Exercising an Irish Wolfhound Puppy Safely

The idea of exercise is always associated with a new puppy, but this can inadvertently cause more harm than good.    Over walking and over exercising your puppy in the first year can cause life long injuries.   Care must be taken during the first 12 months at least, before you can go on those long walks.

Firstly you must look at your hound puppy and realise that, to become a giant, there is a lot of growing to be accomplished.  However the problem is whilst they are growing and becoming giants they are still puppies, enormous puppies,  and far from being mature enough to avoid simple injuries. 

The small puppy should just be allowed to play in the garden at his own pace, he will stop when he is tired, BUT, if you have other dogs or young children, then you must monitor him. He should NOT be allowed to run around the garden all day; he needs rest, plenty of it. Food, rest and grow.
— The Irish Wolfhound Health Group Guide

What kind of exercise is best? 

Free play is the best play for your puppy. Exploring the garden, and pottering around, until he is tired and flops down. Listen to him at this point, he will tell you when he is tired, and always be there to supervise him. 

What kind of exercise is not good? 

Repetitive exercise is bad! So no long walks, just lots of free play. This is the time to try and incorporate some training and keep puppy busy, both in mind and body. Short bursts of positive training with rewards can easily tire your puppy out.  

What about a play mate? 

A well matched play mate is always good, but choose wisely, not one who gives puppy huge paw whacks and not one who likes to body swipe, these can cause injuries.  Don’t let your puppy play with other dogs unsupervised, even if they are your dogs and they are playing at home. Generally it is recommended that a Wolfhound puppy does not play with older/larger dogs until it is at least a year old. This is  something that as a breeder  and an animal carer/lover  we would never do.  We always keep the youngsters separate from the older hounds.  

What about getting out of the car, off the sofa or off the bed? 

Basically care should be taken with any activity which in effect puts pressure on legs and joints.

High impact activities such as jumping off anything, including the sofa, the bed, or any piece of furniture, jumping out of the car, along with bounding up and down steps and stairs, and walking for too long, are not good. 

High impact activities are one of the major causes of stress fractures, spiral fractures and damage to growth plates.

Any kind of movement which causes impact on the growth plates or a twist of a joint is to be avoided at all costs. Your growing puppy needs a soft cushioned and aided landing when getting off the sofa or bed!  or better still provide a low soft comfy dog bed for them to enjoy. 

When rearing a giant breed, there is the potential for a lot of problems, which can make your first year very time consuming. Their long legs are prone to injury, during their rapid and prolonged growth phase. Many of the issues associated with lameness and joints, are due to the actual way the legs are constructed to allow for this rapid growth to happen.

Growth Plates examples when exercising Irish Wolfhound

To allow this process to happen, there are soft areas of cartilage at the end of the long bones in your puppies legs, these soft areas are called “Growth Plates”. 

These growth plates are soft, because they allow for the bones to grow longer, and gradually these areas growth plates, thin and harden.  However the problem is, they don't harden until puberty has finished, and puberty can be a long time coming in a large breed. Puppies' muscles, ligaments and tendons are far stronger than the soft growth plates and therefore will not take the impact of any injury. 

In addition to soft growth plates, puppy also has very soft bones, and this leads to all kinds of injuries when growing. Twists and turns when playing and jumping out of the car or off furniture can put undue pressure on the lower leg bone (tibia) and lead to fractures, especially spiral fractures which are quiet common in puppies.

spiral fracture

Therefore your puppy can seriously be harmed by twisting and turning and jumping. If the growth plate is damaged it may not be possible for it to heal in time for puppy’s legs to grow correctly. Such an injury can result in a shortened limb or an incorrect angle to a joint. If this kind of injury happens to a large hound it can have a detrimental effect on the way they continue to grow and cause untold suffering, pain, deformities and long term problems.

During these formative months the growth plates and soft bones are vulnerable to injury and this is why it is your responsibility to restrict and supervise exercise as required, and why we keep repeating ourselves!