Growing the Young Adult
By Patrick Shannahan

Most of the suggestions that I might give in this article might seem just very practical. Some might think it is so obvious, that it doesn’t need to be printed. But once again I have come home from a clinic where a young dog is having physical problems because of how it has been raised. These are a few common sense thoughts that I have learned from years of raising pups, and by me making a few mistakes along the way.

This is about how to get a dog physically ready to become an adult. It isn’t about training, or sheepdog trialing. We put lots of time and effort in selecting our pups, but all that can be ruined if we aren’t careful and get the pup to it’s maturity size without any physical problems. Checking to see if the parents are OFA’d or have had their elbows examined, won’t help one bit if you let your pup get injured.

Most of the main physical problems that I see in pups come from too rapid growth with too little time for the body to catch up. They are usually big pups that have a rapid spurt of growth. Many problems are caused by too much stress on a body that isn’t ready to stand the weight or the pressure of excess activity.

Feed your pup a high quality dog food. I feed all my pups adult food. It may make them grow a little slower, and not put on excess weight. Puppy foods are higher in protein and fat. And for the first six months, I feed them twice a day. Since they are pups, I have my hands on them constantly. It is easy for me to gauge how fat or thin they are when I touch them. I am constantly adjusting how much they receive by how they feel. There are times when young male pups need quite a few calories while they are growing. At the same time, if I see a young dog putting on excess weight, I cut back on their diet.

Many people keep their pups overweight, and this can cause serious structure problems for the pup. Yes, fat puppies look cute, but a fat pup will have a much higher incidence of structural problems. Better to keep your new pup a bit thin, than a bit fat.

This might seem a bit odd to some of you, but another problem is caused by people playing with their young pups without thought or regard to their growing body. They throw balls or sticks; have them jump high to catch objects. Another problem I see is pups in concrete runs getting into trouble by too much rowdy activity. Border Collies, as we all know, have no regard for their own bodies. They will work or play while injured or in great pain. It is important while young pups are growing to make sure they have time to develop why their bones are soft and fragile.

If you want to use your dog as a running companion, you must wait until they are physically mature, otherwise problems can occur in their structure.

Some of the problems that might cause structural problems are genetic. Others have genetic predispositions. But having a sensible puppy hood that doesn’t cause undue stress on their bodies can help.

Crating a young pup while he is growing might sound cruel to some, but it is actually a very sound way to make sure he grows up properly. He should be let out for self-play and to interact with the family. The first 7-8 months should be a time that is quiet, so his body can adjust and mature. If for some reason your pup becomes lame, it is really important for you to confine him and let his body repair what damage is done. If after a day or two, he were still lame, I would consult my Veterinarian.

Each time I sell a litter, or buy a pup, I worry through the period when they are rapidly growing. It is a very sensitive time, where damage can occur very quickly. Remember that your pup is fragile at this stage, even though he doesn’t act like it. By being careful and watching their growth, you soon will have a pup that is not only keen to work, but will not have structural problems that can cause problems the rest of his life.