Although there is no set recipe to safely exercising your puppy, you do need to be careful and avoid overdoing it. Learning as much as you can about your breed is a good place to start. If you have acquired your new family member through a breeder, they are your best resource on how to raise your pup. If you have adopted or rescued, please be in touch with your veterinarian about when to start, and how much you should start with, when it comes to your individual pup. Growth differs greatly breed to breed, even toys, our smallest members of the canine world, have differences in growth. And consider faces and noses and general breathing too. For instance, an English Bulldog looks sturdy and can easily weigh 65+ pounds, but they have very low tolerance for heat. And watch your own pup, they are very good barometers as to how they are doing on a walk, if they are lagging or panting excessively, stop, rest and head home. The key to good exercise is in moderation on a pup, and growth plates can close anywhere from 12 months to 2 years depending on the breed and the bone. People think the more (or more often) you feed your pup, determines how much exercise is needed. If you feed small meals multiple times, this means the pup goes out to eliminate, but not to exercise excessively. Imagine you running on a full stomach. In general, small breeds mature quickly; large breed dogs grow more quickly and hit a much bigger size and weight, but they mature much more slowly and certain activities will need to be put off until they are structurally more mature. Additionally, breeds such as a Border Collie and a French Bulldog will both love playtime, but a Border Collie will have a higher exercise tolerance than a French Bulldog.


A puppy’s exercise needs will change as it grows. When the puppy is very young keep exercise limited to short walks, but interspersed with multiple play sessions, obedience training and rest. Teach your puppy to be a good citizen by walking properly on a leash. Begin with short walks and take frequent breaks. Gradually increase the length of the walk. Go for walks on different surfaces, like grass, trails, and (not too hot) sidewalks to help it grow comfortable in new environments and to have differing social interactions.


All dogs of any age require mental stimulation, but puppies and high-drive working breeds, such as German Shepherd Dogs and Border Collies, need more mental stimulation than other breeds. Work training and cognitive sessions into their exercise routine. It is just as important as exercise itself. Cognitive exercise can tire a dog physically more than physical exercise does! Encourage obedience training, sports, puzzles, games, etc. and even things to chew on for mental stimulation. If they are not stimulated through physical and positive verbal interaction, dogs will provide it to themselves through barking and jumping.


Exercise intensity is mostly a question of growth plates. Growth plates are soft areas of developing cartilage found at the ends of the dog’s long bones. They are made of cartilage when the puppy is born, but gradually they calcify and transform into denser bone as the puppy matures. As they are the last portion of the bones to harden, the plates are vulnerable to being injured and potentially fractured. An injury to a growth plate may result in damaged cells that will stop growing at the injury site but the healthy, undamaged cells on the other side will continue to grow … with the end result of bone deformity. It’s imperative that the growth of all bones is synchronized.


So when do puppy growth plates close? Generally, most growth takes place when the puppy is between the ages of 4 to 8 months. After the age of 8 months, there is minimal longitudinal growth of bones, and by one year of age, most growth plates are closed. However, in some large/giant dog breeds the growth plates remain open longer.


If you suspect an injury, seek a veterinarian’s advice. If you are unable to seek veterinary care after injury, there are some at home temporary measures that can help. Cryotherapy (ice) decreases muscle spasm by decreasing muscle metabolism, decreasing by–products (irritants). It causes muscle constriction and inhibits inflammatory mediators. All this results in pain relief.


Massage can increase arterial, venous and lymphatic flow. Tissue manipulation can clear swelling and muscles spasms and relieve soreness. It can break down and/or prevent tissue adhesions. Through sensory input to the nerves and muscles dogs can relax. It is a very good way to bond with your puppy.


Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy (PEMF), such as The Assisi Loop, is an active electromagnetic waveform delivered by antenna. It enhances nitric oxide, the body’s own anti-inflammatory. The Assisi Loop signal is FDA cleared in humans for the relief of pain and inflammation, and veterinary research supports human data. There is no known negative impact on open growth plates. And the original signal (bone growth stimulator) has been used on children (post-operatively) safely for many years. Do not ever use human over the counter drugs on your dogs, young or old, unless that use has been approved by a vet.


You will have been several times to your vet with your young pup, updating vaccines and having a puppy physical. This is a perfect time to discuss the exercise program for your individual dog. Remember to incorporate exercise for the mind with puzzles and engaging toys and always with a bit of training. As with other developmental problems, the key to avoiding them is through preparation and prevention. This leads to a great life for your canine.