Episode 5: Puppy Fitness with Kathleen Fitness In this episode we have our first guest Kathleen Shonsheck. Kathleen is a Certified Canine Fitness Trainer and is also the co-owner of Uptown Pup in Indianapolis Indiana, a facility that offers daycare, boarding, grooming, training, and fitness services for canines of all ages. For more information about how to get in touch with Kathleen you can visit uptownpupindy.com OR email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
How much exercise should a puppy get? There are guidelines that indicate 5 minutes twice a day per month of age. Kathleen recommends letting your puppy move about freely on non-slip natural surfaces, like yards, mats, rugs, etc. This classifies as exercise for a young pup and also allows for socialization to the environment. (Be sure to listen to our socialization episode, episode 3.) When a puppy gets a bit fussy or angsty that means it’s time for a nap, not over exercise.
What tends to be the issues that come up when people do too much with their puppy? There can be a disease risk when you take your dog out too much. So consult your vet in regards to exposure to environments. Puppies need to learn how to rest and relax and be alone. When dogs go everywhere with people the dog doesn’t know how to deal with spending time away from their people. Puppies need sleep 18-20 hours a day in the first six months of life. When they aren’t afforded that sleep time, it affects their brain development which creates behavioral issues.
What are some less ideal ways to exercise a puppy. What not to do… Don’t do jumping exercises until they are 1.5-2 years old or at least until a vet can confirm that their growth plates have shut. The impact with open growth plates can prevent the bone growth from growing regularly. There have been studies that have shown that most growth risks happen from too much jumping and impact from jumping. Going up and down stairs in the first three months of life can cause growth plate issues as well. Playing fetch in a way that causes the dog to jump up for a ball and come down hard on the ground can cause issues. If you are going to play fetch, roll the ball so the dog picks it up, not where the ball bounces and the puppy has to come down hard. When tugging let the dog determine the pressure and pull you, don’t pull the dog yourself.
What kind of symptoms will we see if we made some of these mistakes early on? You will see effects later if there were acute injuries early on but it’s important to not keep your dog in a bubble. Soft tissue injuries can cause long term problems. It’s most important to know your dog and recognize when something might be a little off, in which case consult your vet.
How much does breed play into the exercise style or desires of different dogs? A lot of breeds especially working breeds will work all day if you let them. They are built physically, but haven’t done any work, so it’s important to work the brains of those breeds and also getting physical exercise both. You can help this by: Doing enrichment Training Giving the dog a job It’s also important to remember that if a dog does not want to do something, there may be a pain issue there that prevents them from doing that. So make sure not to force them into activities just because they don’t seem motivated. You don’t need to wear your dog out all the time, they will wear themselves out by growing. But the above three activities will help wear them out.
It’s important for a dog to relax When a puppy is young, they may need mandated break time in their crates. This will help them learn to relax themselves when they are tired. If you let them go and go until they can’t, they will have a hard time relaxing themselves when they need to do it on their own, whether it is during play, work, etc.
What about daycare? Daycare 3-5 times a week is not ideal. It’s way too much for the puppy. Can have all the same effects as a dog is running too far behaviorally and physically. Too much exercise just creates super athletic dogs that cannot be worn out by longer and longer walks and runs. It needs to be supplemented with training and enrichment.
It’s important for dogs of all ages to work different muscle sets and getting mobility in different areas for well rounded fitness. You can get help from a certified canine fitness trainer for training plans on these movements. Training these behaviors not only works the body but also the mind.
Do you have advice for breeds that are very physically animated? Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, some dogs are just gonna do their thing, but you can try to set their environment up for success BIG TIP: Get regular vet checks and scans of your dog to make sure everything is good physically and structurally because many dogs can act normal through the pain, especially working dogs.
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