The latest addition to the WitsEnd clan is Parsnip, a loveable little or not so little springer spaniel rescued at 10 weeks old. Parsnip is now 20 weeks old and has shot up already, more than doubling in size. It has been over 20 years since we have had a puppy, having rescued older dogs since our puppy Gsd, Hannah.
The first year is so crucial for a dog from a behavioural aspect, a training aspect and from a growing prospective. In the first year or so the bones are growing and it takes about 13-14 months for the growth plates to seal. Watching Parsnip has given me a number of insights into why this first year is so important. For example when Parsnip was 12 weeks old he started to bounce around like a little lamb and his hind legs were almost like a bunny hopping. In dogs with hip and/or stifle problems a common feature is that the dogs bunny hop (both back legs pushing back when going faster rather than working independently).
Could it be in these young dogs that if they have the potential for hip dysplasia or stifle problems the puppies find it easier and more comfortable to bunny hop and so permanently adopt this gait? Parsnip will play like this when he is with the other dogs however on a walk he is encouraged to walk properly so he stretches the legs forward and then pulls the leg back behind the shoulder and hip joints. You are welcome to view the video clip on how this is done. In doing so this action of the limbs promotes good muscle mass, which helps support the joints whilst the dog is developing.
Another interesting feature is that as Parsnip goes through his various growth spurts he looks gangly and lanky at times. As his bones grow I wonder if his muscles loosen/stretch more, so he looks more wobbly until each growth spurt finishes. If this is the case it is very important in these growing phases that as the bones grow time is given for the muscles to firm up again.
To help with this Parsnip has slow controlled walks currently twice per day for 15 minutes with an additional 5 minutes off the lead. The exercise will be built up gradually, increasing by 5 minutes every two weeks or so until he is 13-14 months old. Most of this will be on the lead with some hydrotherapy thrown in once a week (see Parsnip swimming).
Parsnip has good basic structure. We can’t change the structure of how a dog is born but we can keep them well muscled in their first year to minimise any further unwanted changes. We will keep you posted of Parsnip’s changes as the year goes on.