Flick The Stick, or Chuck The Ball?
To flick-eth the stick-eth, or chuck-eth the ball-eth; that is the question...
We often wonder whether to take the ball with us on our dog walks or think about finding that 'perfect stick' and while some dogs don't quite love a stick, others go absolutely crazy for them! It's part of their unique personalities - you could get a ball obsessed dog like one of our pup CEOs, Petal, or more of a stick fan. Nevertheless, we have got a paw-ket guide to help you decide whether to flick the stick or chuck the ball along with the advantages and disadvantages of both so you have all the information you need!
Flicking The Stick
Why do dogs love sticks SO much?
Dogs go absolutely bonkers over sticks, and according to vets this can be for many reasons such as:
- The shape reminds them of a bone
- Finding or playing with a stick harnesses their inner 'forager' and hunter
- They like the taste and texture
- 'Mouth Play' - they're exploring the object using their mouth
- Times of teething can make them want to chew on things more including sticks on walks or in the garden
So with these fun reasons why dogs love sticks, how can your dog play safely with them?
Safe-play with sticks
The traditional stick thrown for a dog really is a no-no. There have been cases of dogs being badly hurt or dying when running to catch a flying stick. Yes, dogs love to find and carry sticks around but if you’re going to throw one, just don’t throw it so the dog might try to catch it in flight - that would not be a fun day for both dog or human otherwise!
One of the risks which we have seen within our Pup Republic community, is when dogs carry sticks and they drag it on the ground or grab hold of them in their mouth at an awkward angle. If it gets caught on something on the ground, the stick can stab their gums, jaw and even cause choking if a large piece of the stick gets stuck in their throat - a scary notion! Dogs can also swallow bits of bark or twigs which can become a major issue for dog health.
The advise is that throwing sticks should be limited and used with caution, because any repetitive action like chasing a stick can cause joint strain, twisting of limbs, risk of landing awkwardly which can all lead to problems in later life; not to mention the risks we have listed in this section.
Try throw something else, and keep sticks for carrying around!
Interesting Fact: Interestingly, collies and labs tend to suffer the most stick injuries.
Chucking The Ball
Why are balls so popular among dogs and dog owners?
Balls must be the most popular purchase for dogs and their walkers! Dogs enjoy them, owners can give their dogs more exercise than they would otherwise on walks, in their home and in their garden.
Those of you who know one of our pup CEO, Petal, will know how obsessed with balls she really is, so we're going to use her as a prime example of how to engage in ball throwing safely and enjoyably. We got a ball for Petal when she came home for the first time, but our breeder (who is a very responsible lady) warned me that Petal when she was a puppy still had very soft, joints and that I really didn’t need one. So a few throws makes Petal happy enough, but we also know some dogs simply don't give up once they see a ball or had a ball thrown for them a few times!
So how do you handle dogs that could chase the ball fur-ever?
'Good to know's for ball chucking
Moderation isn't something Petal has a clue about when it comes to her ball that's for sure! She has a box of about 25 at home, which we throw up in the garden or roll along the carpet, but we try not to feed her obsession TOO much so walks are now ball-free. One of the reasons for this, is also because Petal is at risk of hip injury after a broken pelvis three years ago; this could be useful to know for dog owners who have a dog with previous injuries - too much ball throwing can be a health risk.
We also know Petal, and too much ball chasing would result in her quite literally dropping from exhaustion, and while some dog owners love the sight of their pooped-pups, being too exhausted isn't good for them long-term.
Sorry to be a paw-ty pooper on the ball front, but hopefully this is helpful from a health point of view.
Balls are a godsend for high energy dogs, in moderation, but balls should never be used for any dog that is not fully grown - puppy bones don’t even link up until they’re fully adult, though this can vary breed-to-breed from about 1 to maybe 2 years in some of the larger breeds.
Ball-throwing flicky sticks
There is a potential problem with ball-throwing 'flicky sticks' that many of us use. While these are great aids in making sure our pups get the exercise they need on perhaps shorter walks, dogs do not need to go to the max chasing for miles (with the exception of adult high energy dogs of course). It can exhaust our four legged pals, and as most of us have found out, they simply won't stop unless we stop throwing them! You may have noticed your dog fighting the chase with every fibre of their body after many times of chasing the ball thrown by a flicky stick, but they still try bless them. So don't feel the pressure of repeatedly throwing the ball using a ball-throwing stick as a form of good exercise for your dogs, and prolong using these until your dog is an adult, not a pup.
Avoid ball throwing machines
One thing to avoid are those ball throwing machines that could go half the day! For a young dog, just roll a ball along the ground, not too far, not too often is a perfect amount of stimulation and exercise that is paw-fectly good enough for them to enjoy and learn.
We hope you enjoyed this paw-ket guide to stick-flicking and ball throwing! All these games can be enjoyed safely, but they shouldn’t be used as a short cut to properly thought out stimulation and exercise.
So, to flick, or chuck? That is the question!
Nicky, Caroline & The Pups @ PupRepublic