Let’s be honest, puppies might just be the best thing this world has ever offered. Very few of us would have a problem spending all day paying attention to a puppy. When you see a puppy, all you want to do is cuddle up on the couch with them and snuggle all day.
However, playing with a puppy is a different story. Sure, it’s fun to play for a few minutes. But when you get tired, the puppy usually wants to continue playing.
This leads to the question, “How long should I play with my puppy each day?”
Unfortunately, this is an impossible question to answer with 100% accuracy because it depends on the breed, gender, age, and individual differences. Start by following the modified version of the 5-minute rule (which we will talk about below) and then make small adjustments from there depending on the energy level of your puppy.
Once you learn about the modified 5-minute rule below, we go into more detail on how to play with your puppy, the best times, and how you can use playtime to build social skills.
Is the 5 Minute Rule a Myth?
One of the most popular answers to how long a puppy should exercise per day (and this includes playtime) is 5 minutes for every month of age. This means an eight-week-old puppy should get 40 minutes of exercise in.
Although this is a good starting point, not all dogs are created equal. Some puppies will need a lot more playtime, other puppies will require a lot less playtime. You need to take into account the breed, gender, and general energy level of the puppy.
It’s also important not to split it up into multiple exercise sessions throughout the day. Instead of doing just one 40 minute session (which would be WAY too long for an eight-week-old puppy), you’d be better off splitting it up into four sessions of 10 minutes.
Why Limit The Play Time Sessions?
We all know that not playing with your puppy or giving them time to exercise is bad for the long term health of the dog. But did you know that too much play and exercise time is just as bad as not enough?
The average puppy’s growth plates will close around 14 months of age. Puppies that run around and play too much before their growth plates close can place a lot of stress on their growth plates. This stress could lead to bone deformations, which will cause long term issues.
Having an eight-week-old puppy move around and exercise for 40 minutes straight every single day will place too much stress on the growth plates. However, breaking it up into 10-minute chunks will give the body time to recover from each session.
So How Long Should You Play With Your Puppy Each Day?
The five-minute rule isn’t necessarily wrong, but it’s also not right. For some dogs, the five-minute rule might be perfect. For other dogs, it may be too much or too little.
The best way to determine how long you should play with your puppy each day is to start with 5 minutes per month of age. The goal is to end the session with your puppy wanting a little more. You don’t want to end the session when your puppy is exhausted. If it looks like they’re fatigued and they keep sitting down, that means playtime should have ended already.
It takes a little practice, but eventually you’ll learn what’s best for your puppy. Remember, because you don’t want to place too much stress on the growth plates, it’s best to play it safe and start with shorter play sessions and then increase the time each session if your puppy seems to be handling it ok.
What Time Should I Play With My Puppy?
Now that you have a better understanding of how long you should play with your puppy, the next question you probably have is when you should play with them? Are there certain times that are better? Should some times be avoided?
The answer to that question is simple…play with them when they’re full of energy! However, there is one exception to this rule. You don’t want to play with them or let them run around within one hour after eating. This can lead to stomach pain, or even worse, canine bloat.
As long as they haven’t eaten within one hour, then feel free to play with your puppy in short bursts whenever they are full of energy.
How Should I Play With My Puppy?
Sounds like a silly question, right? Playing with a puppy is as simple as getting on the floor and rolling around with them. Although that is one form of play that puppies love, you can take advantage of playtime to help build both physical and mental strength. You can also use playtime to train your puppy and even develop social skills.
One thing to keep in mind is to keep jumping and/or agility type of play to a minimum. Remember that puppies have growth plates that won’t close until around 14 months (small dogs sooner, large dogs longer). A lot of agility and jump work can put too much stress on the growth plates.
Here are five different ways to play with your puppy that will help build physical strength and mental stimulation.
1) Go For Walks in New Places
Yup, the first one is as simple as that. I know this might not seem like “playtime” for you, but going for walks in places that are unfamiliar to your puppy is an exciting event for them. They’ll experience new sights they haven’t seen and new scents they haven’t smelled.
Remember to keep the walks relatively short (around 10 minutes). This means you’ll likely have to drive your puppy to the new location instead of walking them there, but they’re going to love seeing a new part of the world.
We tried to take our puppy to a new location about three times per week. This is one of the best ways to let your pup exercise while still providing them with the mental stimulation they need.
Ahh yes, the classic! This game seems to be instinctive for dogs. I’ve yet to meet a puppy I have to teach this game to. You hold onto one end of a toy rope, they bite down on the other. They’ll automatically start pulling.
Puppies obviously aren’t strong, so holding onto the rope will be no problem for you. However, you still want to give your puppy a few “wins.” So let go of the rope after about 15-20 seconds of pulling.
Tug-of-War is also a great way to teach your puppy that some things are ok to chew on, and some aren’t. They’ll begin to learn that they’re only allowed to play with and chew on their toys, not the furniture, pillows, or shoes.
3) Hide N’ Seek
This is an excellent way to teach your dog the command “come” while still having fun and playing. The only downside to this game is that it does require two people. Have someone hold your puppy while you hide somewhere (don’t make it too hard for them to find you!).
When you’re hiding, call their name and say, “come.” Have the person holding the puppy let go. Continue to say “come” until your puppy finds you.
Not only is it a fun mental stimulation for the dog, but you’ll be teaching them a command at the same time.
4) Play Fetch
A good old classic that’s hard to beat. Your puppy’s mouth probably won’t be big enough to fit around a normal-sized tennis ball, so purchase a few mini tennis balls. Give it to them as a toy first and let them chew on the ball for a few minutes.
Once you can tell they love playing with the ball, you can then start playing fetch. With puppies, it’s best to play fetch indoors. That way they won’t have to run as far. It also decreases the chance of them running off or eating something outdoors they shouldn’t be eating.
This is one of my favorite things to do with a puppy because it creates a bond between the puppy and the human. No toys needed, just the two of you rolling around on the ground wrestling.
When playing this game, the puppy will begin play-biting your hands. This is a great time to teach puppies how hard they should play bite. Most puppy’s bite way too hard, if that’s the case, simply say “no” and pull your hand away. They’ll eventually learn how hard is ok.
Playing Builds Social Skills
Since you’re reading this article on how long you should play with your puppy, there’s a good chance you were planning on getting some playtime in with them. However, for those wondering if playing is important, the answer is a big YES!
The first few months of a dog’s life is when they learn who their friends are and who their enemies are. They need to play with humans during their early months so they can learn that humans are their friends.
Puppies that don’t get enough playtime will usually be well behaved with their owners, but the second a stranger walks in the door, they’ll become aggressive.
Is it Ok to Have My New Puppy Play With Other Dogs?
Having your puppy play with another puppy is an excellent idea! Just make sure both puppies have had all their vaccines.
Again, we want to show the dog from an early age that other dogs are their friends, not their enemies. If puppies are exposed to other dogs from a young age, they’ll typically be much less aggressive with other dogs when they enter their adult years.
Puppy Playtime is Important
As you can tell, ensuring your puppy gets enough playtime each time is important for their physical, mental, and emotional needs. However, you want to make sure you don’t overdo it with the playtime and exercise since their growth plates haven’t closed.
Start off with the five-minute rule. If your dog is completely exhausted by the end of the playtime, then you know you played a little too long. The goal is to leave them wanting “just a few more minutes.”
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Bryan Harkins is an avid dog lover and the proud owner of dogdorable.com, a website dedicated to all things canine. With years of experience working with dogs, Bryan is passionate about providing valuable information, tips, and resources to help pet owners provide the best possible care for their furry companions.