We always want our puppy by our side, to share along with our passions, and to be healthy. And, frankly, running with a puppy is absolutely adorable. But at what age it’s safe to start running is a critical component.
When can I start running with my puppy? A puppy needs to reach full physical development before going on runs — For the average puppy, at about 12 months. But smaller breeds develop earlier, usually around 6 to 8 months, while larger breeds can develop in 12 to 18 months and as long as 20.
Maintaining low-impact exercises in a puppy is vital until fully developed. Too much stress on their joints or injuring the growth plate can cause severe injuries and long-term damage.
By knowing the risks, and maturation of your puppy’s breed, you can start to introduce daily exercise to be ready for future runs.
Puppy development stages
The average puppy reaches full development at around one year of age. Larger breeds develop slower at about 12 to 18 months, while smaller breeds mature as soon as 6 to 8 months.
Full physical development is when a puppy’s growth plate is fully closed, reducing the risk of long-term injuries to bones and joints.
As a general rule, a puppy should receive 5 minutes of playtime, twice a day, for each month of age.
A 2-month-old puppy should have structured playtime for 10 minutes daily. Playtime during early development should be gentle and focused on obedience training while stimulating their mind.
At around ten to twelve weeks, the second round of vaccinations should be done, allowing for walks and exploring the outside world. A puppy’s walks should be short, often, and gentle.
A puppy’s risk of long-term injury is still very high at ten to twelve weeks. Even walking on stairs before three months of age increases the risk of developing hip dysplasia, according to a study published in the National Library of Medicine.
Puppies reach pre-adolescence at around six months. You can introduce 30-minute walks and short hikes during this time, but running should be kept to short sprints when playing.
Long runs aren’t safe for every dog
If you have a healthy, adult dog whose breed can withstand long runs, then running together is a healthy, fun exercise you both will enjoy.
Aside from cardiovascular health, running with your dog provides motivation, is excellent for safety, and can ease your pup’s anxiety.
However, running isn’t an option for every dog. Consider these factors before deciding if you should run with your dog:
- Medical conditions
Puppies have a voracious appetite yet typically remain thin and healthy. But, some breeds, like Golden Retrievers and Labradors, tend to overeat, leading to obesity.
Since we see our dogs daily, any weight gain may become lost on us. Before running with your puppy — and as frequently as you like — do a quick examination for signs of weight gain.
When viewing from the side and top profile, a puppy should have a defined taper after their rib cage. Also, each rib should be defined and easily discernible to a light touch.
Overweight dogs are at high risk of injury due to the stress on the joint. Even if you maintain a strict healthy diet, the cause of weight gain could be a symptom of an underlying medical issue.
Growth injury risks to puppies
Growth plates are located in the thigh and shin bone. The plates allow the bones to grow, closing over time until fully fusing to stop further growth.
Early injuries to growth plates can cause many long-term conditions, including:
- Hip Dysplasia
- Early onset arthritis
- Gait (a step defect)
Hip dysplasia — common in many breeds — is a disorder where the hip socket doesn’t fully support the ball. It’s also the most likely result of early trauma from overexercising puppies.
With a better understanding of the development of puppies — and the risks of running — how can you tell when your puppy is ready to run?
Since a fused growth plate stops bones from growing, your best option is to keep a measurement of your puppy’s height as they grow. By researching your dog’s breed, you can find approximate height estimates to determine if full growth is near.
Always check with your veterinarian before running with a puppy.
Patience is difficult when we want to include our pups in a special event. We can better ensure them a happy, long life by delaying that satisfaction today.
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