Here’s a story all about how I inadvertently ruined my beautiful collie Brae with a ball flinger. I crippled her and made her crazy obsessive with the ball, so much so that she will not go for a wee or a poo if there’s a chance of a game. I have to tell her to go (usually several times!) before she’ll squat to do her business.
I got Brae in June 2010. She was 11 weeks old and the most beautiful dog I’ve ever seen. She was my first collie and I honestly couldn’t have asked for more. Clever, beautiful, lovely temperament, eager to please and an absolute dream to train. However I wrongly assumed that because she was a border collie, she needed a lot of exercise every day in order to fulfil her needs. I only wish I knew then what I know now.
”But working breeds need a job to do, don’t they? Otherwise they’ll go self employed!”
Yes, that’s right, they absolutely need something to do, otherwise you’ll end up a teenage tearaway, chasing cars and chewing up your life! However that ‘something’ should be brain based, not exercise based. Growing dogs have delicate joints and bones that can be easily damaged by too much exercise. I damn well should’ve known better as I was working at PDSA at the time, but I did way too much with Brae too young. Like most people reading this, I threw the ball too much, which meant a lot of breaking hard and twisting for Brae as she chased the ball (up and down hills). I flung the flinger over and over until her tongue lolled out and she went home and slept. I would take her out on the next walk and repeat the process. Just writing this makes me feel absolutely bloody terrible.
I took her up the Fairfield Horseshoe in the Lakes when she was 6 months old and at a year old I started agility. Not only was I damaging her bones and joints, I was damagin her mental health. You see, too much adrenaline all the time and doing too much doing ‘stuff’ every day, leads to a dog that is super fit but never actually comes down from the adrenaline rush. Corisol ends up flooding the brain causing all sorts of problems.Dogs end up unable to sleep properly, unable to relax and chill, which means no rest for you either! Not sure about you, but living with an anxiety ridden, super athlete is not what I want.
If you have read my newsletters and posts you’ll know that nowadays I know better and I advocate one simple thing….
… You play games! Low impact ball games like ‘find it’, brain games, scatter feeding and trick training. Still not convinced that ball throwing on such a high level is bad? Brae is now 9 and her hocks are the size of golf balls. The arthritis is awful. Check your own dogs hocks and see how they look, then imagine that the joint is so hard and swollen that your dog no longer has any free movement in it. Imagine that they fall over when they try to scratch themselves with a hind foot, imagine they are so painful on theirhind legs that you find them walking on their two front legs with their hind legs in the air. It’s absolutely bloody heart breaking and I’m crying writing this, because I did that to her. She also now has pain in her spine and front legs from over compensating. She now has to have a range of anti inflammitory drugs and strong pain killers every day,plus supporting treatments like joint tablets, a magnetic collar, golden paste and CBD oil.Agility is a distance memory and now she’s only allowed to carry a toy and play low impact games. Next step is hydrotherapy. Plus, I pay for all her treatment myself as her insurance policy was inadequate and only paid out for the first year. One day (which will come far too soon for my liking) I’ll have to make the heart wrenching decision on the quality of her life. Imagine living with that just because you enjoyed chucking the ball for your dog or were so unimaginative on walks that you thought that was the best way to enrich your dogs outdoor time. Knowledge is power and hindsight hurts like a bitch.
So, for the love of dog, bin the flinger and get more interactive with your furry best mate!