Ban this toy from your household

Ball launchers are ‘cheap’ and plentiful – and full of hazards for your dog

I follow a number of Facebook pages dedicated to pets. On some, the main theme appears to be ‘what’s the cheapest?: What’s the cheapest vet? What’s the cheapest groomer? What’s the cheapest food… and, of course, what is the cheapest toy?

These plastic ball launchers are plentiful in supply and sell for about $2 each. It would seem like an easy solution: buy one and stand still in the park while you chuck a ball at high speed for your dog to chase over and over so they come home tired and exercised. Yet, it is this chasing that puts undue strain on your dog’s joints and increases their likelihood of painful injuries – some of which will require expensive surgery and intensive physical therapy.

You’re basically taking a pet dog and asking them to run like a sprint athlete, and then leap and twist to get the ball. They start from a standing position and then sprint before braking hard to catch the ball. At speed, the forces on the dog’s muscles and joints is much greater and the repetitive nature of the exercise is likely to cause micro-tears in the tissues of the muscles and the cartilage of the joints.

It probably is fun, until your dog ruptures a cruciate ligament or develops arthritis over the years of chasing balls in this way.

Often, I see these toys being used in the park on wet grass (a slip hazard) or at the beach over soft sand which isn’t supportive to joints and exacerbates the effects of a twisting and landing.

There’s so much more we can do for our dog’s fitness, flexibility, and stamina as well as enrichment. And we shouldn’t be lazy dog owners – standing in the park chucking a ball is hardly a sign of commitment as your dog’s guardian.

In as little as one session, I will interview you about your lifestyle and your dog’s health and we can come up with the basics of a fitness regime for your dog. Fitness is fun!

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

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