Every dog owner knows the trouble with young pups climbing up high. Be it stairs or kitchen counters, a new dog likes to enjoy the view from a height, but is it safe? Does a dog land on its feet when it falls? We explore this in the article below.
Can Dogs Always Land On Their Feet?
Rarely do dogs land on their feet when jumping from a height because their bodies aren’t designed for it. Their probability of hurting themselves is higher after a fall. But if the question is, can dogs land on their feet? Then the answer is a definite yes because you can train them to do it.
Unlike dogs, cats can land on their feet almost always. This is known as the “righting reflex.” Cats’ ears have a vestibular apparatus that acts as a guide or compass, letting them know which way to orient when falling.
Their bone structure is unique. Their vertebrae are highly flexible and have a very small collarbone (clavicle). This lets them twist their body in mid-air. Their body-to-weight ratio is also lower than dogs, which helps them fall relatively slowly.
Cats have evolved this way because they spend much of their time on trees. They have had to adapt to the fact that they fall more often than other animals. However, all this is not to say that cats always land on their feet. So, if you are wondering why doesn’t your cat land on its feet, it might just be suffering from vestibular disease.
Cats need time to achieve terminal velocity while falling. So if they fall from fewer than seven stories, they will likely get hurt. Dogs, on the other hand, have not evolved such features. They have evolved from wolves, who were more used to hunting in open fields rather than climbing up trees.
Their backs are stronger but less flexible to hunt on prey rather than climb or run away from things.
A dog’s anatomy has many features to help it survive in the wild. Dog breeds come in four broad sizes:
- Small breeds such as Shih Tzu and poodles weigh between five to ten pounds
- Medium breeds such as spaniels and terriers weigh ten to fifty pounds
- Large breeds such as shepherds and retrievers can weigh up to 100 pounds
- Giant breeds such as St. bernards and mastiffs can be as big as 200 pounds
On the other hand, most domestic cats are under 10 pounds. The higher weight of dogs makes their falls harder and more dangerous. The skeletal system of a dog is very similar to that of a human, with their limbs being nearly identical. Unlike cats, which have denser bones, dog bones are lighter and break more easily when they fall.
Moreover, the dog’s spinal column is not as flexible as that of a cat. While cats can rotate themselves in mid-air, dogs cannot do so.
Are Dogs Agile?
How quickly and easily a dog can change its position or move is a measure of its agility. Any dog lover who has seen dog shows would know that agility requires speed, power, flexibility, balance, coordination, and skill.
You can train dogs to become more agile. While some breeds are naturally nimble and flexible, others can learn the skills with proper agility training. The more intelligent the dog, the easier it can pick up the skills required for agility. Agility training can also help a dog master the skills necessary to change its position while falling, thus avoiding harm.
Apart from this, agility training also has several other benefits:
- It improves human-dog bonding
- It is an excellent form of physical workout for the dog
- It is a great way to exercise along with your dog
- It hones a dog’s natural hunting instincts
How to Test Dogs Agility
If you want to find out how agile your dog is, agility trials are a great way to do so. Agility trials involve an obstacle-based course to check how well coordinated, strong and accurate its movements are. Here are some games and tricks in a typical agility trial.
You can set up one or two ramps for this sport, which involves jumping over ramps. Basic jumps involve your dog jumping over a single ramp. Complex jumps will need them to jump and turn mid-air. This trick can also train the dog to land on its feet and keep its balance. High-jumping dogs are also trained like this.
Jumping Over a Stick
Set up a small jumping obstacle using a broom handle or a long pipe. Use a sign that will encourage your dog to jump over it. As your dog gets more confident with this trick, you can start adding height to the jump.
Passing Through Tunnels
To set up a tunnel, use a plastic tunnel from the market (tunnel toy for kids) or make your own out of cardboard boxes. Guide your dog through it once or twice, then let them do it independently. If they hesitate, throw in a few treats.
Weaving Through Poles
Weave poles help build coordination. To do this, set up a line of poles (traffic cones, dowel rods, empty soda cans, etc.) spaced about 18 inches apart.
Your dog needs to weave in and out of the poles, going down the line. As your dog gets better, decrease the spacing to make it more challenging.
Leaping Over Barriers
Leaping helps improve coordination, strength, and speed. Set up plastic buckets as barriers and encourage your dog to jump over them.
Offer a treat when they do it successfully. Slowly increase the height until your dog is comfortable jumping over multiple barriers.
What To Do If Dogs Fall?
If a dog was involved in an accident involving a fall, the best idea is to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Keep an eye out for these signs:
- Limping or not walking properly
- Whining or pain when lying down or getting up
- Reduce appetite and urination
- Not able to breathe properly
Check for Injury or Visible Wound
Falling from a height can result in many signs of visible injuries, including protruding bones, redness of the eyes, or a bloody nose.
Visible wounds give an idea of how bad the accident was and what you have to do as treatment. You should also provide first aid (as suggested below).
Clean Open Wound
If a dog has visible injuries, the first thing to do is to take care of it and minimize infection. Clean open wounds like cuts and bruises with a towel.
If there is a visible broken bone, clean the area around it and cover it as carefully as possible to avoid the spread of bacteria.
Be Aware of Appetite Loss
Loss of appetite can indicate internal injuries. If your dog yelps, whines when chewing its food, or is unable to eat properly, it might be a sign of a broken jaw.
Similarly, check poop and urine for the next two days. If your dog has ruptured its bladder, it may pass blood or may not be able to poop at all. In such cases, reach out to your vet immediately.
Monitor Dog for Several Hours
Don’t be fooled if your dog appears outwardly okay. You should monitor their activity levels and breathing for several hours. Delayed breathing could signify a punctured lung, especially if it broke a rib. It could also be because of a diaphragmatic hernia.
If the injury has caused internal organs to push against the lung, it can also cause breathing difficulties. You should keep a check, and if things become difficult, travel to the vet, keeping the dog with its injured side pointing downwards.
Look for Breed-Specific First-Aid
How you administer first aid depends on the size of the breed. For example, if your large dog is facing a breathing issue, throw a sling out of a towel or big cloth and carry it slowly to the vet.
For smaller ones, place one hand behind the front legs and one in front of the hind legs to pick it up and carry. Similarly, if a large dog has broken its back, you must find a board to carry them (like a stretcher). For smaller dogs, a baking sheet will do.
If your dog has ruptured its lung, you must ensure they stay as still as possible. Don’t make them struggle; if they want to be in a certain position, just let them. Don’t force them to lie down.
You can create a makeshift ventilator if the dog has stopped breathing. Use your hands to cover your dog’s mouth and nose, and blow air into the nose directly.
This will help keep their oxygen levels up temporarily. Look out for the rise and fall in their chest, with roughly 15-20 breaths per minute. Keep doing this till their breathing returns to normal or you have made it to the hospital.
The next time you see an agility trial and ask yourself why dogs land on their feet in these trials, the answer is that their owners have trained them to do it! You can train your dog to land on its feet too!