(Article by VK9 Trainer, Samantha Lee, CCFT)

Young dogs are full of energy which often leads owners to allow excessive running or play in an effort to get all of their energy out… because who doesn’t love a tired puppy.

But excessive exercise causes much more harm than good because the joints they use most during exercise are where their growth plates are located.

If you have a young dog, you need to be your dog’s advocate because they have no self preservation. Below are charts displaying where your dog’s growth plates are located along with a general timeline of how long it takes for them to close.

Here are SIX basic tips for injury prevention:

  1. If you have a young dog, leash exercise is always the safest because you can manage their movements and activity.
  2. Stick to level ground for your walks, no big hill climbs and keep your walks 1 mile or under.

  3. Dog parks and dog daycare are very dangerous for young dogs because it is uncontrolled exercise with lots of high impact movements during play with dogs of various sizes so their risk of injury from another dog is very high.

  4. To expel their energy, training and mental stimulation is the BEST and SAFEST way!

  5. Be creative! There are lots of ways to utilize low impact activities to exercise your young dog mentally and physically!

    • Use fun food toys and puzzles (brands to consider: Kong, WestPaw, Starmark)

    • Whole ingredient chews (always make sure to supervise closely when your dog has a digestible chew AND that the chew is 2X or more larger than your dog’s mouth so that they can not swallow it)

    • Solo play with you such as fetch, flirt pole or tug

    • Creating safe interactions and play with dogs. Keep it 1-on-1, a dog similar to your dog’s size and in a controlled setting such as a backyard

  6. Playing fetch, flirt pole and tug of war needs to be controlled meaning having a leash or long line on your young dog AND ensuring all  4 paws are on the ground.

Safe play tips:

  • For fetch play – roll the ball to ensure the ball doesn’t take a bad hop encouraging a dangerous jump.
  • For Flirt pole – drag it on the ground encouraging your young dog to chase it without jumping vertically.
  • For tug play – stay low! control the fun by keeping all 4 paws on the ground while you tug.

Play it safe

The thing to keep in mind is that your puppy is growing at an exponential rate and even if your dog does not show any pain or discomfort, repeated high impact activity can cause long term issues such as bad hips or elbows. Continued minor muscle and growth plate strains can make your dog vulnerable to future injuries including sprains, ligament tears and more.

Muscle diagrams

Here are 3 muscle diagrams depicting the muscles used on the 3 most common physical exercises: swimming, running and extended walks. All of these exercises impact the main areas of your dog’s body where their growth plates are located which makes your young dog more susceptible to injury during exercising.

growth plates dogsgrowth plates dogs

hiking with dogs growth plates

Thank you so much for sharing this information with us, Samantha!