We all know dogs need walks and exercise. Certain breeds need more than others, younger dogs need more than seniors, and we need to be careful about how we exercise puppies.
Fetch – the Good, the Bad, and the Way I Play
Many dogs love a good game of fetch. I love playing disc and ball with my own dogs, and I play a little bit with them most days.
Fetch can be a great way to burn off a little steam before a leash walk or before company arrives. If you dont feel like going for a walk, fetch is something you can do from a chair with your coffee in hand. They even make chuckit devices that allow you to throw 3 times farther than you can normally throw, still from that chair, coffee in hand.
Fetch can ramp up some dogs to an unhealthy level. For overexcited dogs, it can keep them in that unhealthy mind set for a long period of time. Instead of taking the edge off, or tiring the dog, fetch can create a wired, pushy, crazy eyed dog who can’t settle or relax. Particularly for reactive dogs or ones that have trouble settling in the first place, fetch can be a poor choice for exercise.
Played too long, or with dogs too young or too old, or for ones with body structure that’s less than ideal, fetch can cause serious injuries.
Growth plates in your dogs joints do not finish developing until your puppy is 14months old. Until that age, you should be very careful not to overdo any exercise, particularly fetch and jumping games, or your pup can have joint damage that you might not notice for a few years.
Certain breeds are prone to cruciate ligament tears. Particularly for those breeds and for dogs that leap up for the ball, then land on their hind end, fetch should be limited.
The Way I Play Fetch
Always play on safe surfaces. Never play where you dog has to run down a set of stairs or over slippery surface. Choose your area wisely.
Your dog’s job is to catch. Your job is to place the toy so that your dog can catch and land in a safe manner.
For dogs that leap, be careful on how you throw. Throw low and short distances at first. As you and your dog get better at playing safely, add in a few farther throws. If your dog seems to be wildly throwing himself at the toy, go back to shorter throws. If you have terrible aim, go out with the toy without your dog and practice. He can’t catch safely if you can’t throw accurately!
Fetch doesnt have to be a mindless game. Minimally, your dog should offer to sit to earn the ball or disc toss. Ideally, you can ask for any known trick from your dog, in fact, a sequence of tricks, to earn that toss.
If you can do 10 strides of heel work, followed by a shake a paw, a rollover, and a sit stay, that dog has earned the toss!
This changes fetch from a mindless game of wild ball chasing to a thoughtful game of obedience and trick practice that uses the ball or disc as a reward.
Go have fun with your dog! 🙂