.but please .... not too much .... too soon.
Never more than five minutes per day for each month of its age.
A 4 month old puppy should be limited to 20mins daily free running
To understand why we say this, we need to have a very quick look at bone and joint growth and development in puppies - particularly those of larger dogs like Labradors.
A puppy bones / joints don’t fully set until they’re at least 12 months old.
Until the bones have fully hardened - the hip and elbow joints will not fully set.
Until this happens, any over exercise of these joints, will result in a loose and irregular final fit.
Even though both parents may have excellent hip / elbow scores, it’s still very possible for a puppy to develop hip / elbow dysplasia - caused by over exercise.
There’s no real cure for this - and at best - will result in painful arthritis.
Read that again - please - it’s important!
Let’s have a look at how you can help prevent this tragedy happening to your puppy.
For the first couple of months, an 4ft x 4ft “solid concrete” based outside pen is
“more than enough” - providing plenty of room for sun-bathing / playing and free exercise.
The arrangement on the right is made from a disused guinea pig run.
Note that it's nicely protected from the weather and ideal for those first few months.
Alternatively - and during the summer months - a pen made up of “exterior”
quality panels - plugging into a “flat” lawn is fine.
To try to save your lawn, you’ll need to pick a new site each day.
Having said all that, by far the best arrangement that
I’ve found is the Crufts puppy pen.
It’s “self contained” - and can easily be moved around the
outside of the house - or inside - as the seasons vary and winds change.
It comes with a removable and washable floor - very helpful!
If you’ve ever tried cleaning puppy ”poo” off a lawn or a
concrete floor or patio, you’ll fully appreciate the
advantage of that.
At 3 months, start daily walks on a “non-extending”lead.
Find a good “firm” surface like a road.
Start with about 100 yards, gradually building up the
distance to, at 6 months, about 300 yards.
This provides an opportunity to introduce your dog the
outside world of traffic, people and the general noises of everyday life.
If a car approaches, kneel and gently “re-assure” your puppy. Try to look at life from its level.
There’s this enormous and noisy “animal - type - thing” rushing towards it!
Apart from being loving, it helps to establish you as a caring “Pack Leader”.
If - when out walking - your puppy stops and sits down, you’ve almost certainly overdone it and
will need to be carried home.
Never allow your puppy free running with an older dog - it will try to keep up!
By all means let them meet and play for 4 or 5 minutes, but keep it within the pen or a small confined area - under your ever watchful eye - see "OLDER DOGS"
There’s nothing worse for a puppy’s hips and elbows than allowing it to run up and down stairs.
If you really want it upstairs, carry it up - and down again.
Speaking frankly - I would avoid them altogether - until it’s at least 2 years old
At 6 months, free running should be moderate at first, 20 minutes per day, on that “ firm” surface. Swimming is excellent exercise - just be careful about how it gets in and out of the water.
Steep, muddy banks are definitely “not good”.
At 9 months,remembering all that we’ve said so far, the combination of walks on the lead and free running can build up to 30 minutes / 1 mile ...on a good “ firm” surface.
If you can do all these things - then at 12-15 months your young dog should be healthy, fully developed, and, with proper training, will happily travel much further than you’d dream of.
It'll love it - and come back for more.
We can’t over-stress the importance of being very careful for that first year!
Just in passing .......
Never allow your dog to remain cold and wet after a swim or walk in the rain.
Towel dry as best you can, not forgetting the ears (be gentle with the insides) and the tail.
Never allow your dog to have vigorous exercise - just before or after a meal.
You or I would get indigestion - it could be fatal for your dog.
Up until it’s at least 15 months old, don’t allow it to jump up or down from the back of the car .
It’s bad for its hips and elbows.