How Far is too Far? Tips for exercising and walking your puppy.
If you recently brought a new puppy into your home, you probably also realized that they have enough energy to out-play even the most playful human. More often than not, that energy doesn't always come out in the form of cute puppy play. A lot of puppies turn that energy into destructive behavior or plain rude behavior (ever been nipped at by a puppy?). In our case, Sancho, who is currently 5 1/2 months (DOB: 10/21/2016) is luckily not the destructive type, but he does always want to play extremely rough with our other dog, Oly. Normally I wouldn't mind it too much because they are both tough bully breeds (Sancho is a Staffordshire Bull Terrier & Oly is a pitbull/american bulldog/something-or-other mutt), but Oly has a torn ligament in each knee which will be repaired in the near future. So needless to say, as much as Sancho wants to act like Nacho Libre and wrestle non-stop with Oly, I need to find another way for him to exert his energy. This is why I turned to walking - walking for miles.
If you know me personally, then you already know that fitness is a huge part of my life. If you don't know me, I usually CrossFit about 4-5 times a week... However, since we brought Sancho home, our routine completely changed since we had to stick to a puppy feeding schedule and potty schedule. Basically, having a puppy is kind of like having a new born toddler and this led to me slacking in the workout department! So I thought to myself - how can I incorporate a good workout with Sancho? The first thing that came to mind was running.
I've never ever been much of a runner. My biggest accomplishment had been running 3 miles without stopping during one of our grueling wods (workout of the day). So, this was perfect, I thought! A new fitness challenge and I'll get all that energy out of Sancho!! Peace in the household was sure to come alas! Then a little voice inside my head said "Do some research, Milena. He's only 4 months!"
Sure enough, once I did the trusty ol' google search, I came across articles that said it's best to wait until they are adults. Yes, I was bummed, but knowing how many different internet opinions there are out there which contradict each other, I kept searching for more info. What I gathered from my "research" was that puppies have what are called growth plates. Growth plates are soft cartilage that are at the end of their long bones (like the femur and tibia). These growth plates don't close until the puppy is well between 10 to 18 months of age and they are more vulnerable to injuries prior to reaching that age. Naturally, damaging or injuring the growth plate cells can lead to all kind of bad things like deformity or them not hardening and closing when they're supposed to. This could lead to one extremity growing longer than the other even if it's just a little, that can cause things like hip dysplasia. As a side note, the smaller the breed, the faster their growth plates harden from calcium and minerals that they get from puberty hormones which explains why larger breeds like our Oly are more predisposed to these issues.
So after learning all that, I decided what would work best for us for the time being is taking him on long walks. They usually last anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour which ends up being 2.75 - 3.5 miles at the pace we go. We keep this steady pace and I always make sure that he doesn't seem overexerted. I ALWAYS make sure to take the shadiest routes possible too. Any season in Miami is no joke when it comes to heat, let alone summer so always make sure to take a bit of water with you as well if you'll be out for an hour or more to stop and give your puppy a break.
Please keep in mind as I mentioned above, that Sancho is a strong Staffordshire Bull Terrier. They are naturally athletic dogs, and we built up to these lengthy walks. If you're just getting started, start off with a short walk and build up from there. Just like humans who need to warm up and gradually get used to working out, so do they. Also, please remember that although most of my friends and family think I am a puppy expert, I am not. So please be sure to check with your veterinarian for your particular puppy breed's needs and limitations.