All Timber Ridge puppies begin taking short field trips between five and six weeks of age. A field trip can consist of following mom and the pack leader up to the barn or down to the pond. There are lots of sniffing and pee breaks along the way. Exercise is good for the mind and the body, but too much of any good thing can tip the scale to bad. Think chocolate and wine. Some people believe that physical exercise is key to tiring a puppy or dog, especially the working dog breeds, but take a moment to consider how you feel when someone tries to explain advanced trigonometry to you or the genetic history of a tomato, or if someone shows you every picture with painstaking detailed commentary of a two week family vacation to the beach. Your mind slows, your eyelids become heavy, and you begin to yearn for your recliner or bed.
Puppies need exercise, but they do not need a lot of it. They are growing and their joints should not be taxed by high impact jumping, biking and running at your side. For example, you should not bring your puppy on a three mile run or even on a steady mile jog if he is getting into things and asking you for attention. Your puppy wants YOU not an hour of hard exercise. Give your friend quick short bursts of physical activity by playing fetch, chasing you in the yard, walking around the block to check out the local smells. Give him a chance to add his own smells to the mix and to explore his environment. The more you do with your puppy (continuing into his adult years), the more confident and settled he will be in his own home and on trips, including around other people and their dogs. Start teaching him to sit and down when guests arrive and to ignore other dogs on your walks by rewarding him each time he successfully walks by another dog walking duo like the gentleman he should be. He should never be allowed to bark or pull on the leash. You are the leaders and leaders do not allow their followers to charge ahead of them and yell. Mental stimulation such as introducing your puppy to people, places, and things, teaching your puppy tricks (every puppy should know how to sit and paw/hand shake when there is a guest), and behaviors like peeing outside instead of on the smelly soft carpet which is much closer and has the benefit of no splash-back. Interacting positively in play and school will tire your puppy, but most importantly it will build an unbreakable and loyal bond.
Swimming is excellent exercise for your puppy (as long as there is no current and you have a towel to dry him off if it is a chilly day), and will tire him quickly, so be attentive to his ability to keep his head above water. Once your dog reaches a year of age, you can begin jogging, increasing mileage slowly and allowing for breaks if you notice labored breathing, especially if the temperature is above 78 degrees. And keep in mind hot sidewalks. Begin conditioning your dog to run longer distances with you just as you would condition yourself. Dogs will get sore muscles and sore pads with sudden mileage increases or footing changes so check for pad cracks and bleeding if you have been out longer or in unfamiliar places. Bring water for you and your dog during all summer activities. Often on mountain hikes in mid-summer, streams are dry, so pack water then too along with protein snacks for when you reach the peak.
Working dogs love movement of their minds and their bodies, so move your mind by thinking up all the things you can teach your dog. Work your body to make it happen.
Please contact me with questions or advice on exercise. I welcome discussion as I understand how confusing not biking and running with your puppy can be when you see so many people doing it every day. Doreen Metcalf: 207-602-8521