Dogs naturally enjoy jumping, and your puppy probably jumps regularly with daily life, such as getting into the car or exploring the park or woods. Agility training for dogs is also becoming more popular, so we ask our dogs to jump on command.
But is jumping good for your puppy? Can it harm their joints? How high is too high?
Most dogs can jump a few times their height, but just because they can doesn’t mean they should.
The risks of jumping for young puppies
When your pup is young, their puppy growth plates fill themselves with cells that will help the bones in your puppy lengthen and become denser. Puppy growth plates don’t close until a pup is at least a year old. Therefore, if they jump on open growth plates, this can cause long-lasting damage.
Young puppies also haven’t developed the muscle tone of older dogs. Muscles help cushion the impact of a jump. Therefore, you want to avoid your puppy jumping more than he or she needs to. Solutions to this are to set up a simple bed ramp like at Chasing Tails, and carry your pup into and out of the car.
An advantage of setting up ramps for your puppy is that you will be teaching him or her to climb onto surfaces that are higher instead of jumping.
Another potential health problem of dogs who have jumped when young is early arthritis. The number of dogs who will develop arthritis during their life is at about 65%. If your dog is jumping up and down, this can increase the wear and tear on their joints.
The surfaces in your house play a part too. If your puppy is jumping on hard surfaces such as tiling or wooden floors, this will impact their joints more than jumping on soft grass.
If you want your dog to jump competitively or participate in agility training involving jumping, the best rule of thumb is to wait until your pup is at least 15 months old.
The height of jumps for dogs depends on their breed as well as their size. Some breeds have shorter legs than others, and some dogs are heavier.
Breeds that can and can’t jump
Some breeds find it easy to jump, such as Border Collies and Spaniels. These breeds usually come in the top for agility competitions and training, as they are naturally talented jumpers.
Working trials are where German Shepherds and Labradors excel, as these trials come easily to them.
Dog breeds with shorter legs should not be encouraged to jump, no matter what their age. For example, Dachshunds should never jump because they have a greater risk of injuring their spine.
If you are used to your dog jumping in and out of your car, consider the impact on their joints. For a dog, the impact on joints from jumping out of an SUV can be as much as four times that of a standard step. If you have an SUV, consider getting a pet ramp to help your dog and keep their joints safe.
If you want your dog to jump
Once your puppy is older, if you do want them to take part in agility training or other competitions, there are some ways to make this safer for your dog.
Make sure you train your dog to jump correctly. Start with low jumps and simple grids to build your dog’s confidence and strength gradually. Once your dog is confident with small jumps, increase the height slowly (to avoid injury).
Choose a jumping training method that suits your dog, and include conditioning activities. Simple exercises can be lots of fun for your dog when you are outdoors, like jumping over logs, balancing exercises, and running in the woods or fields.
Look after their joints
Keeping your dog active is an important part of looking after their health, and looking after their joints is essential. Joint health is particularly crucial if your dog is jumping, but you can start protecting your puppy’s joints from a young age whether he or she goes on to jump or not.
You can consider adding a joint nutrition supplement to your puppy’s diet and ask your vet for suggestions.
Here are some natural joint supplements that you could consider trying:
- turmeric, to decrease inflammation and reduce pain and stiffness
- CBD oil, to provide pain relief and reduce chronic inflammation
- chrominex 3+ (a blend of chromium, Indian gooseberry, and shilajit), to support healthy joints and the circulatory system
- glucosamine, to boost repair of damaged cartilage