Puppy Days: Summer Fitness with Your Puppy

As an avid runner and hiker, I couldn’t wait to have a dog in my life again to have some company on the trails as well as a little motivation to keep the pace up on my runs. But as a veterinarian, I know that a lot of consideration needs to go into when your pooch should be joining you and when to leave them at home.

Some larger breeds just aren’t built for endurance, and some of the smaller breeds have to work three times as hard to keep up to our long legs, so size and build is certainly one of the deciding factors in choosing the right workout companion.

This year, my spring started with a new addition named Cousteau. While at times his energy reserves seem to be endless, and his brattiness along with it, puppies need us to take a lot of extra care with the exercise we do with them. Puppies grow very quickly, and open growth plates in their long bones leave them vulnerable to injury that can cause bone disease later in life. These risks are increased in large and giant breeds, who grow at faster rates and whose growth plates stay open much longer. Things as little as doing too many stairs in the house in the first 2-3 months of age can be tough on their bones, so when your puppy is very young, consider carrying them up and down the stairs when possible. Let them climb up and down once every few days to help teach them to climb, and to help slowly build their muscles.

Starting slow with walks with your pup is best: shoot for 15 minutes of exercise at most, 2-3 times a day in their first few weeks in your home, slowly increasing the length of your walks as they grow. Puppies love to run and have many bursts of energy, but always let them dictate when the running is over! Bringing them along on a 5k run is certainly not recommended in their early months. What I find works well for Cousteau and I is a little 1-2 km trail walk/run with him as my warm up, then I drop him off at home while I go on a longer run. This technique also helps with crate training, as he is ready for a nap and happy to tuck himself into the crate after a walk.

Just like human runners, working out on the trail is softer on our dogs’ joints than running on pavement, so keep that in mind too and seek out those bouncy mud paths for your longer walks instead of the roads when you can.

Jumping should be avoided during the first year or two where possible, so while your pup may be getting big enough to hop in and out of the truck, it is in both of your best interest to help them in and out yourself! You get a bit of a squat workout in the process, and you will thank yourself later when your pup grows into a fit & healthy adult with strong bones!

Written by:  Dr. Tayrn Roberts