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The age your puppy should start structured running does matter.
Puppies are not fully developed and should not be run at all unless it is in the form of natural play. You should wait to fully run your dog until the growth plates have closed, usually at 18 months.
As a general rule light activity is recommended to start a 9-12 month old puppy, building towards full activity from 12-18 months. Dog breeds like Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Rotweillers and others that are susceptible to hip dysplasia should be a full 18 months old before full structured runs should take place.
For a list of good running dog breeds check this Runner's World article: A Breed Apart.
Once your puppy reaches 18 months you should start light activity, do short runs and try to run on softer surfaces such as trails or grassy areas as opposed to pavement.
In the meantime it is still important that your puppy get appropriate exercise. Walking on soft surfaces is highly recommended to begin building ligaments and muscle tissue around bones that are still growing. The foundation can be instrumental in avoiding physical problems in the future.
No. You can certainly take your dog out on these surfaces as a segway to get somewhere or on a limited bases. After all, these surfaces are part of life and your puppy does need to begin acclimating to them.
You can also begin incorporating tricks that actually are building core strength along with ligaments and muscle tissue. Sit pretty is one of those tricks that uses a dog’s front legs and feet to push off, core strength to hold themselves up and builds muscle in the hind legs as a foundation.
Watch the steps to teaching sit pretty in this video. The video shows sit pretty as a warm up for dogs older than 18 months who need an alternative exercise plan using a treadmill to meet their physical and behavior needs.
Age matters in older dogs as well. The fact of the matter is older dogs are going to feel a workout more than a younger dog. Just like the aging process in humans it is a fact, things in our bodies get stiff and sore in a different way then when we were younger.
That being said it is important to keep an older dog moving. Watch for signs of fatigue, limping or soreness and base your running sessions on these factors. There are many dogs that keep going strong into old age. It has been my experience that these dogs are those who have been active their entire life.
Hmmmm, same with people! Another lesson from our dogs.
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Jt Clough has worked with dogs in many capacities for the past 16 years. She has helped dogs and their people from training to healthy living and her latest inspiration is with Wonder Dog Fund, created to help pay veterinary bills for dogs that are in need of health care. When her own dog was riddled with a neck injury that came with a $12,000 fee, she realized how many people are faced with difficult decisions when a sudden injury or illness strikes their dog. A portion of every purchase from WonderDogGear.org goes to Wonder Dog Fund, providing financial relief for dog veterinary costs.