Quite a few of us deliberately choose a dog breed and our puppies for which later activities or which dog sport the small dog should be suitable.
And then of course your fingers tingle immediately Training and adventure walks get started as soon as the four-legged friend has settled in. And also the little clumsy one Puppy is full of energy and energy and would love to be kept busy all day long.
About the adequate level of exercise for puppies and young dogs However, there is a lot of uncertainty in the dog scene.
“How can you ?!”, “That’s way too much program!”, “It’s dangerous for the joints!”, “You can’t do so much with it yet!”, “Don’t let it jump!”, “Only 5 minutes per month of life …!”
But who actually makes these rules? Why should you regulate dog walks and other activities?
Today we take a look at where the real core lies in these often very uncritical advice and what you actually have to pay attention to when working and walking with puppies and young dogs.
First of all: This article does not replace advice from your veterinarian or the breeder of your dog. I only share my point of view after many years of dog ownership including multiple puppy rearing.
There is no scientific evidence to suggest that too much exercise is generally harmful to puppies. Movement is not the same as movement and puppy is not the same as puppy.
If you overdo it absurdly and encourage your puppy to make unnatural movements and jumps, you run an increased risk of injury. Anyone who uses common sense to let their puppy choose his own pace and explore the world must (contrary to the opinion of many movement formula alarmists on the Internet) do not go for a walk with the stopwatch!
Movement in puppies is particularly problematic if the young dog is unknown to hereditary defects of the bone and cartilage system (e.g. HD, ED, ..) which can lead to signs of wear and tear at a young age.
Problem: Bone growth in the puppy
Exercise recommendations for puppies are primarily based on the potential impact on growth and skeleton.
Growth plates and joints
Puppies are still growing. From week to week you can watch the young dog grow up.
Cell division creates new cartilage cells on the joint surfaces, which later form the joint cartilage. The joint structures are therefore not fully developed from the start.
Damage to the growing joints can lead to the early onset of osteoarthritis later in life.
Long tubular bones don’t just somehow grow in length in a young body.
Instead, new bone tissue forms along a thin cartilaginous formation matrix below the later joint heads (epiphyses). These areas are known as Growth plates, epiphyseal plates or sometimes in humans as pediatric physics.
New cells are pushed towards the middle of the bone and ossified there, gradually lengthening the middle section of the bone. Your dog’s legs will get longer and longer.
The greatest increase in length in most normally built dogs actually takes place at the age of 4-8 months. The growth plates are clearly visible on X-rays at this age.
After that, the bone growth slowly subsides. As a result of the influence of sex hormones from the beginning of puberty, the growth plates gradually thin into small ossified scar lines in the bone that are no longer active and can hardly be recognized.
The greatly shortened legs in the basset hound, dachshund or corgi go back to a genetic cause that throws the production of growth factors in the body off track. Even in the embryonic state, the leg bones prematurely stop growing in length.
A dog is actually only fully grown after the growth plates have completely closed, although it may have reached its final shoulder height many months beforehand.
The growth plates are soft, cartilaginous areas in a bone that are not hardened until the age of 12-24 months.
Until the epiphyseal plates are closed, these areas in the young dog’s bones are particularly prone to mechanical overstress and injuries.
If you want to know exactly, you will find statistics here on the time periods in which the growth plates of various joints in the dog roughly harden. And here is a picture.
The susceptibility of the young skeleton is also one of the many good reasons to put a non-restrictive harness on your puppy as it grows. Depending on the size of the dog, good harnesses for puppies and soft harnesses for puppies of small breeds are suitable for this.
A Early castration by the way, ensures that puberty does not occur. Due to the lack of sex hormones, they remain Growth plates active longer than in non-castrated animals. As a result, neutered babies are often a bit longer-legged than they should.
This very invasive intervention in the development of the dog’s skeleton can also lead to orthopedic problems in the long term. In my opinion, it is therefore advisable to refrain from neutering the dog much too early before it has finished growing.
The bone density in puppies
The bone density in the puppy is even less pronounced than in the adult dog.
This is due to the unfavorable interplay of puppy bones that are still “soft” inside, but already relatively rigid periosteum outside Risk of fractures from shear and twisting movements particularly increased in young dogs.
And something like that happens quickly with an unfortunate one Crash landing or getting stuck in a mouse hole or manhole cover. It is not uncommon for puppies to actually break a leg at the breeder’s frolicking with their littermates.
Shit happens sometimes…. something like this is unfortunately not completely avoidable even with the best care.
Of course you don’t let your puppy jump off furniture from a great height and try to eliminate all accident risks. But you have to weigh up your own fear for the puppy and his actual need for exercise.
No guideline on earth can save your puppy from normal life risk. Puppies must be allowed to move.
By the way, it is known that exercise increases bone density in children and reduces the risk of fractures later on. It can be assumed that the same applies to the puppy. The body definitely wants to be used during growth in order to develop healthily.
Risk of injury from movement in the puppy?
Yes to absolute worst case Injuries or broken bones can damage the cells in a growth plate or in a growing articular cartilage.
A fast-paced lifestyle naturally increases the risk of injury. Even then, soaws only seem to occur very, very rarely in practice. You can ask your vet how often this has happened in his career.
If the bone wants to grow faster than such an injury heals, it can lead to different things irreparable growth abnormalities to lead. For example, the dog can get bowlegs or even an asymmetrical leg length if the bone only stops growing on one side.
Due to the very small risk of such an injury, there is still no reason to keep your dog calm for fear of injuries and to prevent the dog from moving.
Young dogs need exercise. Every puppy falls down or overestimates its jumping skills, that is unavoidable.
Muscles, body tension and the ability to coordinate must also be given the opportunity to mature. A dog raised in sedentary fashion does not suddenly become an athlete in adulthood just because it reaches a certain age. Practice creates masters!
However, it is important to pay attention to lameness and a strange gait pattern, especially in puppies, and to have a close look at the length and shape of the legs. Any abnormalities should always be addressed to the vet at an early stage, as long as you can still do something!
Movement is a problem for many puppies because it goes undetected in the dog’s young skeleton hereditary defects slumber, the course of which can be inadvertently worsened with the wrong sequences of movements.
Especially with dog breeds that are at increased risk for diseases such as HD, ED or OCD, they should be raised with particular care.
Movement and OCD in young dogs
A form of skeletal disease that unfortunately occurs more frequently in some breeds (including Border Collies, Golden Retrievers and Labradors, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, German Shepherds, Boxers, Great Danes) is OCD in young dogs, in which male dogs in particular have the first signs of lameness from around the 5th month of life demonstrate.
In OCD, the cartilage cells of the joint surface and growth plates divide too quickly or ossify too slowly. The existing transport routes for nutrients in the body are not sufficient for the far too many active cartilage cells; these begin to die off due to insufficient supply.
This creates a gap between the still living cartilage and the already calcified bone and the articular cartilage can become detached from the joint in whole or in part. Ouch.
Supply problems directly in the growth plates can also lead to uneven skeletal growth.
The shoulder, knee and ankle joints as well as the sacrum and especially often the elbows of the young dog are affected.
The predisposition to OCD is hereditary. However, especially with large and fast-growing dog breeds, it is more likely that such pre-damaged cartilage actually only becomes detached through too much movement and physical trauma, or that entire bone processes break off.
Movement doesn’t cause OCD. In addition to being overweight and eating the wrong diet, exercise can accelerate the progression if there is genetic damage.
Some sources, e.g. the Swiss Association for Small Animal Medicine, therefore recommend prophylactically limiting walks in the first year of life to half an hour and letting the dog choose its own pace without encouraging it to exercise excessively.
Other sources point to the unfavorable prognosis for such a conservative attempt at therapy and recommend surgery directly (which in my experience actually seems to help many dogs in the long term).
Movement and HD in the dog
The widespread Statement that too much exercise and especially climbing stairs would lead to hip dysplasia in dogs, is far too simple and, by and large, is based on too broad an interpretation of the results of a single Norwegian study from 2012.
Here, the owners of around 500 dogs, including many littermates, were asked to provide information about the exercise volume of their dogs by means of a questionnaire up to the X-ray at the age of 12 months or 18 months.
The dog breeds examined included those with a significantly increased risk for the development of hip dysplasia across the breed: Newfoundlands, Leonberger, Irish Wolfhounds and Labradors.
During the evaluation, the scientists analyzed the Relationship between different housing conditions and the occurrence of HD in individual dogs.
Based on this analysis, it was meant as follows for the examined dog breeds determine:
Articles from our blog
Quite a few of us deliberately choose a dog breed and our puppies for which ...
Puppy times always go by way too fast, right? The thought of the time when ...