Do puppies need more outdoor exercise than adult dogs?

posted: 01/11/13
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Active Puppies

You can't wait to get your 8-week old puppy Bella outside. This little ball of Labrador retriever energy chewed the strap on your new $300 handbag and a hole through the bottom of your ugly, yet comfortable house shoes. Even your 5-year-old German shepherd, Homer, wasn't this aggressive when he was Bella's age. You figure a 30- minute run together will be just the ticket to calm Bella down, and better yet salvage what's left in your clothes closet. But, not so fast.

The word "puppy" is pretty much synonymous with the words "lots of energy." So it's natural to assume that a younger dog will need more outdoor exercise than an adult canine. But it's important to note that the bodies of puppies are quite different from the bodies of adult dogs. That's because little pups are not as physically mature as adult dogs, and therefore are not ready for the types of exercise that can result in sharp or repeated impact. Even long walks might tire your poor pooch.

Let's take a look at the anatomy of a dog. Dogs' leg bones have soft areas of immature bones called growth plates. When the animal reaches 9 to 16 months old (depending on the breed), calcium and minerals harden the soft areas of the bone. After the bones harden, dogs typically stop growing and the growth plates close. Before the bones have a chance to mature, the growth plates can be injured or fractured. High impact activities and pretty much any hard play might cause the dog's bone to cease growing or even grow the wrong way.

This is why it's important to monitor the type of exercise that your puppy participates in. That means activities like jumping up in the air to catch Frisbees, jogging on concrete and rough terrain and hurdling objects should be left to the older dogs. By avoiding high- endurance activities and high-impact outdoor exercises, you are protecting your puppy's growth plates.

Can She Come Out and Play?

Just because your puppy should get less outdoor exercise than an adult dog, doesn't mean she should not exercise at all. Getting regular exercise is extremely important for a dog's mental and physical state no matter what age she is. But puppies should have outdoor exercise that is tailored for them. The U.K. Kennel Club says that puppies need five minutes of exercise?EUREURper month of age up to twice a day. In other words a 3-month-old puppy will need 15 minutes of exercise while a 4-month-old will need 20 minutes.

So how do you know when it's time to introduce her to adult dog exercise? It depends on the type of dog your puppy will grow up to become. For example, if your puppy won't get any larger than 25 pounds (11 kilograms), then it's recommended that she refrain from "adult dog" exercises until she turns at least 9 months old. If she'll end up weighing between 25 to 100 pounds (11 to 45 kilograms), it's best to wait until she's at least 14 months old. If she'll be a big girl tipping the scale at 100 pounds (45 kilograms) or more, you can introduce these activities to her when she is at least a year and a half old.

Short walks, swimming in warm water for short time periods, and, of course, general play with soft toys are great exercises for little pups. (Just leaving her out in the yard on her own may not be provide enough exercise.) And when they get older, the time will come for them to run with the big dogs.

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