HOW MUCH EXERCISE SHOULD MY PUPPY HAVE?
It is hugely important that we don't over-exercise young dogs while they are still growing and developing. Their growth plates at each joint are still developing and slowly closing throughout a dog's growth period.
If excess pressure is placed upon these still-forming joints due to over-exercising, you are potentially opening your puppy up to joint-related health conditions…
Growth plates are zones of cartilage that exist at the end of bones in the skeletal structure of canines (and humans!). They contain rapidly dividing cells during the canine growth period that enable the bones to grow in length until the end of the development period in the dog.
These growth plates gradually thin as hormonal changes take place, finally ‘closing’ and becoming an inactive stable part of the bone.
Whilst the growth plates are still active, they are highly prone to injury because the plates are soft and vulnerable. Injuries to the growth plates can result in misshapen or shortened limbs, as well as the potential for joint problems later in life.
For this reason, we advise sticking to the '5-minute' exercise rule for young dogs. This means that a dog should get 5 minutes of exercise for each month of their age whilst they are still developing. Two walks a day at this limit is deemed acceptable.
For small to medium breeds, the majority of their growing is complete by around a year of age, however there is still plenty going on behind the scenes!
As you can see from the diagram below, different growth plates close at different times - the final growth plates only closing at 15 - 16.5 months.
I regularly see bad exercise patterns with people that have puppies. Whilst they are very young, people are pretty good with sticking to the exercise rules, but as the puppy grows in size they forget that their skeletal structure is still under-developed!
People with 7 - 15 month old puppies are regularly over-exercising their young dogs. They may not look like a small puppy anymore, but they are still very vulnerable to joint pressure.
The same applies for ball throwing and allowing your dog to run up and down stairs. Both are very bad for your puppy, putting a lot of unwanted stress on their joints. Hill walking is also a no-no whilst they are young.
Yes, 16 months seems like a long time to wait before being able to lift the lid on your puppy's exercise restriction, but believe me, it's a much better alternative than being told a few years down the line that your dog has developed elbow/hip dysplasia or arthritis.
And the guidelines in the diagram are just an average - for large and giant breeds, the growth plates will take even longer to close, so the exercise restriction needs to remain in place for a longer period of time than specified here.
Look after your pup's joints - they only have one set!
Have a look at the x-rays in this web link to see just how much the skeletal structure needs to develop in young puppies - it is eye opening! https://veteriankey.com/radiographic-considerations-of-the-young-patient/