As natural born athletes, jumping is instinctive for dogs and in the wild would have been important for catching prey. These days your dog probably jumps on a regular basis when it comes to things like getting in and out of the car or exploring the woods on a country walk. And with sports like agility and flyball gaining in popularity we are asking our dogs to jump on command too.
But can jumping actually harm your dog’s joints in the long run? We look at why dogs jump and what you can do to help protect their joints…
Why do dogs jump?
Jumping starts at an early age and puppies will usually jump up to greet adult dogs, especially their mother, or jump on other dogs their own size as a way of saying hello. They may continue to jump into adulthood because they have not been properly socialised, in which case you will need to refocus your dog and teach them to handle situations that may be stimulating and exciting. Dogs may also jump because they are stressed or anxious – in this case it’s important to work out what is worrying your dog and deal with that rather focusing than the jumping itself.
How jumping can affect your dog’s joints
The biggest health problem linked to jumping in dogs is early arthritis. As many as 65% of dogs will develop arthritis in their lifetime, and constant jumping up and down can increase the inevitable wear and tear on their joints. Of course, it depends on where your dog is jumping as well – hard indoor surfaces can have more of an impact on their joints, whereas jumping outside on the grass will mean that much of the pressure and weight is absorbed.
Is it ok for puppies to jump?
While excitable puppies will naturally jump up and down, puppies shouldn’t be expected to jump competitively until they reach around 15 months old. A puppy’s growth plates aren’t fully developed until they are a year old, and placing undue stress on them before this stage can cause permanent damage. They also don’t have the muscle strength to mitigate the impact of jumping.
How high can dogs jump?
How high your dog can jump depends on their size and also their breed – some dogs are heavier and some have short legs. And while most dogs can jump several times their own height, that doesn’t mean it’s good for them. Older dogs will also have a harder time jumping as they naturally become slower and less agile with age.
Are there certain dog breeds that jump better than others?
Gundog and herding breeds like Spaniels and Border Collies tend to be excellent jumpers and are usually top dogs in agility and flyball competitions, with Labradors and German Shepherds often taking the lead in working trials. There are some shorter legged breeds who should not be encouraged to jump, for example a Dachshund, as there is a high risk of spinal injury.
Is it ok for my dog to jump down out of the car?
Again, the breed of dog and their size are important factors to consider, as well as the height of your boot and the surface your dog will be jumping onto. Studies have shown that the impact on a dog’s joints from jumping out of an SUV can be four times that of a normal step. So, if your dog is older, a small breed or you have a 4x4, consider investing in a pet ramp to help them out.
When dogs jump on and off furniture
Aside from the fact that you may not want your dog jumping onto your bed or sofa, this can put extra strain on their joints and muscles because of the change from hard floor to soft, bouncy surfaces. Consider lifting your dog if they want to join you on the sofa or again using a ramp will teach them to climb onto higher surfaces rather than jumping.
What if my dog competes in a sport like flyball or agility?
Sports like these can be high speed, high impact and involve quick turns and repetitive wear on the joints and the muscles. If you are considering a jumping sport for your dog like agility or flyball, make sure your dog is properly trained to avoid incorrect movements and always ensure they are properly warmed up. Dogs naturally turn one way better than the other too, so adjust your training to work with that, and above all build rest days into your dog’s routine.
Teaching your dog to jump safely
If you are planning to take part in obedience, agility or flyball competitions make sure you take the time to train your dog to jump correctly. Training should be a gradual process, starting with low jumps and simple jump grids until your dog is confident and becomes stronger and more agile. Increase jump heights slowly to avoid the risk of injury. There are several different approaches to jumping training, so take time to work out which one suits your dog and the activities you are planning on doing. Conditioning activities are also worthwhile, like balancing exercises or even just hiking in the woods and jumping over logs.
Looking after your dog’s joints
We all want our dogs to lead a happy, healthy life and of course keeping your dog active is part of that. While some jumping can be beneficial and can help your dog to build muscle strength and maintain fitness, making sure you are aware of the potentials hazards is vital to protecting the joints and muscles, especially with puppies. Also remember that proper training is a must if you want to enter your dog in any kind of jumping sports.
Finally, diet and nutrition are key to looking after your dog’s overall health. Consider adding a supplement like Joint Aid for Dogs to help maintain healthy joints and muscles, and support their freedom of movement. This can be given at a maintenance level or at a full support level for those dogs who are competing or in work.
If you’re not sure whether your dog would benefit from a joint or muscle supplement, or you would like some general nutritional advice, simply get in touch with us on 01225 708482. Our friendly team is always happy to help.