Should you restrict how much exercise your puppy has?

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One reader is concerned about how much exercise her black Labrador puppy should be given. YD expert Vicky Payne advises.

Q: We got a new puppy during the pandemic (now 12 weeks old); she’s a black Labrador and has settled into her new home really well. We are first-time dog owners and want to make sure we get her off to the best possible start. I’ve read a lot about restricting exercise and preventing your pup from running up and down stairs, and jumping on furniture, but this seems to be applied mainly to dogs with potential back issues such as Dachshunds. Should we be restricting where our Labrador puppy goes and how much exercise she has? What are the health risks if we don’t?

Carol Schneider, Nottinghamshire.

Vicky says:  There is a careful balance to be struck with puppies between protecting their joints and giving enough exercise to allow the bones and joints to develop normally. The most critical time for normal hip development in breeds such as Labradors is before 12 weeks. Puppies with access to stairs or raised on slippery floors during this time have a higher risk of developing hip dysplasia. Puppies don’t need to go out for long walks on the lead, and should be allowed to take their time and rest as they need to. Free play on their own is usually safe, and you will see short bursts of running and jumping followed by flopping down for a rest. Repetitive jumping over obstacles, on and off sofas, and other high-impact activities such as agility are not recommended for growing pups. If your puppy is allowed on the sofa, lift her until she can jump on cleanly with less risk of falling. Falling and landing awkwardly can cause greenstick fractures in a pup’s soft bones. The same precautions should be taken when getting in and out of the car. Having some controls on exercise in place until your Labrador is fully grown might reduce the risk of hip, elbow, and stifle problems in later life..

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