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PUPPIES!! Is your "Don't Do:" column longer than the "What / When to DO:" co

...that will have enhanced learning capabilities, body awareness, self-control, the confidence necessary to cope better with environmental stresses and are at less risk for injuries!

When developing the DogWorks Puppy Program (program design information is contained in the Workbook) I wanted it to be based on pure science - not opinion or individual experience. At the time (2003) I couldn't find the research I was looking for so I turned to the most obvious sources: humans and horses. I discovered that sport and physical education programs have been following strict guidelines to protect children from injury for years. I also learned that equine athletic development changed dramatically once the trainers I spoke to realized that the majority of their two year old up-and-comers had gone and went!

What had they learned?

That immature, developing bodies cannot endure multiple, high impact/intense levels of exercise stress without long term negative effects. Early on-set micro-injuries from inappropriate levels of exercise stress which alters skeletal and muscle development, results in movement patterns that become less optimal and leads to chronic injury cycles which are the precursors to many degenerative processes typically blamed on aging and/or breed predisposition

Puppy 101:

Fitness is a measure of each of the ten elements of health (along with wellness, illness/injury). The more “fit” the puppy, the better the ability to resist illness, minimize the risk of injury so puppy grows into a body which will support him throughout his whole life and age with vitality.

For long-term health it is important to avoid intense training/activities until after the growth plates have closed and muscles/connective tissues have fully developed. The key to extending your puppy’s healthspan (the length of time a he remains healthy and active) is to exercise at age appropriate levels of intensity until puppy is finished growing and avoid doing too much too soon. In order to support growth and development, enhance proprioception and build the confidence puppy needs to be able to cope with whatever life throws at her, provide her with specific activities and exercise which will match her capabilities (both physically and mentally).

Growth plates

Did you know that your puppy's skeleton is made up of over SEVEN HUNDRED (700+) growth plates and that many joints have multiple growth plates that must develop and close at various times in order to form the healthy joints that puppy will rely on for the rest of her life? To put this in perspective, I created this info-graphic:

Growth plates are located on either side of the joints and are the weakest part of the immature skeleton - an injury which would result in a minor strain for an adult dog will impact puppy’s growth, resulting in premature closer (of the physis) and malformation of the bone and joint. This is why it is crucial to avoid intense levels of exercise and training until after the growth plates have closed.

Bones grow first - soft tissue catches up Therefor, after every growth spurt, puppy is unbalanced, uncoordinated and has diminished body awareness as ligaments and tendons struggle to keep bones and muscles attached to a frame which is now incrementally too long for their capabilities. As the bones in the legs are growing the muscles and tendons which span the joints stretch rather than “grow” and become taught - THIS is the stage puppy is first at risk for injury from inappropriate levels of exercise intensity. Overuse or repetitive trauma injuries are responsible for approximately 50% of all pediatric sport-related cases

Puppy: aka: body under development

Puppies experience the most growth during the first six months.will undergo significant physical changes as bones grow and soft tissue is developing. There are marked differences in balance, coordination, strength and stamina between puppies and adult dogs. For example, puppy’s metabolism and thermo-regulatory mechanisms are less efficient (Bright, 2001) - this means that puppies cannot manage their own internal body temperature (cooling down / maintaining warmth) are at greater risk of over-heating and over-exertion


Age Appropriate Exercise which is planned (to support each stage of growth & development), structured (to complement skill training) and purposeful (to target specific needs: proprioception/balance, mental health and flexibility) will build and maintain optimal levels of fitness as little bones grow, muscles fill in and temperaments develop.

There you have it...grow them up with a heightened awareness to have a dog who is FIT FOR LIFE!

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