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Monday, 11 June 2012

Walk the line


My wife and I have a German Shepherd pup who is almost 10 months old. His name is Torin.

My enquiry might seem quite trivial to someone who is used to dealing with dogs but we are relative newcomers to dog ownership although we have both had dogs in the past. We want to do our absolute best for Torin.

We have become a bit confused about how much exercise he should have on a daily basis. Someone told us that he should get five minutes for each month of his age per walk and he should get two walks per day. At present we give him about 90 minutes in total per day (plus playtime in the garden) spread over two or three walks but some sources say this isn't enough and others say that the dog is still too young for this amount. We don't let Torin off the lead much as he barks at other dogs and the dogs (and owners) often look quite concerned at this big dog who seems to be aggressive but in fact isn't.

We love Torin to bits and obviously want to do our best for him - the thought of our doing him harm fills us with dread.

Any advice would be much appreciated.

Thank you in anticipation.

John and Liz Brannan, by email

Christine Bailey, Dogs Today, says...

Hi John and Liz,

I think the five minutes per month of age is a pretty good guide, split into two or three walks a day. It’s especially important for a larger dog. When I had my first dog, Airedale Tasha, I spoke to a vet at my local practice (a locum) as I had been advised to only give her two 15 minute walks and it didn’t seem much to me. He told me that he didn’t think that enough for any pup, and to walk her much more. But a couple of months later she went lame, and on seeing the owner of the practice I was told in no uncertain terms that I most certainly should not be walking her so much, and I could well have caused her a major problem! You can imagine how I felt. Luckily rest sorted her injury, and I was not best impressed with the initial vet, who of course by then had left. I have never forgotten that experience.

Play with your pup in the garden but my advice would be to keep him on shorter walks until he is about 15/16 months, then gradually increase. Are you taking him to classes? Training exercises will tire him too, and you can practise your recall in safe areas, calling him from one to the other with tasty treats, and socialise him with other dogs so that he learns to interact in an acceptable way. It’s hard work, but definitely worth it in the long run!


  1. I asked a while back if there were any studies done to support the '5 mins per month of life' and we couldn't find any.

    I tend to stick reasonably close to something similar when I look after puppies, but what I like to remember is that the more exercise the dog gets, the fitter it will get. So your 90 mins now, as your dog attains full physical maturity may need more exercise to have the same effect. I have seen people take their 5 month old gundogs out for an hour a day below 6 months to tire them out because puppies are hard work. By a year old an hour is no longer enough.

    Fast lead walking is very good for your dog to develop muscle, especially if you keep to a speed your dog is using his back legs independantly, but I'd recommend you see a good dog trainer so he can come off the lead and explore his surroundings at his own pace without worrying other park users.

    I personally prefer 2/3 walks a day for young dogs for training purposes, but I have walked adult German Shepherds for owners and an hour a day has seemed to suit the family, as well as the dog. The last GSD we walked, his walks were all on lead as he liked to chase other dogs, which we couldn't allow.

    If you see a dog trainer they will be able to recommend a good exercise guide, once they've seen your dog and know what he's like. It's very hard to do with just a brief description.

    Hopefully some more people will give some advice who have more experience with the breed.

  2. Hi there,
    Having had German Shepherds all my life my advice would be to give him a minimum of two but preferably three 20 minute walks each day plus his play time in the garden. Unlike smaller dogs who develop quicker, your dog is still developing and whilst exercise is an absolute must for him, over-doing it can cause problems later on so three short walks each day is better than two long walks. Once he's gets older and has fully developed you can increase the amount of exercise he gets. Also make sure he gets time to rest too. My dogs have a routine of going for their walk, coming home for their pig's ear (or whatever) and then sleeping. It gives you a bit of peace too :-)
    As far as the barking at other dogs goes, I can sympathise. People just assume German Shepherds are aggressive because they're big, can be very vocal and have had a lot of bad press in the past but there's lots of good advice out there on how to stop them barking at other dogs.
    Hope this helps.
    Good luck,

  3. Heya, I think 5 minutes a month is a pretty good guide too, although around 10 months we stopped following it because eventually the multiple just gets too high. We just got a feel for when ours was tired/getting tired and knew when to stop. The tricky balance to strike is enough exercise that they are happy and well socialised along with ensuring that they maintain a good healty weight (just as important in joint care) but without putting them under any stress.

    Are you going to any training classes? I would very much advise classes, our dog is never happier when off lead and it will be important that Torin is happy being with other dogs because as you say when people see a GSD coming towards them which barks its quite scary.

    You could try contacting the APDT and ask if they have any registered trainers in your area.

    I find training classes can be a bit of a minefield, its so important to find an instructor who you understand and whose methods you want to follow, positive reward based is without a doubt the best, Victoria Stilwell has lots of good advice too :-)

  4. The five minute per month guide is good but it is just a guide. Taking him on a pavement walk is harder on his joints than running around the park or woods on soft ground, plus he can go at his own pace off lead and stop and rest if he's tired.

  5. You might be interested in "Exercising Your Puppy" by Julia Robertson and Elisabeth Pope. Easy to follow, with clear instructions and helpful photographs, this book gives a detailed outline of how puppies develop physiologically, together with appropriate exercises for them at each relevant stage of their puppyhood.

    Different breeds develop at different paces, and all the exercises covered in the book are 'soft' puppy exercises meaning that the puppy or dog dictates what he or she can do.

    Available at

  6. We have had large dogs (OES) for last 35 years and all breeders have advise no long walks until the dog reaches 18 months. My present one is 14 months and she has 2 walks daily of approx 30 minutes with some off lead running and some lead work During the day I do short training sessions to exercise her brain and make her socially acceptable. You sound very caring owners and I think your patience will bear fruit if you do not over-exercise at this stage. Margaret