I am going to pretend that I am a literate sports fan, but if the embarrassing truth be known, I was traveling with a colleague to professional education conferences when he kept checking the "Rams" score at each of our layovers. I finally asked what those were–and got the chiding of my life for being an irresponsible St. Louis resident!
So now, I carefully know who the Cardinals are, and I am aware of spring training. Trust me, I learned my lesson.
This time of year I get a lot of phone calls from people wanting my training or behavior services with existing dogs, or also commonly, new puppies. A frequent topic brought up is exercise for these canine companions, which is a dicey chore at best in this St. Louis climate.
There are two concerns here that I feel compelled to address.
One is the Companion Couch Potato. These are our dogs, who along with us, have lounged lazily on the couch all winter long (did we have a winter this year?!) and are now wanting to go throw some balls, take a jog or enjoy a bike ride.
Just like us, our adult canine companions need to be eased back into activity. Dogs have a happy biohazard of cheerfully agreeing to anything that they think might be fun and do not have a switch that automatically turns off when they are pushed too far, too fast.
I think joggers' dogs are better off, as the jogger who is easing back into the sport is likely to tire at the same rate that the dog does. However, bikers need to be more considerate of the extra work that the dog is doing on the ground. Biking tools, such as a Springer (TM) and other brands that safely attach dogs to bikes for exercise, are highly recommended by moi, someday I will tell you my crash and burn story, and all the broken bones that resulted, but only if someone asks nicely.
Puppies and growing adolescent dogs present a different issue. Being endurance freaks, they will not stop or indicate that they are being over-taxed. However, young dogs do not have full adult development of their orthopedic or tendon/ligament structures yet, and overly prolonged or distanced exercise can cause or exacerbate what can become lifelong injuries.
There are very few breeds these days who are immune to hip and elbow dysplasia, an hereditary and serious bone disease which can lead to crippling complications. Arthritis due to sports injury, as well as spinal conditions such as spondylitis, degenerative joint disease, and a conditions such as one called Wobblers can all be exacerbated by too much hard exercise at too early of an age, or complications of such due to an underlying heritable condition.
Dogs can only "sweat" to loose heat through panting and through their only sweat glands, located in the pads of their feet. My Irish Wolfhound and I used to be very active in lure coursing, a competitive Sight Hound racing sport, and we all use what we call "cool down" blankets. These are doggie coats that our hounds wear, that we douse with water. As the water dries and evaporates off the coats, it pulls heat with it, thus cooling the dog underneath.
Be careful about hosing down a hot dog with cold water–this can cause reverse hypothermia, where a dog's body temperature goes beyond overheated to cooling to going into dangerously low temperatures. As the summer heats up, I will talk more about that later.
So! Take your poocho and stroll about, enjoying the spring flowers and lush rebirth of our gardens and parks. Sneak on your sneakers and get a run or two in, with Fido in tow, but take it easy! Watch for an upcoming muse on canine body-work and massage–living with working dogs and sports dogs, I have had a lot of fun finding out about this unique world, and it is very interesting.
Dorene, and Gulliver (Scottish Deerhound/Borzoi mix), and working Canada goose management Border Collies Anna and Quill