How much exercise should you give to a pregnant dog? This depends on a number of factors including the activity level of the dog prior to becoming pregnant and how far into the pregnancy they are.
One of the best indicators is the pregnant dog herself. She will let you know if she is not feeling up to the activity. If your dog is pregnant, you may need to reduce or change the type of exercise she receives. It is best to avoid anything too strenuous or high impact. It is still important that she gets the right amount of activity, both physical and mental stimulation.
Exercise will help the mother dog to maintain muscle tone and mass, keep the heart and lungs functioning efficiently and helps keep the mother dog from becoming bored and frustrated. It also helps her mental health by relieving stress and keeping her calm.
Daily walks and free play
You should continue with the daily walks as they not only help provide a release of energy, they also provide mental stimulation and stress release. Walks are the best form of exercise for mother dogs both before and after birth as they are gentle but still encourage muscle tone.
After the first month of pregnancy, you can reduce the length and distance of the walks or break it up into several shorter walks to prevent overexerting her. You should also eliminate any games or activity that require jumping, running or other higher impact activities.
Swimming is a good low impact exercise. Remember however that swimming is quite a strenuous activity, so take care not to overdo it. Even walking around in shallow water can provide good exercise while minimizing the stress on your dog’s joints and bones.
During the last three weeks of pregnancy, you should eliminate contact with other dogs as any rough play may cause her or the puppies injury and there is a risk of her picking up a virus or illness from other dogs. Exercise at this point can be reduced to going outside into the yard for a gentle wander and stretch.
It is important to provide mental challenges and enrichment for your pregnant dog to help prevent her from becoming bored and frustrated. Mental exercise will also act as stress relief. Exercising the mind can use as much energy as physical exercise. To learn more about the six categories of mental stimulation and mind enrichment read here.
Suggestions for ways to provide mental stimulation includes;
Puzzle toys are a great way to test your dog’s intelligence and improve their problem-solving skills. Check out “Top 7 puzzle toys for dogs” for my top picks.
Kong toys which you stuff with food and treats work in much the same way. Read “How to use a Kong for dogs”.
Teaching new commands and tricks is also excellent to provide mental enrichment. A popular game that involves learning is to teach them the names of their toys. Dogs can learn hundreds of words and names.
Chewing is a natural instinct for dogs and has many benefits including keeping them busy and occupying and stimulating their minds. Chewing is also great for reducing anxiety in dogs. The act of chewing releases endorphins into the dog’s brain giving a feel good and calm state. It is ideal for reducing stress which is important to a pregnant dog. To learn more about the benefits of and the best chew toys see here.
Scenting and nose games
Playing scenting and nose games helps to provide mental stimulation and challenge the mind. You may also find that the pregnant dog as an increased sense of smell. Read “12 Scenting and nose games for dogs” for some ideas.
Monitor your dogs weight during pregnancy
A dog should gain some weight during pregnancy, not lose weight. A pregnant dog won’t gain much weight in the first two-thirds of the pregnancy, but losing weight is not a good thing. If your pregnant dog is losing weight, it is best to consult your vet. The pregnant dog should gain roughly 15 to 20% of her pre-pregnancy weight over the course of the pregnancy.
The bulk of the weight gain will occur in the final two to three weeks prior to birth. However, the total weight gain should not be more than 20% of her pre-pregnancy weight. Gaining too much weight during the pregnancy can lead to complications, so this should be monitored also. Again, consult your vet if this is the case.
Exercise after giving birth
In the twenty-four hours or so after giving birth the mother will want to stay with the newborn puppies. A day or two after giving birth you should take your dog outside and even for short walks of 10 minutes just to provide a little exercise.
After about a week, the mother dog may be more comfortable leaving her puppies to take walks. You may try taking her on longer walks to make sure that she gets enough exercise. Be sure not to overdo it.
Once the mother dog has stopped nursing you can start to reintroduce her to her normal exercise activities. This is typically around five to six weeks after giving birth. Remember to build her exercise quantity up and not to just go hard out straight away. She may still be exhausted and have loss condition as a result of the pregnancy.