Exercising a puppy, the doggie blog
Published on 7th January 2021
Exercising a puppy
Did you know that the most common mistake people make with exercising their puppy is that they do too much? It takes about a year and a half for a dog’s growth plates to close, and about a year for the muscular system to be fully developed. Throughout this time, they can be considered as ‘under construction’, and as a result, their little bodies are susceptible to damage that may not show up for a number of years.
In their early months with you, they’ll most likely have two main types of exercise; on-lead walking and free exercise.
A good rule of thumb for on-lead walking with a puppy is five to ten minutes once or twice a day at three months, adding five minutes on for every additional month. So if your puppy is four months old, they would be taking a maximum of two fifteen minute walks on lead. I always recommend people walk their puppies on a well-fitting harness, which will protect the delicate structure of the neck.
These walks should be really slow. Puppies only have little legs and trotting to keep up with you is too much hard work for them, and potentially damaging to the joints. Slow, deliberate movements will help them develop the deep muscles they need for balance and stability.
It is really important to let them do lots of sniffing on these walks. Dogs just love sniffing and it tires them out, calms them down, and is great mental stimulation!
Do not try and keep them on one side of you, or expect them to look up at you. Staying on one side of you all of the time can pull the body out of balance, and constantly looking up at you will put their necks and spine under stress and cause pain.
It is very important for your puppy’s development that they also have the opportunity to move around freely without being restricted by a lead. A garden, or other quiet, enclosed space, is ideal for giving them this opportunity. Being able to move at different speeds, to stop when they want, and to experience different terrains helps develop a variety of muscles, without putting them under the same repetitive strain that walking on a lead can. Twenty minutes of this sort of activity a few times a week is ideal.
Avoid games of fetch
Fetch is a game best avoided, for a number of reasons. Sudden accelerations, stops, twists and turns, and landing on the hind legs after a catch, put your puppy’s body under enormous strain, and you risk doing serious long-term damage (and incurring significant vets bills!)
They can become obsessive about the game and addicted to the dopamine hit they get when chasing a ball or frisbee and will react with signs of stress when the play ceases.
Chasing a moving object taps into your dog’s primal ‘prey-chase’ response, and floods their system with adrenaline and other stress hormones. These hormones can remain in the system for some time after the game has finished and can leave your puppy wound up and excitable.
For other ideas on games to play with your puppy, keep an eye out for our next blog on mental stimulation!
Submitted by Stephanie Rousseau: dog trainer, behaviourist, and author of Office Dogs: The Manual. Please note that due to Level 5 restrictions it is not possible to reserve items presently.
However, you can check out the website here: www.stephsdogtraining.ie
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