How much exercise is OK for a puppy, and when?
The questions of whether puppies can jog with their owners and how far, if they can start agility, and if they are ok doing walks of a mile or two, come up all the time. Many owners don't realise puppies need -- and should be given -- LESS exercise than full grown dogs . If you are wondering what activities are OK, a good rule of thumb for a puppy is: would I do this exercise with a 4 year old child? The answer is often going to be no. For example: adults wouldn't take a small child jogging or running, or put them through intense exercise, or take them on long walks. Their bones and joints aren't ready for it.
The consensus amongst many vets and trainers certainly seems to be that people increasingly put their adults dog's long term joint health at risk by unknowingly, overexercising their puppies [/B](eg dogs under a year, whose growth plates have not closed -- this may be 15 months or so for larger breeds). Maybe it's because more people are at work during the day, compared to when we were kids, and they want to give their pup lots of activity once they get home, or on the weekend.
Contrary to popular belief, owners CANNOT rely on their puppy (or adult!) dog letting them know when they have had enough. Dogs will generally do any fun activity their owner wants them to do enthusiastically, and they will very often not show they are tired, or even on the brink of heat exhaustion or starting to hurt, until damage is done.
There are medical studies that indicate dogs are at an increased risk of bone, joint and cartilage problems as well as more severe and earlier onset arthritis when overexercised when young. Cavaliers are already a breed with higher than normal levels of hip dysplasia and knee problems (luxation, where the knee pops out of joint), so we definitely need to keep the risks of overexercise in mind for our dogs.
In general vets and trainers advise:
- Puppies should only be walked a minute for every WEEK of age, or 5 minutes per MONTH of age, before adulthood (age 1). Easy guide: 15 minutes per every 3 months of age
- No agility until over 12-18 months. Responsible agility instructors will NOT accept puppies under this age into agility classes, except sometimes for specially designed puppy fun agility, where they do mild activities with no jumps or fast changes of direction
- Puppies are NEVER appropriate running or jogging companions -- AND cavaliers generally are not considered a very good choice as a jogging companion, as their short face can put them at higher risk of breathing difficulties and heat stroke. Please choose another breed or cross, if running with your dog is a priority
- Vets say puppies should never do "forced" exercise -- which means anything they would not do with puppies their own age. That means gentle to active puppy play is fine; active play with adult dogs may not be. Running around by choice in the garden is OK, running with an owner or behind a bike is not. Long walks are NOT OK. Wild canid pups do NOT go on long hikes with their pack -- they remain in and around the den for many, many months.
Here are two good articles on this issue:
Kennel Club: http://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/gett...d-dog-walking/
Puppyhood is a brief and wonderful time. Let your puppy enjoy it with age appropriate, puppy-level activities that you both can cherish . It won't be long til this stage is over forever and you can launch into a fresh choice of new, adult activities. Taking care of your baby cavalier means many more healthful years together.