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I have a Border Collie that fetches things like it's his job. If he brings me something to throw and I don't do so promptly, he will start to get pushy and let me know that I need to stop being lazy and throw the toy.

I worry, especially when it's warmer out, that he will overwork and hurt himself. He has never refused to fetch something because he's bored with it or too tired, so it's up to me to decide when enough is enough.

What sort of signs should I look for to determine that play time should be over for the sake of my dog's health?

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We had a Labrador Retriever that would run down and catch a Frisbee all day long. When you threw it, she would run it down, catch it, and bring it back and kept doing it as long as you kept throwing it.

Because of this, it became necessary to have to cut her off more than once when she started to show signs of wearing down.

It's been a few years since the Lab passed, but from what I recall, the serious warning signs that our vet gave us were:

  1. Panting is not a sign that your dog is overheating or tried. It is how dogs cool off their bodies, the same as human would sweat. However, if the panting becomes excessive or rapid, it could be a sign of the dog becoming overheated.
  2. If the normally wet areas of the dog (nose and gums, specifically) are dry and hot, that is another warning sign.
  3. Vomiting or diarrhea
  4. Excessive salivation

However, it is best to stop the dog before it gets into a danger area of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. We always tried to gauge just much she was actually catching her Frisbee and how quickly she brought it back. If she let too many hit the ground, or was starting to trot back more slowly, we usually would take a nice long water break and get her inside.

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