🧐 “𝗖𝗥𝗔𝗖𝗞” 𝗔𝗗𝗗𝗜𝗖𝗧 𝗗𝗢𝗚?
𝗗𝗲𝗳𝗶𝗻𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗼𝗳 𝗮 “𝗰𝗿𝗮𝗰𝗸” 𝗮𝗱𝗱𝗶𝗰𝘁 𝗱𝗼𝗴?
👉 a dog that becomes obsessed with throwing some sort of toy (usually a ball) and will kill one’s self before having a rest.
👉Often creates tunnel vision in the presence of a toy or ball.
Have you ever experienced a dog like this? That one at the park, usually a working type breed, that just does not stop and despite practically gasping for air, will continue to bring that toy back to you for just ONE MORE THROW. The kind of dog that loses complete sense of the world around them when that ball or toy is in sight, almost like a trance.
I own one of these dogs; Yogi Bear; a Border Collie cross that will literally KILL herself before she will stop. Full confession, before I became a dog trainer, I thought this was great. It only took 15 minutes of serious ball thrower throwing before Yogi was absolutely smashed. She was the ‘easiest’ dog to physically exhaust. I used to think, “Oh if she was really that tired, she will just stop”. I couldn’t have been more inaccurate in my thinking.
What I didn’t realise is that Yogi had actually become obsessed with the act of throwing that tennis ball, at any opportunity she would bring us a toy and ball and stare at it until we threw it, sometimes she would be waiting hours. This obsession grew more intense over time until I realised the physical impacts that repetitive ball throwing has on a dog.
📌 𝗠𝗼𝘀𝘁 𝘄𝗼𝗿𝗸𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗱𝗼𝗴𝘀 𝗪𝗢𝗡’𝗧 𝘀𝘁𝗼𝗽
From training working breeds to owning three of them, let me tell you, they don’t and won’t stop, even if their body is failing them. I’ve watched a dog strain or tear a cruciate ligament and still chase a ball at the dog park. The owner was absolutely baffled that the dog was capable of continuing to run around. The truth is, that these dogs will work through pain and not give off any indication that they are physically exhausted and possibly injured. This is a key component of being a “crack addict dog”.
📌 𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗮𝗰𝘁 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗿𝗼𝘄𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗮 𝗯𝗮𝗹𝗹 𝗰𝗮𝗻 𝗯𝗲𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗲 𝗮𝗱𝗱𝗶𝗰𝘁𝗶𝘃𝗲
Just like adrenaline junkies becomes addicted to the adrenaline dump when they are doing an intense or risky activity, dogs can become addicted to the high adrenaline state they are in when they constantly chase that ball. It is important to recognise when your dog is becoming a “one more time” dog and ensure you break the behaviour chain by stopping the behaviour or doing something else. If your dog is bringing you toys and staring at you for hours on end, it may be an indication they there is an obsession looming.
📌 𝗕𝗼𝗱𝘆 𝗮𝘄𝗮𝗿𝗲𝗻𝗲𝘀𝘀 𝗴𝗼𝗲𝘀 𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘄𝗶𝗻𝗱𝗼𝘄
Overstimulation + Addiction + Fatigue = Injuries. Most dogs don’t have body awareness on a good day, this is something we have to teach them, let alone when they become fatigued. The MSD Veterinary Manuel describes fatigue:
“Fatigue is a normal consequence of exercise that is continued at high intensity or for prolonged periods of time. It describes the inability of muscles to continue to perform at the same level of intensity” (1).
At the point of fatigue, a dog’s muscles are unable to perform at the same level required to support the body, which means that once fatigue sets in, the dog is placing their body at injury risk should they continue to perform high intensity activities. This coupled with addiction and overstimulation to ball throwing is a muscle strain time bomb waiting to go off.
📌 𝗕𝘂𝘁 𝗺𝘆 𝗱𝗼𝗴 𝗹𝗼𝘃𝗲𝘀 𝘁𝗼 𝗳𝗲𝘁𝗰𝗵
I get it, this is literally your dog’s favourite thing in the whole wide world to do and you couldn’t fathom not playing again. If you have read this and thought, my dog is a total crack addict, there are some things you can do to make the game more fun, relationship building and of course safer.
📌 𝗛𝗮𝘃𝗲 𝗮 𝗰𝗹𝗲𝗮𝗿 𝗦𝗧𝗔𝗥𝗧 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗙𝗜𝗡𝗜𝗦𝗛 𝗰𝘂𝗲
This was a massive game changer for us. By having a start and finish cue it allowed Yogi to understand that the game wasn’t always on. She had a clear parameter for when we were going to play with her and this helped her relax outside of that window. From bringing us toys constantly to relaxing on the couch, we noticed that she became a much more relaxed dog. This doesn’t happen overnight and is certainly something you have to do continuously to form new habits. If Yogi brought us a toy outside of that play window, we would ignore her and give her an incompatible behaviour such as being on a bed.
📌 𝗧𝗲𝗮𝗰𝗵 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗱𝗼𝗴 𝗵𝗼𝘄 𝘁𝗼 𝘂𝘀𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗶𝗿 𝗯𝗼𝗱𝘆
Our dogs just don’t automatically know how to use their body; they totally suck at it and you have to teach them how their rear ends work. Getting your dog used to walking over unstable surfaces or a bunch of pool noodles on the ground are super easy ways to teach them when to place their limbs. Checking out online conditioning courses such as the Do More With Your Dog Course (2) is also a great way to start teaching your dog how to use their body. You will learn how to warm your dog up, stretch them and build muscles to support their crazy addict life.
📌 𝗨𝗻𝗱𝗲𝗿𝘀𝘁𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗲𝘅𝗵𝗮𝘂𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝘀𝗵𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱𝗻’𝘁 𝗯𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗰𝘂𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝘀𝘁𝗼𝗽
Don’t let your dog run until they are on the ground gasping for air, stop well and truly before that. You should be looking for any signs of fatigue; panting, slower returns. For Yogi, I set a limit; she is only allowed 3 throws and then we switch to a different game such as tug.
📌 𝗧𝗲𝗮𝗰𝗵 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗱𝗼𝗴 𝘁𝗼 𝗽𝗹𝗮𝘆 𝘁𝘂𝗴
The thing I didn’t realise about ball throwing is that your dog just uses you (RUDDDDEEEE). You aren’t actually part of the game but just a slave ball thrower. What I like about tug of war is that the game is between me and my dog and because of this our relationship grows! Having a good play game is something I am always trying to improve with my dogs because it becomes a useful training reward system and a great biological outlet. Yogi actually prefers to tug than fetch these days. Tug of war, when played in a safe way takes away that repetitive impact that fetch has on the joints.
❌ 𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗯𝗮𝗹𝗹 𝗱𝗼𝗲𝘀𝗻’𝘁 𝗵𝗮𝘃𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗲 𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘆𝘄𝗵𝗲𝗿𝗲
One day I actually forgot the toy in the car and my dogs were left to entertain themselves at the dog beach (insert eye roll emoji here). After about 5 minutes of Yogi trying to find anything for me to throw, they eventually all started playing with each other and other dogs, which was something I honestly had not seen. Having a ball around all the time creates a sense of tunnel vision where the dog zones out on the world around them. Not only is this not safe but it doesn’t teach your dog how to cope with the world. When you go out, don’t take a toy, take some food to reward your dog and just observe how comfortable your dog is with the world around them.
👉 𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗯𝗼𝘁𝘁𝗼𝗺 𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗲
I could stand in front of you as your trainer, vet, expert or whatever professional and say ball throwing is the worst, but the reality is that you’ll probably still do it, because your dog loves it. That’s okay, but if you are going to play with a crack addict dog learn how to keep them safe. Your wallet health, and their body and mind depends on it.