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Discussion Starter #1
A trainer recently told me that I might want to cut down on the fetch sessions with my dog. I usually take him out twice a day and set a timer for ten minutes while we play fetch in a nearby field, then take him on a walk around the area to cool down. The trainer thought that fetch might actually be causing him to become stressed because it raises cortisol levels. She also shared an infographic (attached) about how fetch can put undue stress on their bodies.

I'm curious to know what people think about this. Is there such a thing as too much fetch? If there is, where's the line?
 

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I don't see 10 mins a session twice a day is too much. I think it's just right. You're fine. I've seen other people say over an hour a day.
 

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Yeah, I was sort of thinking along these same terms. Must be more to the story for the trainer to bring this up. How is your dog's behavior otherwise?
 

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I don't know about this but I certainly wouldn't dismiss it easily. Many people strictly monitor their dog's weight to minimize joint damage caused by excessive and unnatural impact activities. I think a lot would have to do with your playstyle. I have seen maneuvers by dogs during ball playing that make me cringe. I know of dogs that have died. I think if you limit such behaviors, that ten minutes of low to moderate intensity a session is not too much.
 

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It depends on the dog.

It’s easy to chuckle and write it off as ridiculous, until you own or know dogs that are so intense in their chase/fetch behavior that they will injure themselves and keep right on going. Psoas injuries suck, chiro is expensive, crate resting intense dogs is kind of awful, and the last few years have seen a number of high profile GSDs die choking on balls.... I play fetch with my dogs and they aren’t bubble wrapped couch potatoes, but I think it’s good to be mindful. Two of my dogs would play Chuckit with 100% intensity until they collapsed, if I allowed it.
 

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My dobie GSD mix will fetch til he dies. And he is so intense about it. I don’t fetch with him often as a result and it’s impossible to fetch with any of the other dogs when he’s around. You know your dog.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks for your responses. He's physically very lean, but can be very intense when it comes to fetch. He has had a sprain before I don't know from what exactly, but it seems likely to have happened during fetch. I'll work on controlling the intensity of our fetch sessions now that I know more about the possibility of injury.

As for his behavior, we moved to a new state recently and he's been reacting fearfully when strangers approach him. He's fine until someone tries to pet him and then he starts backing away and barking at them. My husband's parents came to stay with us for a few days and he acted very strange with them, too. They were complete strangers to him, but sometimes he seemed to want to play or be pet by them and then after a few minutes he'd get scared and start barking. This behavior is why I consulted with the trainer to begin with and she suggested a large part of the problem may be he is unsettled because of the move and that too much fetch might be upping his stress levels.
 

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Thanks for your responses. He's physically very lean, but can be very intense when it comes to fetch. He has had a sprain before I don't know from what exactly, but it seems likely to have happened during fetch. I'll work on controlling the intensity of our fetch sessions now that I know more about the possibility of injury.

As for his behavior, we moved to a new state recently and he's been reacting fearfully when strangers approach him. He's fine until someone tries to pet him and then he starts backing away and barking at them. My husband's parents came to stay with us for a few days and he acted very strange with them, too. They were complete strangers to him, but sometimes he seemed to want to play or be pet by them and then after a few minutes he'd get scared and start barking. This behavior is why I consulted with the trainer to begin with and she suggested a large part of the problem may be he is unsettled because of the move and that too much fetch might be upping his stress levels.
I don't think you're overdoing the fetch. I've heard of people playing over an hour a day. And if anything, I think playing fetch is helping your dog with some familiarity in a new place. But what do I know?

How often has your dog seen your husband's parents? I mean, if that was the first time, it kind of sounds normal. I don't know. Maybe someone else has a better theory.
 

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I don't think you're overdoing the fetch. I've heard of people playing over an hour a day. And if anything, I think playing fetch is helping your dog with some familiarity in a new place. But what do I know?

How often has your dog seen your husband's parents? I mean, if that was the first time, it kind of sounds normal. I don't know. Maybe someone else has a better theory.
I don't think we're playing too much fetch either, but after reading the other responses I think maybe our fetch has been a little intense and I will try to tone it down a little to avoid risking an injury. I don't want to cut it out entirely because, like you said, it probably helps with familiarity since that's been a regular part of his routine.

He's only ever met them once, so my only problem there was I really don't want him being afraid of new people and barking. But personally I think that has less to do with stress from playing fetch and more to do with him being insecure. I was just wondering if I should take the fetch thing more seriously.
 

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I don't think we're playing too much fetch either, but after reading the other responses I think maybe our fetch has been a little intense and I will try to tone it down a little to avoid risking an injury. I don't want to cut it out entirely because, like you said, it probably helps with familiarity since that's been a regular part of his routine.

He's only ever met them once, so my only problem there was I really don't want him being afraid of new people and barking. But personally I think that has less to do with stress from playing fetch and more to do with him being insecure. I was just wondering if I should take the fetch thing more seriously.
Yes, routine...I couldn't think of that word while I was responding to you. I don't think you need to change your daily fetch routine. 10 minutes twice a day is not a lot. Like I said, some people play more than twice what you do. In fact I like that you use a timer too. I may have to steal that idea.

And yes, that's what I thought, he's only met your in-laws once. They may be in your "inner circle," but they're not in his inner circle...yet. So he's going to be wary of them.
 

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I know tons of dogs whose owners play fetch excessively. Two issues are over adrenalized behavior and injury.

If you think about "natural" canine behavior... 90% or maybe even 95% of activity would be steady travel, going to water and back, marking territory boundaries, tracking prey, stalking prey, following prey. Very, very little of it is the actual full on sprint to get which is what ball simulates.

I think dogs do way better physically and mentally when the bulk of their activity is mental work, steady, nastural and free forward movement (jogging along at a natural pace, exploring)

I do throw the ball, but not over and over and over.
 

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And when I throw it it is usually as a reward after some work. So the dog is halfway gassed already. Tug, tgrow, tug throw, and I quit if he looks fatigued because I don't want him crashed and hurt

So he is equally or more satisified to the dog who did nothing but fetch fetch fetch but less impact and more mental satisfaction.

Sometimes I let him really wear himself out on the dock but that's landing in water so I don't worry so much
 

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Jupiter used to play fetch 45 min or so a day, every day, at a dog park from 4 months-9 months. I hadn't heard that it was bad for the joints. Hope I didn't give him hip dysplasia :(
It certainly didn't appear to stress him out, though.
 

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Exercise reduces stress and releases endorphins, I don’t know where the stress/adrenaline theory came from.
If you want to see stress, go look at a bored GSD who is cooped up in the house or crate, being forced to do nothing.
A tired puppy is a good puppy. Exercise is necessary for proper development of muscles and bones. A little walk around the neighborhood will not cut it.
Everything in moderation. I think 15 minutes of fetch, letting him set the pace, is not only beneficial but necessary for a growing dog.
We use seven soccer Jollyballs. He trots and runs around the yard after them. I roll them randomly (I did kick them, until I messed up my foot.) he runs up the slope we have in the yard, he runs diagonally from one end to the other. When I start to see signs of fatigue, I take up his long line and reel him in, even though I know he would play until he passes out.
It is up to us to manage our dogs, but it is not an all or nothing thing. Don’t be afraid of fetch, just do it using common sense and do not overdo it, and that goes for everything you do with your dog.
 

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How you play fetch can be more important than if you play fetch or not. Things like making the dog lay down and then releasing them after the ball has landed vs. letting them run with it in the air. One thing I do with my dogs is make them lay/sit somewhere they can't see where it lands and then I release them to go find it. Keeps them occupied longer and stops them from just running hard and potentially hurting themselves chasing the ball down. You can also throw several balls/toys and have them keep looking until they get them all. I usually just do 2-3.
 

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I've seen this around a lot. I think it comes from the dogs that injury themselves playing fetch. I've heard of it. Dogs that will throw themselves into the ground to get the ball every time it's thrown. I once tried a laser pen with my gsd. Did it for maybe a week before quitting. It was bad. Reflections of light would leave her foaming at the mouth and running into walls. She did eventually get over it but it took months. That's one play tool I'll never pick up again for any dog. My husky mix loves tug. Loves it so much that she'll hurt herself playing it. I still play tug with her but she gets frequent brakes. I've learned to spot when she's tired or when something is hurting even though she is very much engaged in the game. We just have to draw that line for them on when it's time to stop and that will be different with every dog in every case.
 
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