A puppy is not a little big dog.
Their growth plates and bones are made up completely differently to an adult dog.
Fact: A puppy’s immature, young body cannot endure excessive amounts of exercise stress. They will suffer long-term negative effects!
Puppies have “puppy bones”. This means that the bones are still developing and are not as strong as an adult’s bone. This is true in more ways than one.
Puppy bones are softer, less dense and less stable than adult bones.
The structures attached to and working with bones need to take these puppy bone structures into consideration. Puppy muscles are not bulgingly huge, growth plates are thick and spongy. The structures surrounding the puppy’s skeleton strengthen as they grow in relation to their bones.
Take a look at the following Micro CT scan of a Guinea Pig’s bones the scapula, humerus and femur. Granted this is not a puppy’s bones, but the principle remains unchanged – bones are thinner and less dense in a young animal than in an adult.
What do you see?
Immature, developing bones are less dense than mature bones. Young bones lack structural integrity!
They cannot withstand multiple stress incurred during exercise. Young bones cannot withstand the stresses incurred by overdeveloped, strong, heavy muscle.
It is essential that a puppy’s soft tissues such as muscles and tendons develop in the appropriate proportional rate to their skeleton.
What can we compare this to?
A great example of explaining this is found when mixing concrete: when mixed in the correct portions of cement, sand, aggregate and water, it will deliver maximum strength and durability.
BUT – what happens when the concrete hasn’t been cured long enough before exposing it to the elements or the pressure of a load?
It WILL break down and jeopardize the entire project.
Like concrete is the foundation of your home, bones are the foundation of your puppy’s body.
Your puppy will rely upon his bones for the rest of his life. he needs his bones to provide structural attachment for muscles (to create movement) and protect vital organs.
Unlike inanimate concrete, bone is a dynamic, living tissue. It undergoes remodelling and assists in homeostasis (bones are there to maintain stability within the body when dealing with external changes in the environment outside the body).
Why bother with age-appropriate stuff?
The best reason to support your puppy’s growth and development is to ensure his body reaches maturity in the best shape possible. This includes structures that work with your puppy’s bones – i.e. muscle and tendon attachments functioning optimally to move the skeleton effortlessly.
Puppy activity and exercise MUST be Age Appropriate. Early onset micro-injuries WILL potentially disrupt optimal bone development causing long-term negative effects.
Let’s look at a small example:
Here is the shoulder blade showing just two muscles (supraspinatus – commonly injured – and infraspinatus) that attach (red dots) to its surface. Look at the large surface area these muscles use to attach to the bone in order to manipulate shoulder directionality.
When these muscles contract to exert the force necessary to create movement (e.g. bringing the front leg forward in landing after a jump) and provide stability, notice the large surface area they impact on the shoulder blade.
Imagine muscles too bulky, heavy and too strong pulling hard on this large surface area of the softer shoulder blade, not yet dense or strong enough to handle that force.
Muscle strength could cause small partial fissures in that bone and affect the development of its adhesion to the shoulder. These problems would only raise their head when the puppy is older and struggling in a jump or tight turn.
Similarly, weak muscles leave these softer bones and their growth plates vulnerable with little stabilising force.
These same principles above apply throughout your puppy’s body.
But puppies cannot grow up in a bubble!
Puppies need exercise to grow up strong. They need exercise that is suitable for your puppy’s age and structure, not simply that same exercise you do with your adult dog.
Make sure your puppy grows up strong. He is not a little big dog.