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Exercising Your Young Dog

Have you recently added a puppy to your family? What about your existing four-legged family members – are they younger than two years old?Cute Little Beagle Puppy Playing In Grass

If so, I’m sure you’re keenly aware of how much energy they have and what it may take to tire them out.

But because young dogs are still growing, you have to be careful of the amount and type of exercise you give them.

The biggest consideration in exercising young dogs is their growth plates.

Growth plates are the soft areas that sit at the end of the long bones in a young dog’s limbs. These plates contain cells that allow the bones to grow longer. Once the dog matures, the growth plates calcify, thin and close.

Until that point, the growth plates are vulnerable to injury.

Injuries to growth plates can result in legs that are misshaped or shorter than they should be which in turn, changes joint angles making the puppy more prone to injury as he grows up. They also give your puppy a greater chance of developing arthritis as he ages.

In addition to soft bones and growth plates that are prone to injury, puppies’ cardiovascular systems aren’t built for endurance. Long walks and jogs not only increase the risk for injury but yield little cardiovascular benefit.

So what kind of exercise is best for a young dog?

Here are some suggestions.

  • Free, self-directed exercise such as playing, running, exploring, or sniffing in the back yard is a great form of exercise. This is also good for mental development.
  • Digging – a great exercise for front end development. Consider hiding treasures in a spot where it’s OK to dig.
  • Short walks where he’s allowed to sniff and go at his own pace.
  • Play recall games and work on training in the back yard. 
  • Play dates other puppies (not at the dog park!).
  • Puzzle toys for mental exercise.
  • Swimming for a full body workout, and to build confidence.

Give some or all of these exercises a try. You’ll have a tired pup while keeping him safe and injury free. And that will allow him to grow into a healthy and happy adult dog!

Cute white puppy dog playing on grass. Polish Tatra Sheepdog, kn