Puppy love is exploding in the Escobar home with our newest addition, Sealah. Adding a new puppy to your pack is exciting. Puppies require a lot of training, planning and more training. Afterall, are we ever really done with training once our dogs leave puppyhood?
In my opinion, no. I think it’s worth a mention that puppyhood is from birth until the growth plates are closed.
There is a lot of controversy surrounding the topic of growth plates. It is usually one extreme or another. “Don’t exercise the puppy or you will damage the growth plates” or “there is no stopping my puppy who was born to catch items thrown high in mid air!” Then you will find the rest of us somewhere in between.
So what are growth plates anyway? The growth plate is the region of bone in a growing dog that results in lengthening of a bone, and therefore the limb. More or less, this is how dogs grow. Growth plates close at a predictable age, based on the size of the dog. Toy and miniature breeds generally have closed growth plates at 6-8 months of age, while some growth plates of large or giant breeds may remain open until 14-16 months of age. Keep in mind that most growth in height is completed before the growth plates completely close.
So can you exercise your puppy? I hope you do, puppies need exercise! Exercise is a physical outlet as well as a mental release. There are lots of exercises that a puppy can participate in as well as learned skills (mental) that prepare them for adulthood without risking their well being. In my opinion, encouraging your puppy to leap from excessive heights or repetitive crash landings from high frisbee/ball/stick air catches would be examples of things not to do. If you want to play frisbee with your puppy have them wait until the frisbee has landed before sending them to retrieve it. This will teach your puppy impulse control and forward focus, two useful skills to have later on.
Puppy activities ideally should focus on balance, proprioception and building confidence. Introducing your puppy to games “training” early on is a great way to ensure your puppy opts in to working with you for years to come.
Remember that your puppy is a “baby,” and therefore; has a very short attention span. With that in mind, keep sessions short, purposeful, and most importantly fun.
If you are following along with my newest addition Sealah, you will see I do lots of surface and balance training with her. Setting up an obstacle course with my FitPaws balance equipment and other various items from around house. I like for my puppies to touch as many different surfaces as possible. I like inflated equipment (used slightly inflated) as this promotes weight shifting side to side, gripping, builds confidence and strengthens our bond.
All activities are completed with slow and controlled movements. Although it may appear these obstacle courses are just meaningless fun gymnastics for puppies, they serve a purpose. Walking over stimulating surfaces such as the FitPaws balance equipment (that have little nubs on one side) serve as nerve receptors and that will in turn help my puppy increase her limb and body awareness (proprioception skills).
A puppy’s confidence is built on trust along with slow exposure to new environments and situations. Using balance equipment and intentional movements in an outlined fitness plan is a great way to bank confidence for your new puppy. Remember to keep all training sessions short, fun and most importantly positive. We want to leave our pups wanting more, not dreading future training session.
PRO TIP: To keep yourself on pace with short sessions try the treat cup method. Count out 10 treats and place them in a cup. When those 10 treats are gone, your session is complete. Remember always leave your puppy wanting to play more games with you.