Exercise and Play
Daily exercise is just as important to your puppy’s health as feeding, grooming, and obedience. Our dogs are expected to be fit and well behaved. Many of our guide dogs walk miles every day so it is important for pups to develop stamina and be healthy. Exercise and play helps your puppy bond, relieve stress, and release energy. Overall, an exercised puppy that plays has the mental and physical capabilities to learn and act properly.
Signs pups will give to indicate needing exercise
- Inability to focus or listen to you
- Quick to excite and hard to calm down
- Persistent mouthing
- Running through the house and leaping on furniture – puppy “scoots” or “zooms”
Appropriate play and exercise
- Should occur outside in fenced-in area or on a long line or retractable leash if the area isn’t fenced.
- Your pup can run, but do not chase them – it only encourages them to be unresponsive.
- Indoor playtime should be quiet and low-key.
- Do not permit roughhousing, romping, or chase games in the house.
- This can be a dangerous activity when they are in their home with their new partner.
- Walking on leash, running in a fenced area, or swimming are all safe types of play and good exercise.
- Do not run or jog with your puppy on leash.
- We do not want our pups to get in the habit or jogging when on leash.
- Puppies’ growing joints are not fully developed and cannot handle jogging for long periods of time.
Safe play and exercise
- Always in an enclosed area or on leash.
- Do not push your puppy to continue playing or exercising if they are tired.
- Some warning signs that your pup is too tired are heavy panting, heavy breathing, attempting to lie down, moving slowly, or unwilling to continue.
- Learn your pup’s energy level. Different ages, temperaments, and breeds have different exercise needs.
Engaging in Play without a Toy
Playtime is crucial for a well-rounded, happy puppy. Pups learn about other dogs, their environment, and how to interact with humans through playing. It’s important to teach your pup how to play appropriately even if a toy is not present.
Play can help refocus your pup, occupy them if they’re bored, relieve stress, reward them for good behavior, build their trust, and practice self-control. Interactive play becomes a great way to reward or relieve stress in training and when your pup is with their partner.
How to play interactively with your pup
- Start with your pup on the leash
- Stand, sit, or kneel near your pup
- Encourage your pup to engage with you
- Your pup will start becoming playful by bouncing, darting, or wiggling around
- Encourage them to continue these happy behaviors with an excited voice and light touches
- Stop play by using the verbal cue Enough followed by the verbal cue Sit or Down
- Once you have stopped playing with your pup they will learn playtime is over
- Practice starting and stopping playtime on your terms
- This helps teach your pup playtime is initiated and ended by their handler
Interactive play is a useful tool that can be used almost everywhere. If your pup had a particularly stressful experience, for example, walking up stairs that were a new surface and they were hesitant, quietly engage them in play for a short period of time (10 seconds to a minute) before walking back down. Engaging your pup in play reinforces that outings are fun, and your presence is supportive. Play relieves stress and gives them a break from the next task.
You can use interactive play when your pup gets fidgety in public. Focus their attention on you, quietly play with them for several minutes, and then ask them to stop. Continue this on and off, and they will become more focused on you – you’re teaching them self-control by controlling when the play starts and stops.
Interactive play should not include the following:
- Chasing the pup or letting them chase you
- Holding or pinning the pup down
- Slapping or being rough with the puppy
Do not encourage or permit the following:
- Becoming excessively excited
- Mouthing or grabbing at clothing
- Leaping up or onto you
- Racing behind you
- Mounting you or any objects
When you play with your puppy remember to use a quiet, excited voice and only gently pat or push to engage them with you during the playtime.
It is important that our pups learn when it is appropriate to play and when it is time to work. Directing when playtime occurs, starts, and stops gives your puppy the opportunity to practice self-control and reinforces your leadership role with your pup. You control playtime by when the game starts, stops, how intense the playtime is, and what type of playtime. It is important to remember to remain consistent so you are seen as your pup’s leader from their perspective.