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This came up yesterday on a Facebook page. There is a lot of misunderstanding over what exactly it means. It came into being many years ago so like most things it has suffered from interpretation over the intervening years. So this is the original, straight from the horses mouth, how I intended when I wrote it way back in the 1980's. This was my answer to the post on FB.

Let me tell you about the 5 minute rule, and how it came into being. There has always been the question about how much exercise a puppy needs, balancing muscle development against the risks of joint damage. Going back probably 30 years one of the first general dog forums was Champdogs and at the time I was posting on there. (Champdogs is still in being, though I’ve not posted on there for nigh on 20 years.) I also used to go on an American working gundog site, and the question of exercise also came up on there, and one person wrote, “I give 5 minutes exercise for every month of age.” And I thought, “What an elegant solution!” steadily increasing exercise as muscle develops, developing the muscles in a controlled way. Next time the question arose on Champdogs I quoted it calling it “The 5 minute rule” So I never invented the idea, but I did coin the phrase.

But what does that entail? When a puppy is trotting around the garden it can stop at any time, crash out and sleep. There is nothing wildly exciting in the garden, nothing it’s not seen a hundred times before. So the pup is not over stimulated, no reason why it should not stop for a rest. That is NOT part of the 5 minutes per month.

But now look at going out for a walk. The lead goes on and you and your pup start walking. However tired the pup gets it has no choice but to keep going for as long as you do. Add to that the adrenalin rush, he’s out in the big wide world, new sights and sounds, new scents to sniff, he wont even be thinking about feeling tired, a puppy in new surroundings is likely to continue on long after it should stop. So don’t rely on pup telling you it’s tired because it won’t. It’s YOUR responsibility to take charge, to control the situation.

To me, particularly in the early days the exercise period is also the training period, and that training includes heel training, obviously, and also sit stays. But while the dog is sitting quietly it’s not exercising, so thats not part of the 5 minutes. Also I like to sit on a seat in the park, or maybe a fallen tree, with my pup sitting of laying beside me watching the world pass by. It’s still training, it’s training patience! Something young pups are not endowed with, so all good practise, but again it’s not physically tiring so not part of the 5 minutes. We none of us want our dogs to be hooligans, but during the walk it’s likely I’ll meet other dog walkers so we will stop for a chat, another great training opportunity, We can talk with my pup sitting quietly beside me, so again it’s not doing anything so again it’s not part of the 5 minutes. This also gives me time to sum up the other person’s dog and decide whether it’s going to be ok to allow them to have a little hoolie. (But of course that IS part of the 5 minutes!) Keep the training light, make it fun and your pup wont even realise that it is training. All in all, for a 3 month old puppy I would be looking at 15 minutes of exercise, but that 15 minutes will probably take me between 30 and 45 minutes!

And that was the 5 minute rule, envisaged by me when I coined the phrase all those years ago. It was never meant to be a hard and fast regimented rule, just guidelines to give the inexperienced owner something to work to. You can probably do this twice a day with no ill effects, providing there is a decent resting period, and if you happen to do a little much in the morning, then cut the afternoon walk down a little to balance it off.
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