Health means more than just ‘Start out slowly, then taper off’.


I have a beautiful 8-month-old Bichon Frise puppy who loves to go running with me.  I started her off on 10-minute runs, and she has now done one 30-minute run. (She’s always in front of me, pulling on her flex leash!)  Am I doing any damage to her puppy joints by having her run with me?  And how long do you think it’s safe for her to run?  Could she do 10K with me? Don’t tell me I should have gotten a bigger dog – this little sweetheart came into my life from PACA, so I’ll just deal with whatever is best for her.


Dr. Nichol:

This girl sounds like a real gem. The exercise that you two share is more than just healthy. You are creating a bond that makes your relationship deeper. I run with my 6-month-old puppy Peter Rabbit. For us it’s also a chance to work on a little training too.


How much is too much for your short-legged youngster? Number one: Don’t worry about her young joints. Running for a dog is low impact because they always have 2 feet on the ground, unlike humans who fling our entire weight from one leg to the next with each step. Secondly: distance. If this young athlete runs out of poop, she’ll lag. So far you are doing fine. Regarding the 10K (about 6 miles), you should train your dog’s body the same way you train your own. Increase distance gradually. If she acts winded during the workout or has sore limbs when finished, you’ve pushed it a bit hard.


One last point on exercise for your dog: Provide water at the start of the workout as well as at the end. But never let her tank up all at once. Take the water away and give her more in 10 minutes if you need to. If she drinks a large volume she could twist her little stomach. This is a surgical emergency that not all dogs survive.


You provided a major gift of love in saving the life of this dog. PACA is a wonderful group that works hard to find good homes for orphans like your girl. It sounds like they succeeded on this one. By the way I would never say that you should have gotten a bigger dog. On the contrary. I say that if she has trouble keeping up on your runs, you can make it easier for her by just having your legs shortened.