A Dog's Life

Cheri Kolstad is a certified dog behaviourist, dog groomer and trainer who lives in Penticton

We don't seem to consider that a dog can have problems with their footing. Seeing as how they have four legs and can climb, run and dodge better than we ever could, the thought doesn't cross our minds they can have sport injuries.

We walk them, run them and let them play in parks with other dogs, letting them enjoy life. Their antics and play make us smile and bring a connection between us and our dog. We love to play with them, but we become spectators at a sport, watching with enthusiasm their agility and speed.

We need to consider that people who are in great shape train for their sport and have special coaches and staff to help them through any aches and pains which haunt many athletes after practices and games.

Somehow we forget that a dog can suffer the strains, stretches and pulls the same as any athlete. For a dog it may be worse because the intensive play may only happen once or twice a week.

There is no toning of the muscles between games, no warm ups or cool downs, and no communication afterwards to anything that might not feel right. We take them out, let them play feverishly and then take them home, feeling quite good that we have had a great time on our daily outing.

Dogs don't know how to tell you something aches, and they don't stop because it does. They just do it.

I cringe when I see a heavy dog out of shape run into a dog park and take their place among the crowd, running and dodging to the full extent of their ability. I worry about their joints having too much weight to deal with,their back being stressed, and their legs taking pressure that may really hurt. And in all of this, they never complain, or refuse to join in.

It is not until there is a major injury that we even think of paying attention. The dog may be on the ground crying, or maybe hurt themselves seriously enough it can't get up.

Some dogs may move slower or have trouble turning their heads in a full arc as usual. When a dog displays their pain the handler somehow feels that someone should just fix it so everyone can get on with their lives. Injuries are not always taken seriously enough with a dog.

Your dog is an athlete in their own right. Treat them right. Limit their play, give them a warm up walk and a cool down walk after play. Watch their weight, it takes a toll on their back and joints. Watch their legs and paws for sensitivity, snaps in the joints or dislocated toes.

We work with our young athletes to keep them on the right path for a long healthy life and limit the hard competition and ensure stretching before taxing our bodies. The same consideration should be taken for our dogs.

Winter is upon us and we know that it's time to be cautious. A pulled groin or a twisted back is common for anybody. A simple thing to remember is to be careful of the ice not just for yourself, but for your dog. Live Long and Prosper is a good adage for everyone.

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Cheri Kolstad is a certified dog behaviourist, dog groomer and trainer who lives in Penticton

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