In only a few short months, you will see your pup change from a little bundle of fluff that trips over his own feet to a youngster that you can barely keep up to. Your puppy’s body is changing every day. As a result, it can sometimes be difficult to judge whether the pup is getting too much exercise or too little. And what about those zoomies? Are they safe?
I have seen so many puppies that have suffered broken legs, soft tissue injuries, or developed arthritis at a young age. Many of these could easily have been avoided. Although you cannot prevent all accidents, there are a few things that you can do to reduce the risk.
Here are four rules that will help you make good choices for your puppy and keep him safe.
Avoid Strenuous and Repetitive Movement
Exercise is vital for the development and strengthening of bone, muscle, and ligaments. Not all types of activity are appropriate for a growing puppy, however. You must supervise your puppy’s activity level and use discretion.
A puppy running or playing on his own in an appropriate environment is usually fine. If your puppy is particularly rambunctious, then you may need to redirect them or supervise them more closely.
Your pup may look out of control when he has a case of the zoomies. As long as the floor isn’t slippery and he is not able to leap off stuff, this daily release of energy is good clean fun.
You do need to take care when you are playing with your pup, however. You may need to pull some punches when you are playing tug or throwing a ball. It’s best not to encourage erratic or intense movements, including jumping in the air.
A young pup playing with a more physically-mature dog can also put too much strain on their immature body. Trying to keep up, or match stronger or faster play can lead to injury. Be sure to pick playmates wisely and supervise all interactions.
When I see a puppy trying to keep up with a person who is hiking or jogging, I cringe. Under-developed muscles and immature growth plates make this kind of activity dangerous unless kept to a minimum. A good rule of thumb is to allow only a short period of repetitive movement. The exact length of time will depend on the age of your pup. It may be as little as a couple of minutes with an 8 or 10-week-old pup.
Keep these things in mind:
- ensure the environment has suitable, even footing
- your pup is not having to chase something that is out of their speed class
- avoid abrupt stops and turns or jumping around
Follow the Shoulder Rule
One easy rule to reduce the risk of injury is to avoid allowing your pup to jump off things higher than his shoulder. Depending on your puppy, that might be a step, the car, or your couch or bed. It is best to lift him down off of these things to prevent impact stress on joints. As long as he doesn’t stumble, jumping up isn’t as much of a concern. No matter the size of your pup, flying off logs in the forest or taking multiple steps at a time is risky business.
Give Your Pup Lots of Breaks
Young muscles can tire quickly, so it’s a great idea to ensure your pup is getting regular breaks during play or exercise time. Frequent breaks reduce the chance of strain. If your pup is stopping on his own, he’s probably already tired.
Provide More Mental Exercise
It’s a commonly held myth that physical exercise is the only way to tire out a dog. Mental exercise can do an even better job, especially with young pups. Why? Because it is non-adrenalizing and is safe for their immature bodies. Providing daily mental stimulation with food puzzles, treat searches, and clicker training will make a calmer, more content puppy.
So to recap:
- Always monitor your pup.
- Manage the environment to reduce the risk of injury.
- Provide activities that are suitable for your puppy’s age.
- Don’t rely on physical exercise alone to tire your puppy.
The type and amount of appropriate activity for your puppy will change as he matures. Following these guidelines will allow you to make good choices along the way and ensure they have a long, active life.
Want to learn more? Check out these links for additional tips and information:
Appropriate Exercise Guidelines