Thursday, October 29, 2015

How Much Exercise is too Much??

Almost weekly, I get e-mails from owners asking how much exercise is "too much" for their new puppy. My standard answer has always been never take then further than you can pick them up and carry them home. Very few folks realize, that the skeletal development in dogs continues in stages after birth.  Below is an X-ray of a 2 week old puppy--not the undeveloped bone between the femur (upper leg bone) and the tibia (lower leg bone)--the two largest bones in a dog's body.  Compare this x-ray with the x-ray of the 6 month old puppy at the end of this entry--note the difference in bone development.

X-ray of a 2 week old puppy

 In large breed dogs these rapidly growing bones remain extremely soft and can break easily.  Do not allow the pup to jump off elevated areas (i.e. porches, decks, and pick-up truck beds) or walk up more than 3 steps. I have seen a 10 week old large breed puppy break both front legs jumping off a 2-3 foot high deck. They could also damage their shoulder joints.

 Likewise, puppies should not be allowed to play or spend significant time on slippery surfaces (i.e. wooden, tile or linoleum floors) in order to prevent joint injuries.  Slipping  and sliding may look cute, but it can cause trauma to his hips which may lead to poor hips or elbows as an adult.  Hard landings on a slippery floor can bruise and damage these soft developing joints and bones.

Although your puppy may look big, do not allow children to pull on the legs, sit , jump , or lie on your puppy.   Dragging a puppy by it's legs could cause a fracture or damage the elbow joints.  Don't play "horsey"--Mastiffs are not to be ridden.  Long term permanent injury could result to you growing puppy.  Always supervise your children (both the very young and the older) and teach them proper interactions with your puppy.

 Do not allow the Mastiff puppy to become overweight as this places stress on the growth plates of its bones. Likewise, do not keep your puppy crated for long, extended periods of time. Lack of exercise is just as bad as too much exercise. Your puppy will need to exercise to develop proper muscle tone and bone structure to carry its adult weight and be a strong healthy, active dog.

Due to the rapid growth of these pups, under no condition should extensive road (running) type exercises be done until after the age of 18 months  and the long bone growth plates have closed.  Joints and  growing bones are too prone to injury.  A good rule of thumb for setting physical activity   limits is for every month increase activity by 5 minutes.  So, an 8 week old puppy need 10 minutes of physical activity per day, and a 6 month old puppy need 30 minutes of physical activity. 

Because Mastiffs and other giant breed dogs are large, fast growing dogs and their joint development is slow; the dog’s level of exercise must be monitored closely until the age of 18 months to prevent injuries. You must monitor activity level to avoid over-exertion while insuring that the dog receives sufficient exercise. This can normally be accomplished by such means as  short walks or play sessions with toys. Be careful to stop when the dog shows signs of fatigue; don’t take young puppies on long walks unless you can carry them home! 

Particular care must be taken to insure that a puppy is not injured or over-tired by play with a mature dog. Never leave a puppy under the age of 6 months alone with adult dogs. Always supervise any interaction to prevent injury to the puppy. Many a unilateral bad hip or elbow can be traced back to a trauma or injury at a pup's early age

X-ray of a 6 month old puppy

Remember, the time, expense, and care you provide these first few months determines a great deal of the overall size, health, soundness, and longevity of your puppy. Proper loving care will produce a most devoted companion.

Catie Arney
KioKee Mastiffs
Hickory, NC