Exercising Your Collie
Let's face facts. You simply can't get a collie unless you plan to make sure he gets exercise. This is just as important for a collie living in a house with a fenced-in yard (or otherwise) as it is for a collie that lives in a condo, apartment or with other people.
The collie is a normally active, energetic breed especially during the first three years. As a herding breed with the potential to run up to 40 miles a day and scale 5 foot walls easily, they require regular opportunities to really let loose and stretch their legs.
While having a buddy to play tag with can definitely be a help, it sometimes just isn't possible if there is no one and no areas for dogs to get together in. I was very lucky as a puppy. Even though I lived in a second story apartment for my first year, I had a big sister to play with and a fully fenced in, unused field across the street in which to run.
Being a herding breed born to chase, your collie will take joy in games that encourage him to pursue just about anything that moves by or away from him. Throwing tennis balls, Frisbees and dog toys or kicking a soccer ball are just a couple of ways that we can be entertained. Another way to get us going is to have someone run a few feet away and then hide behind a tree. Give us a cue to go find them and let us rip! Make sure we get praised like crazy when we find the person, teach us who the different people are in our house and it won't take long before we've got a new rather useful trick at your command. Teach us to hold a note and you can send us to the garage to deliver a message to tell a woodworking husband or garage band son its dinner time!
I don't have a problem with letting your dog chase after you, but he should know not to use his mouth, when to stop if you tell him and he should not chase anyone else... especially people he doesn't know. Yes, it is possible to teach us the difference. If you do have a dog park close by you can give that a try. Often times this can be a good place for your dog to make new friends and get rid of that extra energy.
Okay. So you don't have a huge yard to let a collie play in and there aren't any places that are specifically made for dogs. That's fine. Ask a close friend or relative with a fenced in yard if you can exercise your collie there every so often. Remember to clean up after him though. You might lose your visiting privilege if you forget! You can try finding an open field or meadow that isn't owned or used for farming and tie a long line onto the dog and let him explore. If the line is longer than you can throw, you could play a game of fetch.
Whatever you have available or where ever you live, it has to be remembered that a collie, especially a young collie, MUST have a sufficient amount of exercise to help him or her grow properly, stay in shape, feel good and keep from using excessive energy to do things that are inappropriate like chewing on the couch! Even if you can't let them go super crazy, at the very least try to offer three "brisk" aerobic walks a day. A constant, quick pace will go a long way to helping your collie use up energy. Ask the dog to relieve himself before the walk and don't let him stop every five feet and he'll soon get the idea that this isn't a casual kind of walk. (Casual walks should be exactly that, casual. Let him check things out if you want but the exercising aerobic walk is solely for the purpose of using up his energy and tiring him out.)
Some people like to play rough physical games with their collies and as I like to play rough too, I have to say that for most part I don't have any problem with it. However, I don't encourage rough physical games with dogs that are aggressive or dominant, are trouble makers or puppies.
Encouraging rough games with aggressive players could end with the dog going too far and accidentally biting you and if he doesn't know how to stop he could bite several times and not realize he's hurting you. Rough games with overly dominant dogs could be a problem if they think you are challenging him. If a dog is securely dominant or dominantly aggressive enough, he might intentionally bite you seriously if he doesn't like the way the game is going or feels you are doing something to defy his authority. Rough games with trouble making dogs could teach him that if you like that behavior when playing he can try to use it anytime he wants your attention. And rough games with puppies isn't just about his obvious safety, but its also about prevention. Rough games that let secure puppies win could push them towards a more dominant or "I'm in charge" personality and rough games with nervous or fearful puppies could potentially teach such a puppy that the only way to deal with things is to run from them or run at them. Running away doesn't teach confidence and running to, usually at some point, ends with a bite.
Before you encourage games that are rough encourage calm, confidence, responsiveness and perceptiveness. Puppies that were taught to be nice and careful will be less likely to get so worked up that they forget their manners. Confident puppies that are perceptive will know when to back off without being fearful of serious repercussions. And responsive puppies will have been taught to stop when they are told to and not question why. These can become issues of safety so do the responsible thing by waiting until your puppy has formed a reliable and consistent personality that can be evaluated before encouraging games that are rough and/or physical.
I should note however that rough games between dogs and puppies are fine and a rather natural part of a dog's development. Rough play with other canines teaches body language skills they wouldn't learn on their own, who's dominant who's not without a serious fight and lets them use up energy. As long as they are not trying to draw blood, let dogs play like dogs. If the situation becomes a little tense between two dogs, each owner should call their dogs away simultaneously or otherwise distract them away and end the game.
THE CHEW TOY / PLAY TOY DIFFERENCE:
Since we're on the subject of playing, lets talk a little bit about toys. There are basically two types. Chew toys and play toys. The idea of which is which can be a little subjective since there are so many different kinds of dogs all with different personalities and so many people with different personalities owning them. Since I look at this as an issue of safety that's how I'll cover this. We'll begin with chew toys.
Chew toys are objects that are made to be chewed on and in some cases eaten. Many of these can be left with your collie provided it is the right size and strength for his jaw pressure. Some popular chew toys are Nylabone/Gumabone products, Kong products, and my personal favorite natural femur bones.
The Nylabone company makes several varieties of chew toys for different types of chewers. Their chews are not made to be eaten but as the dog chews, shavings will begin to stick up. These help massage the gums, clean the teeth and if they are ingested will pass safely.
"Nylabone" generally refers to their regular hard nylon composite toys. They are most often seen in the shape of a bone with several sizes and flavors and they also have an extra wide chew toy the same shape as a rawhide bone for those dogs that like that shape. They are good for firm or semi strong chewers who will generally tire of chewing after a half hour or so.
Nylabone's soft version is referred to as "Gumabone" and comes in a variety of sizes, shapes and flavors. These types are good for average and light chewers and especially puppies. (Nylabone does make a 'puppy pooch pacifier' but because of its hard nature many young puppies give up on it early if they feel they aren't getting enough satisfaction chewing it.)
They also have two extra hard kinds of rubber composite chew toys, one called "Rhinos" and the other are "Dinosaur Bones" they say are "pit bull tested" and are very sturdy. These are for the dogs that chew with the absolute intention of destroying whatever toy they have in their mouth and try to chew nonstop until the bone is gone.
Kong products are hard rubber composite chew toys. They come in several sizes and two strengths, the red being their regular and the black being their super tough. The Kong is great as an occupier toy if you stuff them full of kibble, biscuits, soft treats, a little peanut butter or cheese. Kong also makes several toys combining ropes with other rubber shapes. The red Kong are for average to firm chewers and the black is for hard or aggressive chewers.
Natural Femur Bones
Natural femur bones usually refer to the femur of a cow or bull. Commercially available bones come in a couple of sizes and some are basted with a beefy coating. They can have the ends left on or they can be cut so that the center where the marrow was is visable and can be stuffed with soft treats or small biscuits. Have caution with the bones that have the joint areas still attached. The bone in these areas is a good bit more porous and many average collies can easily break pieces off of the ends that could become a choking/blockage hazard or lodge in the roof of the mouth and sometimes wedge the mouth open maddeningly.
Natural femur bones can last a really long time with nothing more than a gradual wearing down where the dog most often chews. Some stores will carry pork femurs but these are only really appropriate for small dogs as medium and larger dogs can easily break them up. Bones from the grocery store are not always the best for dogs for several reasons. Most of them are easy for many dogs to break up and choke on and a swallowed sharp point can rip a dog's insides to pieces. Bones that are cooked can often splinter in the jaws of a powerful chewer and many stomachs can't handle the bacteria or consistency of an uncured, raw bone.
Never give your dog cooked poultry bones of ANY kind as most of their bones splinter into tiny slivers that will literally cut your dog's digestive tract to total shreds. Contrary to popular belief it is NOT always a safe thing to give to your dog just because wolves eat these bones. Due to human intervention dogs have evolved away from being able to digest practically anything and even when a wolf eats a bone he is usually eating the skin and fur (or feathers) of his kill as well. The skin and fur that does not digest wraps itself around the bones while in the stomach and intestines to protect those linings. The bone comes out almost fully wrapped in the skin and fur much like an owl pellet and keeps that wolf safe to some degree.
Finally, never give your dog the round center bone from a slice of ham. These can lodge at the back of your dog's jaw hinge and effectively wedge his mouth open. It is extremely torturous for a dog to be stuck in such a fashion since he cannot take a drink. There have been more than a few dogs caught in such a predicament and after hours of not drinking they begin to appear to foam at the mouth. Unknowing people assumed these poor animals were exhibiting a sign of rabies and had them put down immediately only to tragically discover the mistake when a state official later examines the deceased dog's head to verify the disease.
(Laddie's note: If you have a young teething puppy with a particularly strong hard mouth, you might want to refrain from giving him a natural bone to chew on. If he bites down too hard, he could possibly break his teeth. Fortunately, collies are not prone to being especially hard mouthed.)
There is also a huge variety of rubber and hard vinyl chew toys but you must be careful that if you intend to leave them with your dog that they are the right consistency to hold up to your chewer.
(Laddie's note: My mom does not use rawhides as a play toy or chew toy. Can you tell from the picture that I didn't like them anyway! There are far too many injuries resulting from the chewing of these objects. However, if you do give them to your dog, please, only allow the dog to chew on it when you are home so if he should by some small chance have a problem, you are right there to help. And if your dog can get through a regular rawhide chew in a very short amount of time, try giving him a compressed rawhide bone. These are made with many strips of rawhide that are heated and pressed together to form a very hard, bone shaped chew. It will have a somewhat smooth look verses the course grain of regular rawhides. If your dog can get through a compressed rawhide in no time flat than try the Nylabone "Dinosaur - pit bull tested" bone. If he can get through that... well, the only thing left would be to find the largest, heaviest femur bone in the world and hope its to large for him to get a really good jaw breaking chewing grip on!)
PICKING THE RIGHT SIZE CHEW TOY
Here are a few easy tips to remember when looking at chew toys.
First... A chew toy that cannot be held easily between your dog's paws when he chews on it is probably too small. This also goes for older chews that he has had for a while. If they are initially too small or have been worn down to the point where the dog has to "flick" the chew up and back to get it on his molars, than it is now a choking hazard. Items that small could slip into the throat and get stuck. If it does manage to pass to the stomach and it is not digestible, than it could block the continuing path of the digestive system.
For strong chewers, try to pick a toy that is difficult for your dog to wrap his entire jaw around. If he has to open his mouth nearly as wide as it can go just to hold the object than he will not be able to exert all of his jaw pressure in his chewing. He will have to work harder and longer and will probably get tired out faster. If your puppy is a strong chewer than be careful its not too big. If the pup can't get any satisfaction for his teething than he'll most likely find something else that is easier to chew on. Hope you have a few spare table legs handy!
With safety in mind, always keep a sharp eye out for small pieces of any chew (like the small pieces of bone in the yellow square) that may have come off during chewing. These must be thrown out immediately so the dog does not choke on them.
Play toys are objects that are made for activities other than chewing. Tennis balls, latex squeaky toys, fleecy and fabric toys, interactive toys, wooden, plastic and canvas retrieving dumbbells. All of these can be potentially dangerous if left with a dog that likes to chew on anything he knows is his. Any of these things can easily choke a dog or cause life threatening blockages in his digestive tract if he should happen to chew off a large piece and attempt to swallow it or chew it further by tossing his head back to maneuver the piece onto his molars. When a dog tries the latter, the objects can miss the molars and slip into his throat where it can lodge and in the worst case scenario kill. Unfortunately far too many people are unaware of what is actually the correct size or type of toy to get their dog.
If you have a dog that enjoys ripping his soft toys to shreds than you might want to save them for play time with you only. A dog can easily choke on the stuffing and it is unfortunately very common for dogs to choke on the plastic squeakers found in such toys. Teething puppies can be particularly susceptible to this since many owners don't realize exactly when their puppy will began to feel the urge to chew to relieve the pain of teething. Play toys should also never be small enough to slip into your collie's throat. A tiny ball that was perfect when he was a puppy will likely be way to small for him when he is a year.
One last note on safety... Check your dog's chew and play toys regularly. Any item that appears to have a crack or break where it should not, must be thrown out immediately. It might not look like much to you, but with the power and strength a dog's jaw can possess it might be very easy for you dog to break it apart the very next time he chews or bears down on it. It could well be the last thing he ever does. The same goes for stuffed animals and stitched toys. If there are any rips or tears it is just best to throw it away. If it is a favorite item your dog seems especially attached to, you can sew it up temporarily, but you should implement a separation program immediately so that the dog either learns to identify something else as its "baby" or be able to handle being without it.
And finally, never ever let anyone near or attempt to take a chew toy, play toy or food item from your dog's mouth. Your dog might allow you to take a treasured object but it can rarely be predicted how a dog will react to someone (human or otherwise) taking that same object. All dogs should be taught to happily relinquish any object in their mouth to a family member for safety reasons, but if you know your dog has certain things he might protect, than put them away when company comes knocking. In the picture above with my human brother, my bones and myself, it must be understood that I have been trained to allow any member of my family to remove an object... ANY OBJECT... from my mouth. As I am confident in my people and my status I do not feel threatened to have him near while I eat or chew. At the same time however, my mom is always careful to be in the same room when we are all home so my human siblings don't take advantage of my good nature and try to push me around!
Please remember, no matter what type of chew toy or play toy you offer to your puppy or dog, use common sense and don't just buy it because YOU think its cute. Your collie will not care about what color it is or that the eyes are shaped like hearts. Every time you bring something home to your collie, no matter what it is, he will think its Christmas and will be perfectly happy just knowing that you thought of him.