- If the dog is able to build strong joints and good basic muscles at an early age, it will give the dog a good starting point for a healthy body ready for an active life in adulthood. Physical activity is important for the puppy to develop healthy and well-nourished joints that are less prone to injury, says Kristin Halle. She is a veterinarian with further training in veterinary chiropractic, osteopathy for dogs and horses, sports medicine for dogs and specialization in neurology with a diploma from IAVC - International Academy of Veterinary Chiropractic
The importance of physical activity
Physical activity is generally important for building a healthy and strong body that will last the dog's life. The physical activity should always take place on the puppy's terms, at a calm pace and with free expression. Gradually you can go for more and more walks as the puppy gets older. At the same time, it is important not to expose the puppy to frequent and heavy loads such as a lot of stairs and too much intensive play with sudden movements. Puppy life should consist of pleasurable activities with lots of exploration, enough rest and lots of fun.
Take the puppy for good walks but do not overexercise
Kristin Halle says that studies have been carried out on the training of puppies. The studies showed that the puppies that were allowed to move a lot (several kilometers a day, compared to a few kilometers a day) increased cartilage thickness, the content of glucosamine and glucans. Among other things, this helps to "lubricate" the dog's joints. The studies also showed that the puppies that walked extremely far every day (4 miles every day) had, among other things, poorer cartilage formation. It was also negative for the puppy's body with static ball throwing and intense play with other dogs - especially on hard and slippery surfaces.
Let the puppy explore
The puppy needs to explore the world around him. They have no need to go for long walks on the asphalt on a leash. Instead, let the puppy sniff the flowers, trip over twigs and learn to coordinate and balance its body in rough terrain without a leash. During the off-leash period, you can put a long leash on the puppy. It is important to remember that the puppy is like a baby. It is not how far you go that counts, but what the puppy gets to experience on the way. Kristin advises against taking your puppy on long jogging and skiing trips. - A puppy is terrified of being abandoned by the pack. It will follow its owner until it drops, no matter how tired it is, she says.
Playing and ball throwing consists of many sudden and intense movements. It is easier for injuries to occur when the growth zones in the joints are not closed. This does not mean that dogs should not play or socialize with other dogs. On the other hand, it may be wise to be aware of who and what kind of dogs the puppy plays with. Young dogs are often wilder in play. Small dogs in particular can be injured playing with wild, large dogs. You can alternate between playing and going for quiet walks on a leash, searching for treats or going for walks in the woods with other dogs. They really benefit from learning to be calm around other dogs.
Forest walk with the puppy
- A good training session for the puppy can be for you to take a bag and packed lunch with you on a walk in the forest. Sit down and let the puppy explore and roam around on its own. It then has the opportunity to take breaks when it is tired, and to be active when it is rested completely on its own terms. Let the puppies' paws get a feel for different surfaces, balance on tree trunks and other obstacles in the forest. If you see the puppy lying down, the puppy is tired. Then give it a longer break or carry it with you in a rucksack.
Differenciate the training
Kristin Halle recommends varied training. Both for the puppy and for the adult dog. Even if you are going to train an agility dog, it is at least as important, if not more important, to train variedly on other things outside the agility course to avoid injuries. Everything from quiet walks on a leash, to ski and mountain tours, strength training, walking on rough terrain in the forest and in the mountains. Vary both gaits, intensity and length of the walking and training sessions.
The dog's body adapts
Many dog owners, especially those with large breeds, are often advised to spare the dog as much as possible physical stress until it is around one year old. What is important to know is that the body adapts to the activity it is exposed to. If you wait until the young dog is a full year old before you take it on trips and activities, this could have negative consequences for the dog later on. It is important to have regular physical activity from when the puppy is small, so that the body can adapt and not get shocked if the dog only starts moving at the age of one year. The physical build-up should be gradual and calm, but inactivity is downright unhealthy.
Stairs with dog
- Take it slow! There is a difference if you live on the 4th floor of a block of flats and have to go up and down the stairs several times a day, than if you have a couple of steps the puppy has to go up and down, says Kristin. Climbing stairs can be a burden if done often and a lot. At the same time, the puppy should learn to coordinate its steps and climb stairs at an early age, so that this does not become a problem when it gets older and you can no longer carry it.
Teach the puppy to calm down
Teaching puppies to be calm is something many people forget. If you go for long walks every single day, and it is only exposed to high-intensity activities, you will quickly get a stressed dog that cannot calm down. Introduce one or more rest days a week early on, and make sure the puppy gets plenty of rest between each activity. You will get this back for later, and it will be easier for the dog to adapt if you fall ill or one day do not have the opportunity for a long walk or a lot of activity. Not least mental training is extremely important! Nose work in particular often has a calming effect on many dogs.
What is too much activity for a puppy?
Some puppies lie down or clearly show that they are tired and fatigued. It is then important to listen to this and give the puppy a longer rest break. Many puppies can also increase in intensity when they are tired. They bite more, run more, and put in an extra gear. They simply get overtired. If the activity they have been involved in lasted a little too long, or contained too many impressions, the puppy can often struggle to find peace when it comes home. Then the best solution is to adjust the activity down, perhaps go for a shorter walk next time and help it to calm down.
Enjoy your time with your puppy and take good care of it!