Preparing Pix - Part 1

I am often grilled about what people should be doing with their up and coming stars to ensure they fulfil their potential. While this is modified for each and every puppy there is a basic plan about things to avoid and what to encourage. 

Happily, we have a new addition to the family at Primal Paws, and I will be sharing with you the steps we take as she grows up. The future for Pix will involve showing and agility, so she needs a strong foundation now to make sure she can play those games safely for the rest of her life.

Before we talk about training and exercises, we need to talk about preparing the environment for a new puppy. At the start of their life we want to avoid high force or repetitive impacts on the puppy's joints. This is to minimise their risk of developing orthopaedic problems later in life, such as hip dysplasia, or elbow dysplasia.

While there are both genetic and environmental aspects that can contribute to these two pathologies. Once we have our pup, the environmental aspects are the ones we can control so we focus on them. 

Additionally, bones in growing pups are not as strong as those in adults. This means that a pup has to be a lot less unlucky to break a bone, than an adult. 

A broken bone, or even just a serious soft tissue injury can result in life long functional limitations. A pup that is forced to compensate for an injury while growing, can suffer impacts on their structure that are very hard, or even impossible, to correct. 

Of course, puppies will be puppies and you can never totally wrap them in cotton wool. An important part of their development is having fun exploring their world, learning how things work and how their bodies work. The trick is to make you environment as safe as possible, so that the risks and potential for injury are minimised. 

To that end, high things that a puppy might like to jump off, like our retaining wall, have been temporally fenced off so she can't get up there and hurt herself off. We also have small sets of steps, so that she can both make her way up onto the bed and get off again without jumping. This means she can curl up with the pack of a night if she wants to. 

We also supervise her whenever she is out with the 'big' dogs, whether it be ours or at a play date, so that play never gets to rough. We don't want Pix getting bowled over in an impromptu zoomie sessions. Once she knows the ropes, and the other dogs have got the message that she isn’t quite as tough as them yet, we let them go for it though. Pix is especially fond of zooming with her sister Franky, and Franky is great, playing with her while being careful not to run into her. 

That doesn't mean she doesn't get lots of exercise and activity. Bones ad muscles develop and strengthen through weight bearing so being active helps strengthen Pix for the future. Getting out and about on difference surfaces and in different environments is also important for development of great proprioception and their mental development.

The trick is to strike a balance between keeping them active, while minimising high risk activities and situations. 

For example, pix and I went for an hour mooch around the park today. She had a heap of fun rolling around, pouncing on leaves, and generally enjoying being a puppy. While it was a long walk for the puppy, it was not risky because I kept to her pace and I don't do this every single day of the week. 

Pix also has her fair share of silliness (she is still a puppy). She quite often gets a bad case of the zoomies and will race around the backyard. She is particularly fond of zooming up and down a small hill we have. She has also managed to find her way onto the top of the retaining wall on a few occasions through some enterprising climbing.

Next time we will look at some of the exercises I start with my pups as soon as they get home.

Dr Jaime Jackson