What is ball chasing really doing to your dog?

The brain bit

  • Repetitive ball chasing can lead to prolonged adrenaline release.
  • Cortisol release can lead to frustration, frantic behaviours and even be detrimental to long term health.
  • A high drive dog with significant joint disease may continue to perform reward based tasks like ball chasing despite pain.

What about their joints?

  • Repeated micro-trauma to muscles and cartilage is a cause of long-term damage.
  • Chasing or even carrying items like a ball can shift your dogs weight distribution to their front legs, putting excessive weight through the joints of the front legs.
  • Joints weakened by arthritis will be especially prone to further damage.

How about the muscles?

  • Unpredictable actions such as breaking, twisting and landing can result in muscles being put under stresses they aren't designed for.
  • High speeds can double the forces generated in the muscles.
  • Braking is thought to be the most dangerous part of ball chasing and often responsible for shoulder injuries.

Things you can try instead

  • Make sure to have a warm up period before more intense exercise.
  • Only ever throw the ball a short distance, on surfaces that avoid slipping and sliding, throw below waist height so as to avoid jumping and don't do it repetitively.
  • Consider alternatives like scent work, varying location of the walk to keep thing exciting or playing hide and seek with the ball rather than playing fetch.
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