Q. Our 6-month-old Labrador retriever puppy has so much energy I’ve started taking him to doggie day care so he can play with other dogs, but even that’s not enough to tire him out. I’m thinking about taking him along on my runs, but my dog trainer says it’s a bad idea. She says that too much exercise early on can lead to joint problems. Is that true?
Though it seems everyone from Dr. Mother-in-Law to Dr. Google has an opinion, the truth is that veterinary medicine has no definitive answers on what we call “precocious exercise.”
There has been lots of research on the subject in thoroughbred racehorses, but only a couple of studies involving dogs. One found that any exercise –– even playing with other dogs –– was a risk factor for osteochondritis dissecans, a disease of the joints that afflicts young, growing dogs. The other found that some types of exercise, such as stick and ball chasing, were risk factors for hip dysplasia and elbow arthrosis in Labs.
These two studies are probably how the Internet got populated with all sorts of “no” recommendations for pups: No running on hard surfaces, no jumping or twisting exercises, no stick or ball chasing, no more than 10 minutes of exercise at a stretch, and no longer than a half mile walk or run.
But these restrictions don’t seem reasonable for the average high-energy puppy. After all, wolf pups run with their packs for miles at a stretch with no orthopedic repercussions. And how else are pups to expend all their energy without taking it out on your sofa?
That’s why most veterinarians suggest you apply common sense, allowing pups to exercise as much as they want to but delaying any serious athletic training until after the growth plates have closed.
Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice in South Miami. Her website is drpattykuhly.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or Dr. Dolittler, Tropical Life, The Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172.