maximising the chance of your puppy having good strong genetically sound joints. It is not a guarantee of that, nature can be cruel and work in mysterious ways.

However, the chances are stacked in your favour if your pups parents have good hip (and maybe elbow) scores. If they do not, then what this *means* is that if you are being sensible and realistic, you need to err on the side of caution and assume that possibly they have not, and therefore your puppy may of inherited some level of weakness.

I am not saying at all that ANY young dog cannot have an accident or cause himself injury in a trip, fall, crash with another dog etc. But if they have genetically sound joints, the chances are they will ‘bounce back’ FAR more easily than if there is weakness there.

Basically HEALTHY JOINTS ARE HARD TO DAMAGE, WEAK ONES ARE EXTREMELY EASY.

However EITHER WAY, common sense is needed to be applied. The point being your puppy is a baby. Babies need to be taken care of because they cannot make rational decisions for themselves. They, like small children, run on adrenaline, especially during new and exciting experiences, and do not know ‘when to stop’. So YOU need to make that decision for them. As a young dog hits exhaustion point during exercise, damage can then start to occur pretty easily. Your puppy will not acknowledge he has hit exhaustion point. From his behaviour he may seem FULL of beans and up for it. Especially if interacting with other dogs.

A puppy exercise guide, commonly considered helpful and useful, is called the 5 minute guide (or sometimes the 5 minute rule – but for me, there is no gun to anyones head on this, it is not a RULE, it is a helpful guide that owners should use as a ball park figure, NOT as something to set your watch by).

The idea being that per MONTH of the pups life so far, 5 minutes of enforced exercise is given per DAY.

So after puppy vaccinations are completed at about 12 weeks of age (so 3 months) (before which it is still VERY important to take your puppy out to introduce it to sights and smells, dogs, people, pushchairs, children, cars, buses and all sorts …. staying at home is NOT a sensible option in anyway….. See article: Keeping a Puppy home during its innoculations? ) you would allow 15 mins of enforced exercise. (3 months of age x 5 mins per month = 15 mins (or so!) of exercise.

4 months of age = 20 mins per day

5 months of age = 25 mins a day

…. etc, up until about 11/12 months of age where upon the dog *should* be structurally less vunerable, any weaknesses will almost certainly have come to light if there ARE any lurking, and you proetty much have the green light to exercise your dog to your hearts (sensible!) content!

What is ‘Enforced exercise’?

Enforced exercise is NOT strolling or playing in the garden. It is not wandering about the house. It is exercise out on a walk, or hammering around training, where the puppy is away from home and either on OR off lead ‘out and about’. This is when basically the puppy is experiencing new environments, meeting other dogs and people and basically running on its adrenaline, or walking because you have decided its ‘time for a walk’.

Around the house and garden, even if playing, at any point the puppy can decide ‘i’m tired, i’ve had enough, thanks’ and give up and flop down, put itself to bed or just lose interest and wander off. Basically a dog listening to its own body clock. Enforced exercise is when you have a puppy NOT able to listen to its own clock because new and exciting stuff is coming its way.

* Again – this is a GUIDE. For a 4 month old dog, potentially ’allowed’ 20 mins or so exercise, you may well find that 15 mins charging about with another young dog PLENTY before warning bells start to play in your mind that quite probably, enough is enough. However on or off a lead, going for a slow wander along a country path, stopping and sniffing here and there, meeting next to nobody and everything very calm and ‘non taxing’, half an hour would be just fine and non stressful.

That amount of exercise per day can be split as you like. If your 6 month old gets 15 – 20 mins in the morning, and 15 – 20 mins in the afternoon, thats perfectly fine. If you only walk once a day, brilliant, put it all into one ‘hit’. Its a guide, take it, chew it over and work with it rather than feel ‘hemmed in’ by it. However it is proven a great guideline for our breed.

The most common thing for someone with a lively young dog already, of maybe 5 or 6 months of age who have been giving it 45 mins or even an hours walk to ‘wear it out’, is to throw their hands up and say ’25 – 30 minutes???? A DAY???? How the HELL am I going to wear out Fluffy with THAT? He will go through the ceiling!! He has three times that and comes back bouncing!!’

Teaching a dog to ‘settle’ and accept a sensible level of exercise.

And its true, the more exercise a dog GETS the more it EXPECTS and the more it DOES need to satisfy it. But that sort of level of exercise almost certainly WILL be having a detrimental effect on even genetically sound joints unless the owner REALLY is lucky. the other thing is, that the dog demanding 45 minsutes at 5 months old to wear it out, will need longer and longer as it gets older, not only causing real possible harm, but making an impossible mountain to climb some days for its owner, and creating a restless dog that won’t settle, always looking for the next ‘fix’ of mad exercise because it simply has not be taught to ‘settle and deal with feeling full of beans in a productive way’.

What is a productive way? Doing a little training. 5 minutes of concentrated puppy training taxes the brain WAYYY more than any amount of mad running around. One to one playing. A full on ’in the garden’ play session, (and not just chasing chasing chasing stuff thrown, which is not great for the joints either and just over adrenalises them) is so useful too. Hiding stuff and encouraging the dog to hunt about and find it is fantastic. Tug of war games, with sometimes you winning, and sometimes the dog winning is very bonding and useful for burning energy. Or more solitary methods such as Buster cube or a Kong where they have to work at the toy to get a treat reward are hugely useful. Think outside the box of ‘running around, running around’ as stimulation for a bored or needy dog.

THEN when you have taken some time training or playing, teach the dog ‘enough’ and now you switch off. Put him in his crate, kennel or ’bedroom’ (kitchen, utility room etc) with a biscuit, carrot or any ‘settle now’ treat, and leave him. Ignore complaints, give him a chance to learn to settle down and calm his own adrenaline. Get on with something else for a while and ignore him - and know you are teavhing him an important lifeskill, even if he doesn’t know it yet! ;-)

I’m always happy to answer questions on any aspect of my articles which are unclear or help anyone who needs help!
 

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Good question.

I had this on my mind recently too.

I took Sonny to the beach the other day for the first time on order to let him see it. I was with a friend and his 2 yo dog and we drove there. I wasn't planning on doing much but play on the sand and water. However, he run off-lead absolutely riot for a good twenty minutes to half an hour. Chasing and playing with his pal, in the water and on the sand.

He obvi had the energy for it and sometimes he did stop when he wanted but It wasn't until after it I thought maybe I shouldn't have allowed all that much intensity. Despite it being a very odd one off as I normally just take him a brief 10 to 15 minute on lead walk to the park and the odd game of fetch.

Considering he is only 14weeks I don't know if it was right or wrong for me to allow that intense beach session, with all the talk regarding rules.

Was I okay letting him go for it do you think ???
 

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Diana said:
to give a ROUGH guide to 'not being an idiot'.
A rough guide to not being an idiot. Love it! We could do with those for lots of things.

That's the thing, isn't it. If people are aware there is a five minute guide, then even if they don't stick to it, it will hopefully prompt at least some to consider how much exercise their pup is getting.
 

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Wise words Diana :)

The thing is, no harm can be done by following the 5 minute guide. Lots of harm *could* be done by ignoring it.

So the wise option is obvious imo.

Do no harm :)

My Tatze is nine months old now and I am really appreciating the longer walks - I can't wait 'till she's 12 months and we can start to build it up!
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Thanks for the replies.

xhr - I had seen the second study you mention but, as you note, it doesn't support the idea of limited exercise. "The opportunity to exercise daily in parks up until the age of three months reduced the risk of HD, whereas the daily use of steps during the same period increased the risk." It sounds like a fairly controlled study, with a sample of 500, followed until 10 years of age or death if sooner.

I actually do think that guidelines should have a factual basis. One problem of course is defining exercise and walks. (I suspect my walking pace is much slower than many people's for example.) I'm happy to use my common-sense, but this tells me that Molly and I are happier with our 3 outings a day of about 30 minutes each than we would be with one of 20 minutes!

Unfortunately we have a few steps up to our back garden, and I can no longer carry Molly, so the step issue is one we'll have to live with.
 

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Steps aren't a problem.... but of course if you ask a few 'flappers' they are, but I wouldn't give that a second thought, puppies SHOULD be taught how to steadily climb steps from a young age. But, again, the myth they SHOULDN'T comes from someone TRYING to prevent 'some idiot' (probably the same one walking the puppy for hours at a time), from allowing pups to throw themselves up and down staircases on a repetitive basis, as it WWILL screw them over somehow unless they are EXTREMELY lucky. Joints notwithstanding it would screw tendons and muscles.

You obviously enjoy walking your puppy for an hour and a half a day, and are looking for research which tells you that's 'OK'. Lets hope it is. If your pups joints are genetically bang on, it probably IS. Guidelines tend to veer towards encouraging common sense. Scientifically proving them is often difficult. I must admit I find it negative when people call it 'the 5 minute RULE' because 1) That puts the back up of people like yourself who decide to not follow the advice and feel defensive about that. and 2) Because, as you point out, exact research on what is 'right or wrong' hasn't really been done, certainly not breed specific and certainly not factoring in every genetic joint health state, good to bad'.

Maybe it would be more 'across the board' positive if the darn thing was called 'A steady puppy fittening programme' rather than using the word 'guide OR rule'. As thats what it is. Trying to steadily fitten fast growing tendons joints and muscles, rather than hammering them.

Moderation for a year isn't that much of a price to pay. is there a reaason you feel your dog NEEDS an hour and a half a day of exercise? The more they get the more they demand.... Did your breeder make any suggestions to you or not give you advice on this?
Di
 
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I feel very lucky that Willow is so easy going! We have generally followed the 5 min guide, she has had a few longer walks, we tootled around the garden center for an hour the other day for example, but this was wander, stop, browse, wander, stop browse, have a cuppa at a very slow stop and start pace so excercise wise she prob had a lot less than an hour, we are trying to slowly desensitise her to strangers as she finds them SO exciting and has her kenel club bronze coming up so lots of visits to town/ garden center/ hobbycraft/homebase/b&q and other dog fridndly places are happening at the moment!!!!!!

On the whole Willow would be happy with a five min trot round the block in the morning and a 10 min sniff at the park in the evening (which all she got on monday as I got home hideously late from work with a splitting headache and it was pouring with rain). Equally she is quite happy with a half hour run at the park, a 20 min hooly with her doggy friends or a walk around the shops...What ever she is given really. She is happy if we are out, shes happy if we take her places but if not she is happy to chill on the sofa and not do very much!

We did put quite a bit of work into finding her "off switch" when she was little and she knows the command "Enough" which basically means pack it in and calm down!
 
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