Exercise Considerations:

  1. Understand your dog’s individual exercise needs and talk with your veterinarian about proper exercise tips.
  2. A consistent exercise regimen can go a long way in curtailing behavior problems.
  3. Make sure your environment is safe and secure.
  4. Ask your veterinarian how much exercise is too much at each stage of life.
  5. Ask your veterinarian how little exercise is too little at each stage of life.
  6. Find out from your veterinarian any specific breed requirements or conditions that might change the way you and your pet exercise.
  7. Discuss with your veterinarian the type of containment area that will provide optimal exercise opportunities for your pet.
  8. Remember to start slow and build up your pet’s exercise plan.
  9. Weather can play a big role in your daily exercise schedule. Cold, snow, ice, heat, storms, and wind can change your exercise plans daily. Be sure to have back up plans in case of foul weather.
  10. If your pet shows any signs of discomfort or pain during or after exercise, let your veterinarian know. They can give your dog a check up and look for any signs of arthritis or exercise related injury. Many new medications will allow your pet to continue with healthy exercise even as age and arthritis reduce their activity levels.
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Exercise is critical to your pup’s mental and physical health, but too much or the wrong kind can injure him. Here are a few guidelines:

In general, the larger the breed, the more careful you need to be. Giant breeds who are growing unbelievably quickly can get sprains or twists easily during rough play with other active or powerful dogs. These dogs can be better off during the first year playing by themselves or with one appropriate playmate at a time. The dog run, which looks like such a good time, can be a bad idea. Would you let a first grader play football with junior high kids? No, and it is an equally bad idea to allow a young pup to play off lead with older, bigger, better-conditioned, more experienced animals.

Also, if your pup is hurt as a young dog, he may generalize this bad experience to all dogs and take the offensive in the future. That is how some aggressive dogs are created.

In general, the less hard stopping and turning, the better. Again, be extra cautious with the larger breeds. Toy breeds can play fetch and not risk injury, but a lanky German Shepherd Dog or Great Dane might be at risk. With these larger dogs, we play fetch up slight slopes or wait for the ball to stop rolling before I let the pup go, and we always play on nonslippery surfaces.

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The first thing to do when you get to the dog run is sit outside. Watch the other dogs play. Is it a rough-and-tumble group or a sedate, sniff-and-trot kind of crowd?

What is your pup doing? Straining at his lead to get in or tucked behind your legs, watching from safety? A bold pup can be brought up to the fence. Chances are the other dogs will come over for a sniff and a general hello. Again, watch your pup. Eager or overwhelmed?

Either way, wait until the pack loses interest, then walk your pup near the fence but still outside. This may stimulate more interest, but what kind? If a dog starts running alongside, barking, or has his tail up and stiff, or is lunging at your pup through the fence, or your gut warns you something isn’t right—don’t go in.

If your pup is frightened or lagging behind, don’t go in. Walking along the outside or observing quietly is plenty. Give your pup plenty of distance from the action until he relaxes.

Another idea is to meet one of his puppy play pals at the run and let them romp together. Same tests before you go in, but if the group inside is basically quiet, let your friends play. Nothing gives one confidence like having a buddy by your side.

Hiring a trainer, to come to the dog run the first couple of trips can be a wise investment in your pup’s safety and your own sanity. Rule of law: Never throw down food or a coveted toy amid multiple dogs. That’s a perfect recipe for a fight, and you don’t want your pup to be in the middle.

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Dog runs and play areas are wonderful, as long as you apply some safety rules. Some pups of small breeds need to be protected from themselves. They cannot be allowed to play with much larger animals no matter how much they want to romp. They are not aware of the risks they are taking. Some cities offer small-dog runs; seek these out (or create them) in your area.

While most adult dogs will give a young pup “carte blanche,” dogs just out of the young juvenile period may come down hard on the younger pups. Older pups nine to twelve months or so are often dishing out the roughest play in the run—not simply because they are young and exuberant, but also because they are protective of their new, tenuous ranking at the bottom of the group and always looking to move up a bit by putting some younger dog below them in line.

This normal, natural behavior needs to be watched. Allowing your pup to be played with roughly can look like great fun, but it increases the chances of injury (with your pup at greatest risk), and it teaches your pup to play this way when he reaches that age.

It is a better plan to have him play with calmer, older dogs, who likely won’t add to his energy level or play the canine version of “stuff his head in the toilet and flush.”

These adults will start setting clear boundaries when your pup reaches about five months old. They may growl at, pin, or stand over your pup, who may yelp, squeal, freeze in place, or urinate a bit. This is usually both normal and beneficial for dogs who will be doing a lot of group play in the future.

What is not normal is an adult dog who continues to go after the pup even when the pup has submitted (lowered his body, rolled over, lucked his tail). This needs to be stopped immediately but calmly.

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At a distance where your nervous pup is comfortable, show her a treat. Now, walk with her toward the dog run and stop before she stops. Stop, praise, treats, retreat. (if she stops first, retreat quietly and try again). Repeat. As she links getting treats with being nearer the dog run, she should be willing to go closer. If she is, great. If she isn’t, no matter. Just park yourself on a bench nearby and read the paper. Let her watch and learn.

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Roly-poly pups may look cute, but this is not always the best for healthy growth. You want your pup lean and strong. Extra weight can put extra pressure on her growing joints. We’re not advising that she be ribby, just sleek and streamlined—getting all the nutrition she needs but not extra calories.

Looking down on your pup, you should see a slight waist behind the ribs, and when you look from the side, she should have some tuck-up. Each of these things varies from breed to breed, so talk to people knowledgeable in your breed and to your veterinarian.

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Yes, long walks are pleasant, and you will have years of them ahead of you. But taking slower, loose-lead walks is a better idea during rapid growth. Some dogs will try too hard to keep up and can stress their young bodies. Instead, start slow and short, then work up to longer distances. Check with your veterinarian and breeder before starting this sort of program.

Biking and running with your dog are terrific forms of exercise, but not until he is full-grown orthopedically, which would be eighteen to twenty-four months depending on the breed. (Medium breeds might be okay at a year; again, consult with your veterinarian). Grass and earth are easier on a growing dog than concrete, so let him exercise on natural surfaces whenever possible.

Know your breed! A brachiocephalic (short-nosed) breed such as the Bullmastiff, Pug, Boxer, or Lhasa Apso can become overheated quickly. Heat can kill these dogs. Toy breeds, as vivacious as they are, should not be biked. Never mind that it is hard for them to keep up, but even a minor accident could cause them major injury.

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Different breeds are prone to different problems, so do your research on your dog’s breed or mix. Certain symptoms should send you right off to the veterinarian. If your dog (especially toy dog) skips with a back leg up in the air, she may have a subluxating patella (slipping kneecap). If your larger breed gets up by heaving himself up on his front legs first, then pulling his rear up, if he hops upstairs or bunny hops in the rear when he runs, he may have hip problems. Limping in the front can signal a light sprain, panosteitis, or a more serious problem like elbow dysplasia or osteochondritis. Every year brings improvements in treatment, so talk to your veterinarian about options.