Q: I just got a puppy and I really want to take him running with me. When is it safe to run long distances with my puppy?
A: Running is a wonderful way to exercise your dog and enjoy time outside with him.
Most puppies have enough energy to outrun their owners and it can be difficult to assess how much exercise is too much exercise for a young dog. There are no rules for acceptable amounts of exercise for puppies so you must use common sense to determine what level of exercise your puppy can handle.
A puppy’s growth plates do not close until approximately 12 months of age, however, there is no research to say that too much exercise can affect growth prior to growth plate closure.
Having said that, it is not unreasonable to avoid long distances until your puppy has reached full growth. Also, it is important to understand that a 5-6 month old puppy is the equivalent of a 8-10 year old child and making a child run a marathon would not be appropriate at that age.
Having your puppy play with adult dogs is important but the puppy might fatigue quicker in that situation as a child would if playing with older children where the playing is different.
Monitoring your puppy’s behavior during exercise is also an effective way to gauge what may be too much exercise – are they dragging behind or unwilling to run? Those would be indications that the puppy needs a break and needs to rest.
It is also important to understand the difference between allowing your puppy to exercise freely and “forced” exercise. Some examples of “forced” exercise would include frisbee or ball chasing and jogging with the owner. These activities are fine exercises but can become too much for a puppy if not monitored closely.
Q: I have a male dog that is not neutered. I know that spaying and neutering is important and I am sensitive to the problem of too many unwanted animals in the shelters, but are there any health issues to consider if I do not neuter my dog?
A: The issue of spaying and neutering your pets is complicated and multi-faceted and must be examined on various levels.
From an animal over population point of view, it is vital that all pets be spayed and neutered as there is an epidemic of unwanted animals in our shelters that are being euthanized due to lack of resources including available adoptive homes. It is for this reason that shelters require an animal to be spayed or neutered prior to being adopted and will spay and neuter at young ages.
This practice is out of necessity rather than out of health considerations. From this standpoint, the spaying and neutering of our pets reduces the numbers of unwanted animals on the street. However, in Europe spaying and neutering your pet is not as commonplace as it is in the United States but there are more strict leash laws and fewer animals running off leash.
From a strictly health standpoint, there is some evidence to show that waiting until an animal is fully grown, or at least 9-12 months of age, before spaying and neutering can be helpful in allowing healthy maturing of the bones. Waiting this additional time to spay or neuter requires great vigilance from the owner to make sure that the animal does not accidentally breed and produce unwanted puppies, but might be helpful for appropriate growth.
For a male dog, there are minimal health issues related to staying intact except for behavioral issues that sometimes arise. Intact male dogs tend to wander more and escape enclosures as well as be more aggressive. There is a small risk of prostate issues with an intact dog that can be mitigated with neutering.
Intact females are at a higher risk of mammary cancer and infected uterus (pyometra).
If you are not going to breed your dog then it is recommended to spay or neuter to avoid any possible breeding of unwanted puppies.