General Training

Dysplastic Dogs

Dysplastic dogs can not just sit around the house and become couch potatoes. To do so would really cripple them. To stay active they must be active. Dysplasia is a dirty word only in the context of a discussion of responsible breeding and even then OFA'ed Good dogs can throw a dysplastic pup. The dogs which have it and the handler who owns them have done nothing wrong. It's just a fact of their lives. In reality you'll probably find that owners of dysplastic dogs are much better informed and cautious (if they're not when they first learn of it they soon become so) about their dog's health status than the average agility competitor. What can an owner/handler of a dysplastic dog do to help keep their dog in working prime?

  1. A yearly x-ray and consultation with a KNOWLEDGEABLE Specialist. (A lot of vets really don't understand what agility requires of a dog or the new treatments for this problem so don't just take the first opinion that you get.)
  2. Watch your dog's weight and conditioning and keep both at their optimal peak. A dysplastic dog never gets an off season for conditioning - to do so could mean never getting back to that higher level again.
  3. Develop an exercise program that has other activities besides agility.
  4. Spend time watching your dog move. Watch it move around the yard, or practice area. Knowing how your dog normally moves allows you to watch for changes or problems.
  5. Nutritional supplements are helpful in lubricating the synovial fluid in the joints. So with your specialist's advice find the best one for your dog.
    Train at lowered jump heights,lessening the amount of training time and training intensity. The timing difference for handling can be compensated for by squeezing the course in and having obstacles closer to one another.
  6. Don't work dysplastic dogs if the grass or the equipment is wet. Loss of traction is already a problem that the dogs are having to cope with - so don't push their limits with bad conditions.
  7. Enter fewer classes in competition.
  8. Leaving the rear toenails a bit longer than normal also helps to give them back some of the traction that they're loosing. (not so long as to give problems on the contact equipment)
  9. Enlist friends that will be honest with you and have them watch your dog when you run it. Or let someone else run your dog (at least in practice) every once in a while so you can watch it work.
  10. Be willing to scratch out of competition if the course looks too tight for your dog to safely handle. Having to make big jumps on tight turns or tight turns onto the contact equipment (especially the see-saw) is a recipe for trouble for a dysplastic dog.
  11. And, finally, be willing to pull out of competition altogether when in your heart of hearts you know that enough is enough - no matter where you are in your title race. Many of our dogs enjoy agility and want to please us so much that they will keep on going as long as we give them the opportunity. If we're honest with ourselves we know when to quit.

(Penny Winegartner)

A couple more tips:

  1. Get your dog to the water!! It will strengthen the muscles in the legs and firm up those joints! It is a great conditioner for all athletic dogs but the benefits are even more so for the dysplastic dog.
  2. Find a good canine veterinarian chiropractor. Nothing like keeping those mild injuries from getting worse. Many competitors use a good veterinary chiropractor monthly on their canine athletes whether they are dysplastic or not.
  3. You and your dysplastic dog can have a great chance of having a healthy long career enjoying agility together.

(Melinda Harvey)


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