Can my dog play Chuck IT?
You know the game. You put the ball into the long lever arm of the Chuck It and suddenly you can throw four times farther. So is this a great game? This is a tricky question to answer. Very active dogs need a lot of exercise. And unless you are a runner and they run with you, you need to find ways to allow them to use up some of their excess energy. Most dogs love this game and it is an easy way to get them to run while you don’t have to over-exert yourself. However, running and then abruptly turning, especially on soft or uneven ground puts them at risk of an injury, like rupture of the cranial cruciate ligament in the knee.
Can the game be made safer? One of the trickiest part of the game is that the ball is often still in motion when the dogs are trying to pick it up. So, not releasing the dog until the ball has stopped moving at least allows them to better predict where the ball will be, so they can adjust their stride and speed, etc. before trying to pick it up. They may still not do it well and may still do some fast turning, but there is less chance of injury than if they are leaping and scrambling for a ball in motion. Also, consider the terrain. Play on well-maintained fields, etc. that are less likely to have divots. At the beach, play on the harder-packed sand, not on the really deep areas.
Also, make sure your dog is warmed up. They should be walking briskly or trotting for at least 5 minutes prior to any burst activities and then be given at least a 5 minute walk at the end to cool down.
Don’t let your dog suffer from- ”weekend warrior-itis”. If your dog gets almost no exercise during the week he likely shouldn’t be doing 1 hour of sprinting on the weekend.
Make sure your dog has great body awareness. This is the number one way to help prevent injury in almost any activity. Try activities like walking slowly over uneven terrain, or teaching them to back up, or to step sideways. Or, or walk them over unevenly placed broom handles on the ground or over a ladder on the ground. All these activities require them to pay attention to where their hind limbs are stepping and thus improves their hind end awareness.
There is always risk of injury when your dog is flying at high speeds, leaping, diving or fast turning. So recognizing some of the “dangers” of their favorite activities and finding ways to make them less risky decreases the chance of injury.
And if your dog is recovering from an injury, discuss with your veterinarian what activities your pet is allowed to do and be very specific. Most post-surgery rehab programs include strengthening and body awareness exercises to prevent further injury. But even then, for some dogs Chuck IT just may not be the best game for them!