Thursday, March 20, 2014

Puppy Antics can be Harmful

     I've been asked about the problem I have with Cinder's newfound joy of jumping-particularly from the furniture to the floor.  To be clear, it's not merely jumping down from lounging on the loveseat or a chair but full on, high speed, running, jumping and then launching into the air from the furniture and landing 1/3 - 1/2 way across a room. Let me explain:
     Cinder is a mere 13 weeks old, however, that doesn't curb her appetite for jumping now that she's learned how. In fact, like many daredevil children, a newfound skill is a newfound thrill that can be quite dangerous-aside from being a bad habit that gets annoying.  Puppy bone structures are not fully developed until sometime between 12-20 months of age and until they are, their bodies can both sustain and weather many minor injuries well, but some things can cause permanent damage that may not even be seen until later life. The concussion and trauma sustained from jumping too young can cause immediate and/or later life damage which cannot be reversed. Typical problems can range from obvious issues such as dislocation, breaks and injured muscles, tendons and ligaments as well as hidden damage such as micro fractures, joint compression that causes joint deterioration; joint or spinal misalignment; shoulder and/or hip and back injuries or predisposition to later life problems caused by the weaknesses created by all the concussion to their bones and joints.
     Yes, all puppies run, jump and play-it IS totally natural and in natural settings with other puppies or dogs, that kind of normal play is totally acceptable and desirable as part of normal growth. However, what Cinder is doing is completely OUTSIDE the realm of anything remotely normal for puppies or even adult dogs. Cinder is engaging in running as hard and fast as possible and jumping onto furniture, which she uses as a launchpad to literally launch herself into the air and land part way across a room on hard surface floors. The way she does it is absolutely amazing and totally resembles the way skateboarders and snowboarders use ramps and walls to gain propulsion for their jumps. The worse news is that there is never any predicting when she'll start this behavior and by the time she starts it, she's done it 10 times before you can intervene in any manner.  We've tried a number of things to curtail this behavior to no avail. 
     I've raised MANY puppies and Cinder is the first I've ever had to exhibit this particular behavior-to an extreme. The only predictability to it seems to be that she's more likely to do it when she's tired.  Like a baby fusses to stay awake, she becomes akin to the Tazmanian Devil to keep going instead of laying down to sleep.  We now recognize that her playtime needs more firm limits to help eliminate that as a prompt for her.  Since reprimands and redirection don't stop or even slow her down, we've resorted to placing as many obstacles in her path as possible to make it more difficult for her to engage in the behavior since it's not always possible to catch her before she starts it.  Once she starts it, I've been jumping in her path and taking her outside for a potty break; then we come in and get a puppy snack in her crate and she takes a nap. That seems to be the best means of stopping her once she starts the running and jumping behavior. Now we're working on doing it BEFORE she gets that tired, but being an energetic Border Collie puppy sometimes often makes recognizing her exhaustion level a guessing game.
     Since I want agility to be part of Cinder's life, I really don't want to quash her love of jumping, but merely stave it off for about six-nine months and re-shape it. 
     Luckily, Spring is finally here and that means we can take Cinder outside for more outdoor activities and exercise befitting a puppy. With luck, being able to get her outside and engaged in other more healthy activities will help curtail what I hope is a crazy phase in Cinder's puppy life. It certainly has been one of the more fascinating problem behaviors to get a handle on than any other I've ever encountered in such a young puppy.  I suppose this is one of our first REAL challenges in our adventures raising Cinder.


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