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just how much is safe


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ok so we have a 5 month old BC/Mcnab mix and im just wondering how much activity is safe for his joints as i was told that to much jumping could hurt him because his growth plates arent closed. we play fetch with him both inside and outside by throwing a tennis ball or his jolly ball and he seems to enjoy running around. He also jumps up and down from small hights (the bed, couch, front seat of the pickup), and is always wrestling with our roommates 9 month old lab. Could any of these things possibly hurt him in anyway?

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My understanding is, in general, activity that the dog chooses is fine. Its the repetitive jumping like you would find in agility training or taking him on long hikes where he is forced to keep up that is the issue.

 

Puppies are active, they just need to be able to power down when their bodies tell them to.

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I would limit fetch or anything else that isn't puppy initiated. The puppy-puppy wrestling is fine because they will stop when one or the other has had enough. Any repetitive activity--fetching, jumping, etc.--is hard on young joints. A pup left to its own devices will run around some, pick stuff up and toss it in the air and pounce on it and so on. Short bursts of energetic play with lots of rest in between. When humans get involved in the play they tend to (inadvertently) push puppies to and past their limits. The pup is having fun, so it doesn't limit itself.

 

For your interactions with the pup, try teaching tricks and basic obedience/manners. Take the pup on walks, on and off leash (the latter only if it's safe to do so). On a walk, especially if it's warm, if the pup wants to flop down in the shade and rest, let it.

 

If you're just dying to play fetch, keep the sessions very short, make sure the ball is rolling so the pup isn't jumping to catch it, and do so on a soft surface.

 

J.

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I second all of Julie's suggestions.

 

My vet told me (as a guideline) not to let a pup jump any higher than its elbow. I'd interpret that to include not allowing a pup to jump off a bed or sofa, or out of the back of a car.

 

I'd also encourage caution with stairs. A lot of Border collie pups believe life is an "all or nothing" proposition, and will try to run full tilt down any stair, even (often?) skipping the bottom few. That can lead to injuries if the stairs lead to a slippery hardwood floor, or to concrete (in the case of outdoor steps). We taught our pup to wait at the top of the stairs for us; we'd grab his collar, say "gently!", and he learned to take them one at a time - at our pace, not his. He still wants to be a black and white "bottle rocket" when we let him out the back door (there are some wooden steps up to the deck, and then from the deck up the hill), but we're insisting he wait for us to accompany him at a more sedate pace. (He's only recently been allowed to play in our back yard, as a result of his own joint problems, so "back yard stair manners" are still a work in progress).

 

Young limbs are fragile. Many agility classes advise waiting until a year or fourteen months of age. It's not just the jumping that can put younger dogs at risk. I met a Border collie at a park who was rescued at six months of age. Apparently the original owner had it learning agility, and it had fallen off the "dogwalk" and had broken a leg. It had gone to the vet and was slated for euthanasia. Somehow the woman I met had ended up with it instead.

 

You really can't always let the pup be the judge of what's enough. Puppies are babies, and don't have good judgement yet. As Julie says, if they're having fun with their person, they often won't quit. Even adult Border collies are stoics, and will push themselves to heat exhaustion, or won't let an injured limb stop them. If an adult will push itself to the point of harming its health, it's hard to trust a mere pup to know when to quit.

 

It's so easy for new owners of Border collies to fall into a trap. People will ask you what kind of dog it is, and you'll say "Border collie", and nine times out of ten, they'll reply, "oh, I bet you have to give it a LOT of exercise!". I've met owners of puppies from active breeds who have felt they were "bad owners" if they weren't giving their pups "LOTS of exercise", and have started taking their four-month-old pup with them when they go roller blading or running several miles each day. They may end up with a pup with joint injuries. Or else they may be lucky and simply end up with a very fit dog. Although I'm sure you will find dissenters, who feel that any exercise is good, in my opinion it's a real risk with a pup. I would also argue that even in the latter scenario, with no injury to the joints, there can still be some undesired outcomes. I think every pup should learn how to "chill out". Not only does overexercise run an increased risk of injury, but you may also end up with a dog that is "always on the go", and doesn't know how to simply flop and chill out when its owners are otherwise occupied - and not just if you've previously exhausted them.

 

I know it seems hard to limit them when they're having so much fun. But some joint issues will last a lifetime. Others can be fixed, but only if you want to invest $3-$5,000 in surgery, followed by months of physical therapy and restricted activities. Take it from someone who's been there. It's not fun.

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I cringe when my younger two dogs play together. Secret will grab at Kaiser's tail as they run, and she will often tumble end over end when she tries to turn around too fast while playing chase with him.... I figure they have high enough odds of killing each other while they play, I don't need to push her to do anything else that will hurt her. lol

 

The rule of thumb is "no forced exercise" until they are over a year. She can run all she wants on off-leash walks, but I won't strap up my rollerblades with her until this fall at the earliest. I don't have to worry about injuring her through too much play -- It's like pulling teeth to get her interested in chasing a rolling ball or frisbee. Sigh.

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ok i will definately keep an eye on him now. He is mildly interested in fetch so dont think i need to worry about forcing him there, and he is normally pretty careful going up and down the stairs so guess i will just have to keep an eye on him and limit what he jumps off of and the frequency of it and just watch him for when he get tired to quit.

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