A business acquaintance of mine, Jacqui Fry, runs Moredge Canine Hydrotherapy Centre, and she has confirmed my suspicions that many people exercise their puppies too much. Recently Jacqui gave me the below image of the plate formation stages of the average dog, and we are looking at around 15-17 months until they are fully formed. That means that high impact exercise before that time should be kept to a minimum. The consequences of over exercising Jacqui explains is unexplained broken limbs, as the dogs bones are weaker than they should be.
I’m not an expert on dog health, behaviour is my area of expertise, but I do know a bit about it. So when clients as me how much exercise does a puppy need, I have always explained that we are not training our dogs to be Olympic athletes, therefore we don’t need to be making sure that they are having regular runs. One of my fellow dog listeners did a guest blog for me a few years back, which i’d like to share here to give the consideration for an adult dog:
Canines in the wild
The perspective I always take is to think about, when considering how much exercise a puppy needs, what they would do if they were left to their own devices. So here’s what happens & doesn’t happen for the wild canine:
- Puppies only exercise through occasional play.
- Pups rest A LOT.
- A puppy would not go on the hunt (the nearest equivalent to the walk) until they are yearlings (between 12-24 months) as they need to be big enough, strong enough and fit enough for this. So they would be gradually brought up to speed with this from once they are big enough.
- Hunting is hard work so they do not expend energy unnecessarily.
- The pup would never be on concrete.
- They would not be going up/down stairs or jumping on/off people’s furniture/laps.
So how can we replicate this with our domesticated dogs?
- Firstly it’s probably unavoidable that they will never walk on concrete, but we do need to bear in mind that it is more of an impact on their joints, so concrete walking needs to be kept to a minimum during the puppy years, and done slowly.
- Do not talk your dog for long walks until it is at least 18 months old.
- Build the length of your walks up gradually, from 12 months onwards.
- Keep walks to a minimum length until they are 12 months.
- In fact – you don’t ever need to walk your dog. Exercise is exercise, this could be done through play at home.
- Consider how active your puppy is at home before deciding how much exercise to encourage them to do. If they are often on the go, they can probably do without any extra (but you do need to address the hyperactive behaviour you are probably seeing).
- Encourage your puppy and adult dogs to swim! It’s strengthening for the joints and muscles, without putting any impact on them. If you can’t get them to go in the sea/ponds etc, then consider canine hydrotherapy pools, like Moredge.
I hope you’ve found this article helpful. As I said, my area of expertise is behaviour and training, so I encourage you to find out more about your dog’s health. Jan Fennell’s book “The 7 Ages of your Dog” is a good place to start.