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I was talking to a friend the other day who has a 7 month old lab. She talked about how much energy he had and that she’d been running with him for a few miles each day. I suggested she rethink that, and she asked why. Labs and other larger dogs have growth plates that don’t close until the dog is over a year old. It varies with each breed – with labs it can be up to 14 months, golden retrievers – 16 to 18 months. Most responsible breeders of large dogs recommend that you refrain from extensive running and walking until the dog is two years old.
Why? Long forced walks or runs can injure soft tissues and these growth plates. When the growth plates are injured at a young age, it can result in arthritis and joint problems as the dog ages.
So what kind of exercise can she do for her young dog? Free exercise such as playing in a back yard on grass or other soft surfaces is fine. This way, the dog can change speed and direction, resulting in a better conditioning of her dog. Short bursts of running are fine. Playing recall games, working with training are also good forms of exercise because it gives the dog mental stimulation as well. The best exercise however is swimming. It’s a complete body workout and just a short time in the pool chasing a ball or swimming laps will tire the young pup out, and never do damage to the joints. Because my friend has a pool, I suggested to her that she teach the dog to swim and skip the runs for now. Hopefully she’ll take my advice…