Part 5 of the Raising Your Japanese Akita Puppy in Urban and Suburban America Series
Given all the benefits for exercise, how much should you exercise your JA puppy?
Japanese Akitas grow and mature at a slower rate than their smaller Nihon Ken cousins. Their growth plates may not close until they are closer to a year in age. Anything beyond what your puppy would do when playing with other puppies of similar age may be a form of forced exercise and should be avoided. Similar to carpal tunnel syndrome in office workers who are on computers all day, forced exercise in growing puppies can cause repetitive stress injuries and permanent orthopedic issues down the road. For example, biking, walking and running long distance, and excessive play of fetch can be considered forced exercise with a young pup.
In general, your JA should be walked a minimum of 45 minutes a day to stay fit. However, for a growing puppy, limit each walk to no more than 30 minutes, or make frequent rest stops. Limit jumping, pouncing and running activities such as fetch to less than 10 minutes per session. If you have access to a pool, you can consider teaching your JA puppy to swim as swimming is not stressful on joints or bones (just make sure to rinse the chlorine off your pup’s skin and coat after each swim).
Your puppy will do most of his growing between 4-8 months of age. After your pup reaches 8 months of age, it should be okay to increase duration of walks to an hour.
Where you walk your dog may also affect joint development. Hard surfaces such as concrete sidewalks and pavement are higher impact. When possible, try dirt paths or grass for more cushioning. Uneven surfaces also help them learn coordination and balance.
While you can introduce agility equipment to your JA puppy from a socialization perspective, you will be better off waiting until he is 18 months to try out the sport. Same thing applies to jogging or biking your puppy to put on muscle. Increase durations and intensity gradually; think interval training if you want to work in some jogging or biking.
Next Section: Training