Ok, this is my opinion on play retrieving and ball and stick throwing and chasing on walks as an owner, a breeder and a pet dog trainer
Owners buy a retriever breed and believe that to entertain it it needs to retrieve. I can understand that logic. Many dogs also really enjoy it. The reason they enjoy it is because its a big adrenaline kick charging out, leaping, trying to catch the ‘prey’, doing somersaults and handbrake turn etc etc.
For me with all the above hats on there are umpteen reasons NOT to throw stuff for your dogs on walks, especially when young, and I absolutely and, I am completely *not* a fluffy ‘wrap them in cotton wool’ merchant.
An occasional toss of something the dog finds lurking in the grass on a walk… for me, is fine… a couple satisfyies the need to watch the dog charging off doing what it was bred for, and for me, *should* satisfy owners… but it doesn’t, they tend to throw over and over again……. even encouraging children and dog walkers to entertain their dog that way.
Ok firstly and more importantly than anything, its physically extremely harmful. Its a totally unnatural thing for a dog to do… especially the handbrake turns, the cartwheels, the skids and the lunging round at full gallop. More ripped pads, pulled muscles, frayed tendons and repetitive strain injuries occur from doing this than any other form of exercise. Please feel free to check this with your vet.
|What you have to understand is gundog work, is a million billion miles away from repetitive ball or toy chasing. A MILLION miles. They are sent well after the thing has stopped move. Steadiness is everything, they have to hunt and find it, not lunge onto it and there is quiet control, no panting, throwing themselves around and twisting and turning.
Remember some breeds are designed to stop and start in an instant…. creep, leap, twist and turn for long periods of time, such a collie or terrier rounding up sheep….. Gundogs are NOT constructed for this, ESPECIALLY the retriever breeds which are moderately heavy dogs meant to go all day at a plod, not excelerate and leap and twist and do general adrenaline fuelled gymnastics.
Terrible, lifechanging injury can easily occur when throwing sticks, on water OR land. They are fatal and it is genuinely INSANE to throw sticks for a dog, they take their mouth down on them from above as they bounce and they are lodged in throats, stuck through cheeks, knocking teeth out, going into eyes…. the list is endless.
Picking a stick UP of their own choice and trotting calmly about with it is one thing…. throwing, chasing and lunging for sticks is absolutely crazy on the part of the owner.
OK, so forget physical harm. Lets look between their ears……
I see SO many pet dogs obsessed with balls and chasing, its hugely harmful to the owners walk. A walk should be that. A walk. Steady gentle exercise for both of you…. sniffing, trotting about, walking together, dog off doing a bit of hunting etc etc. They should not be panting, salivating, staring at you, mugging your pockets, obsessively not leaving your side till you produce something to throw, and MANY who start getting this done for them as youngsters end up ruining every walk they have later in life because there is only one way to entertain the obsessive dog.
Many people that throw repeatedly for their dog are ACTUALLY just masking the fact they have absolutely no control over it and they have taught it, advertantly or inadvertantly to be obsessed with the item they are waving at it, so it comes when they ‘call’ and so on. But infact they have no control, often shocking heelwork and are completely sunk if they haven’t got an item to wave at the dog….
Alongside this, WHY make the thing that bonds you a third party item? WHY make their adoration the focus of something other than YOU? When a dog begs for a throw or ten, they see you just as the thrower… their ‘throwing bitch!’ Their obsessive relationship is with the thing being thrown….. don’t kid yourself its you.
PLAY with your dog, roughhouse with it, have it jump all over you, play fight with it… crouch and jump at it and play games like other dogs would together…. don’t turn them into a chase obsessed creature risking strains, sprains and injury almost every walk. Tennis balls come apart in half and many’s the dog that has choked to death on them, and they get so covered in slobber and foam the owner can do nothing about it as they are wedged in and too slippery to catch hold of.
EVERYTHING in moderation, as I say, the odd chuck of something occasionally, but, don’t take stuff out with you, and know that exercise should be STEADY on a walk, not roaring about mentally.
The idea is to have a happy, calm, buzzy dog on a walk, not a hyped up fool.
Diana Stevens January 2021