So you have this new bundle of fluff with energy off the charts and you want to wear him out so he takes a nap.
The easiest way you can think to do that is to take your Newfie puppy for a nice, long walk.
Unfortunately, that is one of the worst things that you can do.
Giant breed puppies like the Newfoundland are actually more fragile than they look.
They have limitations due to their rapidly growing bones and body and giving them too much exercise early in their life can set them up for some painful years ahead.
Think About Those Growth Plates
You’ll hear the words growth plates a lot when you have a Newfie and it’s because they are super important to their future.
Growth plates are soft areas that sit at the end of the long bones in puppies and young dogs.
They contain cells that divide fast and allow bones to become longer until the end of puberty.
Growth plates gradually get smaller as hormones change when dogs are approaching puberty.
These hormones signal the growth plates to close.
In Newfoundland puppies, this closure is normally completed around 18-24 months old.
The growth plates are soft and vulnerable to injury until they close.
In a puppy, his muscles, ligaments, and tendons are stronger than his growth plates so a puppy’s own soft tissue can actually pull apart his growth plates.
Why this matters so much is that injuries to the growth plate may not heal properly or they stop growing and prevent the bone from growing straight and strong.
This can result in a deformed or shortened limb which can create an incorrect angle to a joint and can make the puppy more prone to injuries when he grows up.
How Much Exercise Should A Newfie Puppy Get?
It’s not really based on how much exercise but more what type of exercise a Newfie puppy should get.
You’re not exercising a puppy to lose weight, gain muscle or increase endurance.
Puppies, in general, don’t have much endurance. They have short bursts of energy and then they take a nap.
They also don’t have much muscle so you don’t want the exercise to be very strenuous.
But you do want to strengthen their bones.
You want a puppy to be exercising not only their body but also their mind which is just as stimulating and tiring.
5 minutes a day per month of age is recommended for leash walking for most puppies.
That time is per day not all at one time and the majority of that walk should be sniffing and exploring and getting used to the leash, not fast-paced walking.
What Type Of Exercise Should My Newfie Puppy Be Getting?
If you have a fenced yard, free play is a perfect way for your puppy to get some safe exercise in.
Let them explore the yard and see what they can find. You’ll be surprised at what a puppy thinks is fun!
Let them sniff the yard or lay down a kibble trail.
If your puppy loves to sniff, set out a small trail of kibble or low-fat treats and let him find them around the yard.
Short walks are fine but they should be kept to only a few short minutes and if you can keep the walk on soft surfaces such as grass.
If grass isn’t an option it’s fine to walk them on the sidewalk but it should be a controlled walk.
The point is that you don’t want your puppy putting unnecessary strain on their joints so you don’t want them jumping and throwing a tantrum.
Don’t not take your 4 month old puppy for a short walk but also don’t take your puppy for a long hike in the woods and expect not to have to carry him most of the way.
This is actually more wading than swimming at this point but there’s no greater time to introduce your water dog to the water.
Keep the session short and fun and also make sure your puppy has been fully vaccinated before taking him out and about.
Don’t assume that your puppy can swim.
Most can and will but some will not so don’t force it.
It’s never too early to start training and a puppy needs this type of mental stimulation.
Train basic commands such as sit, down and stay and keep training sessions short.
Tug is a great exercise for puppies but since Newfies can be prone to neck issues, make sure that the puppy is doing the majority of the tugging.
Forceful tugging can result in injury to the neck and spine.
Exercise for your Newfoundland puppy should always be fun and a positive experience and if your puppy seems tired, let him rest!
Types Of Exercises To Avoid With Your Newfoundland Puppy
Avoid exercises on hard surfaces
Hard surfaces such as cement are too hard on growing joints and soft bones so try and keep walks and playtime on soft surfaces such as grass and carpet.
Avoid slippery floors that may result in injury.
This is not to say that Newfie puppies shouldn’t walk on the sidewalk, but that they should walk in a controlled manner.
In other words, don’t take your Newfie puppy for a long jog.
Keep puppies from jumping off of beds or out of cars.
This is a dangerous activity that can be very harmful to those growth plates and soft bones.
This seems like a super easy thing to avoid but Newfie puppies tend to try and self-destruct so it’s definitely harder to do than it sounds.
Lou tried to leap over Odin last week and failed.
He also ran headfirst into our fence when he was playing with Finn.
Avoid multiple steps for as long as possible. One study, that included Newfoundlands, has shown that puppies climbing stairs at an early age were more likely to develop hip dysplasia
A few steps should be fine but avoid flights of steps and carry the puppy for as long as you can or use a dog ramp.
You can use a baby gate or a stair barrier to block off stairs to avoid curious puppies from sneaking up the stairs.
You don’t want your dog to fear steps so training them early to use them is fine as long as they are using a controlled motion and they are supervised.
We trained both Sherman and Leroy to use our steps when they were 5 months old.
We used a leash to teach them a controlled walk up and down the stairs.
Lou can currently go up the steps but I’m carrying him down them.
When Can I Start Taking My Newfoundland Hiking And Walking?
You can gradually start increasing your Newfie’s daily walks as they age.
You can start hiking and doing other more advanced dog activities like agility and carting as soon as the growth plates close.
Your vet can give you the go-ahead and if you want to be extra careful you can have x-rays done to make sure that the growth plates have closed.
X-rays could easily be done at your dog’s time of spay or neuter since it is recommended to have giant breed dogs altered after the growth plates have closed.
Puppies raised on slippery surfaces or with access to stairs when they are less than 3 months old have a higher risk of hip dysplasia, while those who are allowed off-lead exercise on soft, uneven ground (such as in a park) have a lower risk (Krontveit et al 2012).
Dogs born in summer have a lower risk of hip dysplasia, presumably because they have more opportunity for exercise outdoors (Ktontveit et al 2012).
On the other hand, dogs from 12-24 months old that regularly chase a ball or stick thrown by the owner have a higher risk of developing dysplastic hips (Sallander et al 2006).
Information in this post is not intended as veterinary advice.
You should always consult your Newfoundland breeder and veterinarian about the best exercise program for your puppy.