We may need to rethink the way in which we exercise our dogs. It might be tempting to throw a ball as far as possible for your dog using a ball flinger but there are potential dangers!  Being full of the joys of spring can turn into a sudden disaster for the dog chasing the ball, or an insidious build-up of stresses and strains over time. Yasmin Porritt of Yorkshire Pooches Therapies explains more and suggests alternative exercises and enrichment you can do with your dog to keep them fit and healthy.

Thanks to Yorkshire Pooches Therapies for permission to use this blog.


The bane of arthritis

With 80% of dogs over the age of 8 and 20% of dogs older than a year suffering from arthritis, we need to rethink the way in which we exercise our dogs. (Anderson, K et al. 2018). There will be other factors that play into this such as weight, nutrition, breed disposition, unrelated injuries. Changing the way in which we exercise our dogs is one of the cheapest ways to help manage osteoarthritis pain. It’s not a case that it is one problem joint, the effects are cascaded across the body’s musculoskeletal system. 

Intense dog walk – good or bad?

There is a common misconception that in order for a dog walk to be good, your dog has to be exercised past the point of exhaustion ~ this simply isn’t the case. When we arrive at the park and our dog jumps out of the car and has ten reps of ball chasing whilst you sip your coffee, you’re not tiring your dog out, you’re making a badly conditioned athlete. Over time the same repetitive strain on the same areas of the body can progress joint degeneration and cause soft tissue injuries.  

Er, I think not!

What are our other options?

Training and scent work are a great way to engage your dog’s brain. You will be surprised how tired your dog becomes after doing some basic impulse control and sniffing.

If your dog loves to play with a ball you can use it to play hide and seek where your dog has to sniff it out of long grass. Drop the ball and encourage your dog to walk away and then send them back for it. Having the ball stationary helps to minimise risk.

Too often I see dogs flying through the air trying to catch a ball mid-flight like the one at the top of the page. I have even seen dogs do a backflip, get up without pause and run back to the owner to do it again. We as pet guardians have to step in and say enough now let’s just have a minute and catch our breath, the same way we would with a child who is running around after eating… we know the inevitable may be coming so we mitigate the risk. Let’s do the same for our dogs! 

If you’re not quite ready to bin your flinger:

  • Make sure you are using it on soft ground such as grass (not when wet to avoid slipping),
  • Use in moderation and
  • Give your dog at least 10 minutes of brisk on-lead walking before and after you start to give the body a chance to warm up and cool down

Be present with your dog

Go on adventures and make memories. You don’t have to exhaust your dog. After all, we have our dogs as we enjoy their company and this goes for out of the house too. Take time to really look at them moving, how they hold themselves and how they behave. All these little things can give you clues as to how your dog is feeling, especially when it comes to pain management. 

Be present and let your dog have fun sniffing

No more chores

Dog walking shouldn’t be a chore and it’s an easy trap to fall into. You do the same 30 minute walk twice a day around the block, your dog starts to slow down and there can be a tendency to rush your dog along. Instead of this, change your route and be mindful of your dog’s pace. Too often I see dogs trailing behind their owners as they struggle to keep up.

Be your dog’s champion

Other than a limp or a yelp, our dogs can’t tell us they’re in pain. They will chase the ball even if something hurts. (Sprouse-Blum, A et al. 2010). Our dogs don’t understand that what they did on Monday causes pain on a Tuesday, they just learn to cope. 

You are the only one that can change your dog’s exercise regime to keep those joints happy and healthy for longer. As a previous ball flinger user, putting it in the bin was the best thing I did. When we know better we can do better. 

Useful links

Studies referenced in the video: 

Prevalence, duration and risk factors for appendicular osteoarthritis in a UK dog population under primary veterinary care
Understanding Endorphins and Their Importance in Pain Management

Other blogs by Yasmin Porritt

Canine enrichment blogs

Yasmine Porritt

Yasmin runs Yorkshire Pooches Therapies from her clinic in Castleford in West Yorkshire. She combines a passion for musculoskeletal health, species-appropriate nutrition, canine behaviour and all things natural, to create a holistic canine service. Yasmin specialises in pain management (particularly that associated with degenerative diseases), working gun dogs and Romanian rescue dogs. Yorkshire Pooches Therapies is a member of the Association of Merishia Therapists and the International Association of Animal Therapists (IAAT)

After successfully running her own dog-walking business for years and wanting to challenge herself further, Yasmin trained as a Canine Merishia Massage Therapist. Throughout the year-long training at Rose Holistic Therapies, Yasmin studied in-depth Merishia massage techniques, joint mobilisation, canine anatomy and diseases/injuries affecting movement. 

Along with her Canine Merisha Massage qualification, Yasmin is also qualified in Canine First Aid, Dog Care, Dorwest Herbs and a diploma in Canine Communication. Yasmin also holds a BA(Hons) Degree and Post Graduate Diploma in Performance Practice, obtained from York St John University.

Yaz has three dogs of her own, siblings Lily and Rodney and Peggy her Romanian Rescue Dog. Also in the gang are Nancy and Patty the Guinea Pigs, Mitzi and Pan the Ferrets and Charlie the rescue Cockatiel. Not forgetting Yasmin’s forever patient husband Adam

Disclaimer – Where blogs have been created by a guest author, CAM4Animals has reproduced this in good faith but cannot be held responsible for any inaccuracies of information in it or any use you make of this information

The veterinary Surgeon’s Act 1966 restricts the treatment of animals (usually other than your own*) by anyone other than a qualified vet. Always consult a veterinary surgeon if you are concerned about your animal’s health. *For full details visit the RCVS website