Exercising with your dog is wonderful, and keeping our dog’s physically fit is important to their overall well being. But when it comes to jogging or engaging in other strenuous activities there are some added risks — especially for young dogs. Here’s what you need to know about jogging with your puppy.
Don’t Overdo it, Jogging Can Be Harmful To Puppies
Jogging with your dog is an excellent way to exercise; both of you can keep fit and trim while taking in all the lovely scenery. If you have a new puppy you may be tempted to start things off with a running routine to burn off all that extra energy of his; but don’t start too soon. Jogging can be harmful to puppies.
Puppies should not engage in rigorous activity before their bodies have had a chance to mature. They should avoid sharp or repetitive impact exercises during their first year. This doesn’t mean you can’t exercise your puppy — it just means you need to be careful when choosing exercises for a young dog.
Growth Plate Injuries in Young Dogs
Dogs grow a lot in the first year, especially large breeds. To accommodate for this growth their cartilage and bones are soft and contain many extra blood vessels. Since their growth plates are softer than other parts of the bones they’re more prone to injury.
Trauma to a puppies growth plate can lead to severe bone deformities. Being dropped, hit by a car, or rigorous activity in puppies should be diagnosed and treated quickly.
Since growth plate injuries typically occur on one side of the plate or the other, the damaged side of the bone quits growing, but the healthy side continues to grow. This is how the bone ends up anything but straight. – Karen Becker DVM
If your dog injures it’s growth plate before it’s sealed, the damaged cells stop growing while the healthy areas continue to grow. This can lead to permanent deformities in the dogs bones. In severe cases the bone can rotate, bow, and curve.
If the problem isn’t diagnosed early and corrected with surgery it can lead to much bigger problems such as arthritis, abnormal joint movement, and complete loss of function in the affected limb.
Synchronized growth of all bones is necessary for normal development when a dog or cat transforms from a small puppy or kitten into an adult. – Dirsko J.F. von Pfeil DVM
At What Age Can You Jog With Your Puppy?
Dogs shouldn’t start a regular jogging routine until their growth plates have closed. The age at which the growth plates completely mature is different depending on the breed. Most of your dogs growth will happen between 4 and 8 months of age. Large and giant breeds mature much slower; some aren’t done growing until 18 months of age.
If you want to jog with your puppy it’s a good idea to check with your veterinarian first to make sure their body is mature enough. An x ray can be performed if you want to know for sure that your dog’s growth plates have closed.
Try to Avoid Strenuous Exercise With Your Puppy
High endurance activities (such as frisbee, flirt pole and lure coursing) are best avoided until your dogs growth plates have closed. Any hard, repetitive movements increase the likelihood of injury to your dog’s joints. Regular low impact exercises, such as walking and swimming, are much easier on their joints.
Lots of puppy owners stick to a model of not going beyond the level of exercise that your puppy would naturally take part in such as a run in the yard or zooming around the house. As with any exercises make sure to take breaks and give your pup a chance to rest.
Safe Exercises For A Puppy
Daily short exercise periods are considered safe. Playing with your puppy in the house, practicing obedience, and short walks in a safe environment. Teaching the retrieve command is a great skill to teach puppies at a young age.
Basic obedience training like teaching a reliable recall might not seem like typical exercise but it works wonders on growing puppies. They’re learning to focus, gaining confidence, and being mentally stimulated while training. Teaching a young dog some basic nose work is another safe alternative that’s simple and fun for your puppy.
Many breeders suggest a five minute rule. The five minute rule states that puppies should have 5 minutes of organized exercise per day for every month of his age. So a 8 week old puppy should be getting 10 minutes a day. Organized exercises are activities that you control, such as brief walks and training sessions.