Keep Your Puppy Active and Out of Trouble With Stimulation and Exercise
Having a puppy can be overwhelming at times, and it is hard to prepare yourself for how your new fur friend will come to turn your daily routines upside down. A puppy requires patience - lots of patience, but they also need to be activated both physically and mentally, or they may develop destructive behaviors and bad habits that are hard to get rid of further down the line.
Puppies are like sponges, which is why it is important to set boundaries already from the start, but also to provide enriching experiences, training, and activation, to help them grow up to become balanced and happy adult dogs. The type of activation that is suitable for your puppy depends on its age, breed, and personality, but one thing is for certain - every puppy needs adequate mental stimulation and physical exercise.
Why Stimulation Is Important
Before we start providing our pups with all the stimulation we believe them to need, it is important to understand why. Puppies sleep a lot, yes, but they also tend to be extremely energetic while they are awake. All that energy can easily end up being the motivation behind destructive behaviors like chewing up your favorite shoes, bothering older dogs in the household, biting your hands and generally misbehaving, and while it is normal for puppies to be a little naughty (they are like newborns and later toddlers, after all) - there are things we, as responsible owners, can do to keep things under control.
By helping our puppies use their energy towards positive things and activities we approve of and encourage, we also aid them in forming healthy habits for their adult doggy life. Here at KarmaPets, we help in helping you be in control of your pet. It is easy to let a cute puppy get away with things, but we must not forget that puppies grow up, and may take certain behaviors with them. With this in mind - let’s find fun and enriching activities for the puppy you have at home, and see for yourself how it instantly helps control unwanted behaviors.
Providing Plenty of Playtime
Playtime is number one, because just like little kids - puppies love to play. Make sure you buy plenty of quality dog toys for your puppy to play with, as this helps make sure they leave your shoes, books, and furniture alone, and possibly also your hands. Puppy teeth are sharp! It is tempting to get cheap stuffed animals at your local supermarket, but there is a risk your puppy might chew these up before you know it, and you might instead benefit from investing in high-quality dog toys and chews - such as KONGs and Nylabones - as these are likely to last longer.
Play games like tug of war and fetch with your puppy, depending on what they seem the most interested in, but be vigilant of when the puppy seems to be tired. The puppy should always set the pace of the game (and of any physical or mentally challenging activity), as puppies get tired very fast, and you don’t want to overdo it when you play.
When to Start Walking
Your veterinarian can help advise you regarding walks with your puppy, as puppies should not be walked before they have all their shots. Taking your unvaccinated puppy out where other dogs may have passed proposes a risk of them catching infections and diseases, such as Parvo and Canine Distemper, which are both potentially fatal puppy illnesses that spread fast.
Diseases aren’t the only reason to hold back on walks, as you also need to be gentle on a puppy’s growing bones. Taking a 2-month-old puppy for a 5-mile hike may seem like a great idea as it will surely tire them out, but care needs to be taken not to damage growing bones and joints. This is also why experts advise not to let puppies jump up and down on things too much, so hold off on activities like Agility until the dog (and his or her bones) are fully grown. You can start practicing leash walking inside the house or in your own backyard, before it is time to start walking, and always make sure you consult your veterinarian first to make sure your pooch is good to go.
Start Training Your Puppy
Another fun way of engaging a puppy is by starting to train and teach a few things! It is common to make the mistake of thinking that training has to wait until the dog is older, when in reality - you can start training already from day one! Puppies have short attention spans, and it is best to do short training sessions of 5-10 minutes at a time and to give the puppy a break if they seem unfocused or frustrated. Try giving them some cbd calming treats if they are innately anxious. Read up on positive reinforcement training before you get started, and consider starting with simple commands like ‘Sit’ and ‘Down’,
Puppies are extremely trainable, and will often learn faster than older dogs, and puppies that are trained when they are little, tend to pick up new commands easier also as adults. It is almost like something clicks in their brains when you start training them early, and if done right - they will remember what they’ve been taught for the rest of their lives. Make the training sessions short and fun - both for you and for the puppy - and don’t expect too much in the beginning. Learn to appreciate the process rather than only focusing on the goal.
Breed Specific Stimulation
Not all dog breeds require the same level of physical activity and mental stimulation, and you can benefit a lot from taking your dog’s breed into consideration. This applies also to mixed breed puppies, as you can usually at least guess what breed groups your pooch has in him (or her). Research your breed or breed group to see what activities could be extra beneficial, as some dogs are fine with walks and playtime, while others may enjoy sniffing for their food and other more mental challenges. Look at what your breed was bred to do (herding, hunting, etc. etc.) and base your puppy’s activities on this knowledge.
Food Puzzles & Creative Ways to Feed a Puppy
There isn’t always time to invent creative games, take multiple walks every day and to play tug of war with your dog, especially not for busy pet parents with long working days, but there are ways you can make average things more challenging and exciting for your puppy! Feeding time is one of those things, so have you considered feeding your puppy in other ways than by simply pouring their kibble into a bowl? Eating from a bowl does not present a challenge, and it becomes something most dogs do without thinking about it. Here you have a great opportunity to put your pup to work!
Invest in an activity toy, a food puzzle or a hollow ball with one or several holes, and start putting your dog’s breakfast or dinner (or both) there instead of in a bowl! Your puppy will get full just the same, but will have to figure out how to get the food out of the toy, and will, therefore, have to work harder for their meal. Most dogs get very excited about these types of challenges, and it is common for it to tire a puppy out more than a walk and a play session ever could. It makes no real difference for you in terms of time and effort spent, but could make a massive difference for your puppy. Let your puppy use his brain when eating, as it activates their natural instinct to put effort into obtaining food.
You can make your own food puzzles and activity toys, using a DIY food puzzle tutorial, but the easiest thing is to purchase quality products so that you know the toys are safe to use for your puppy, and that they can’t hurt themselves on them. Always supervise a puppy while they play with a food puzzle or food dispenser toy, as puppies are like babies and can easily get into trouble.
How Much Is Too Much?
Finding a good balance when entertaining your puppy is important, and you don’t want to forget that puppies also need lots of sleep throughout the day. Not letting a puppy sleep can result in an overtired pooch, and overtired puppies may start throwing puppy tantrums and going more nuts than they usually are. Less is more, for younger puppies, and then you can increase the play- and training sessions, as well as the walks, slowly as your puppy grows older. Use common sense, listen to your puppy and make sure it is always fun for both of you.