There are many opinions regarding safely exercising puppies, but most agree that moderation is the key. The best place to start is learning as much as you can about the breed and talking with your breeder.

A puppy’s exercise regime needs will change as they grow. Exercise intensity is primarily a question of growth plates. Giant breeds grow quickly but mature slowly, and the growth plates remain open longer, making them susceptible to heavy weight bearing and shear stress forces. Most growth occurs when the puppy is between the ages of 4 and 8 months. Therefore, great care must be taken when playing and exercising during this rapid growth phase.

Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD) is a problem often encountered in large and giant breeds. Research suggests that although there may be a hereditary component, studies show potential links between OCD and repetitive trauma or stress on a joint. Young pups roughhousing or carelessly running into hard objects can injure their shoulders, causing Osteochondrosis, particularly Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD). This injury consists of a lesion on the femoral or humoral head and a resulting “joint mouse” — a small piece of hard cartilage that detaches and lies loosely in the adjacent joint space. Treatment involves total rest and confinement, often for eight weeks or more.

Poor or incorrect nutrition, as well as improper exercise, can also exacerbate these types of orthopedic diseases in puppies. Attempting to force wolfhound puppies to grow tall by over-supplementing their diet or simply over-feeding them will almost certainly lead to joint problems. Allow your puppy to grow slowly and naturally, feed quality food, and allow plenty of rest. Keep their weight lean — they have plenty of time to become giants. This is where a knowledgeable breeder is crucial to help you navigate the waters of proper nutrition during the rapid growth period.

A young puppy should be allowed to exercise freely at his own pace; he’ll stop when he is tired. Use caution if you have other dogs or young children, as they will stimulate a puppy well past the the point of healthy activity. Monitor your pup and when he/she is tired or exhibiting bad behaviour such as biting or barking, like human children it is nap time. Puppies need plenty of rest and nourishment to grow and will sleep 70% of their day. Supervise and limit free play in areas large enough to allow for galloping at will, with puppies of similar age.

Prohibit running with adult wolfhounds or even small breed dogs. Steer clear of excessive motivation for prolonged play. Avoid jogging or bicycling until your wolfhound is fully mature, as repetitive impact, particularly on hard surfaces, is likely to lead to joint problems. Jumping up and down from heights out of vehicles, couches, porches, etc, may encourage OCD lesions in the shoulder.

Wolfhounds are at their happiest when free-running or galloping about in a safe area. Before adding a Wolfhound to your family, carefully consider this breed’s needs and your lifestyle.

For more information contact a reputable breeder from the IWCC Member-Breeder and Ambassador Contact List (PDF 1 MB).