Making these three simple changes to your everyday routine can help to improve and maintain the musculoskeletal health of your dog...
Walk your dog!
How often do you walk your dog? I mean actually walk your dog, as in on a lead, or to heel, so that they are walking and not trotting or galloping?
When your dog walks they have to use each limb evenly, there is also no moment of suspension so all effort is muscular. Even if you do a lot of lead walking, dogs more often than not spend most of their time trotting, especially if they are a smaller breed. Making sure you spend a period of each walk actually walking encourages even muscling and helps to counteract compensatory movement patterns.
Most people will walk their dog on one particular side when on the lead, usually the left if it's a gun dog. Next time you are walking your dog on the lead, notice how they will have a tendency to move slightly away from you, putting more weight on the outside limbs and moving the spine and/or hindquarters away from you. This can result in uneven muscling and strength, especially if you do a lot of lead walking. By switching sides half way through your walk, you can help to even out muscle asymmetry and the extra load placed on the outside limbs.
Ditch the ball thrower
A sometimes unpopular piece of advice, but an important one when you consider the high incidence of cruciate ligament disease and that 80% of dogs over the age of 8 years suffer from osteoarthritis, a degenerative disease caused by wear and tear on the joints.
Repeated sprinting, stopping, twisting and turning when ball chasing puts a huge amount of strain on joints and ligaments - why risk it? There's no need to ditch ball play altogether - try playing hide and seek instead. Scent work and other mentally stimulating games will tire your dog out more than ball chasing, and are much better for them in the long run (no pun intended!)
If you have any concerns about your dog's musculoskeletal health, contact your vet or RAMP registered practitioner.