It's a hard life!
Many pet dogs these days lead very busy lives! In order to perform at their best,
they need to be cared for like athletes. There are
several factors which affect performance, those that are internal to the
dog, such as genetics, physiology and psychology, and those that are external
such as food, training, and type of sport.
The first step is to evaluate what a dog is capable of. This requires
looking at his structure and movement to see if he will able to stand
up to the work required. An evaluation of his temperament and willingness
to work is also necessary. Much of the basic make-up of the dog is inherited
from his parents.
We can influence his structure by correct feeding and conditioning but
the underlying anatomy and gait must be sound. We can influence his temperament
and willingness by socialization and ensuring the dog understands what
we require, that our training is clear and fair, but if he inherited shyness
from his ancestors, he will never be bold and courageous in all situations.
Considerations and Discussion points for the Performance Dog:
- Feeding Puppies
- Don't feed puppies for rapid growth, there is no evidence to suggest
that this will increase size at maturity, and there are correlations
between speed of growth and developmental conditions in susceptible
animals. You don't know whether your pup is pre-disposed to any of these
conditions, so why take the risk! Recent research has also
suggested a link between over-supplementation of calcium and developmental
problems. It has been suggested that care should be taken when switching
a pup to adult food that the amount required to maintain the correct
weight does not contain too much calcium.
- Feeding Adults
- Keep adults lean, this helps them to avoid unnecessary strain on the
joints and helps them to dissipate heat while working. Many people disagree
on supplements, but a boost of specific nutrients just after exercise
has been shown to increase recovery rates, see links below.
- Water should always be available except immediately after strenuous
exercise. The dog can be given a little cool, but not ice cold, water
just after the activity, but he should be fully cooled off and his heart
rate back to normal before offering a full bowl. Sometimes a dog will
gorge himself on cold water straight after exercise and bloat.
- In warm summers (above 70F), the dog should be fully conditioned to
the environment, work should be gradually built up. The dog should spend
as much time outdoors, in the conditions he will work in, as possible,
this helps him become acclimatized. Know how to cope with an emergency,
see the links below.
- Warm-up and Cool-down
- It is important to warm up and cool down before and after exercise.
Warm-up and stretching can reduce the risk of injury. If you do a lot
of heeling, you should take special care to do some passive stretches
with the neck and back bending in the opposite direction. If you stretch
your dogs legs gently, you can also see if he is feeling sore, as he
will try to pull away, a couple of days rest could prevent a much more
- Allow your dog to move naturally
- Always heeling with the head in one position can lead to problems
in muscles and joints, encourage your dog to stretch the other way while
playing with a toy, maybe try different sports, or some TTouch ground work to help him with balance
and independent movement.
- Teach your dog to jump properly
- Begin your dog jumping with small jumps and a favorite toy, don't
drag your dog over the jump by a leash, this leads to him throwing himself
over anyway he can. He will not learn to enjoy jumping and he may injure
himself. Try not to do too much until the dog is a 12 to 18 months old.
Natural Jumping Method. This actually teaches the dog to jump, he
learns to be more agile and to take off correctly.
- Take your dog to a chiropractor
- Don't wait until your dog is lame or injured before taking him to
see a chiropractor. Often problems exist that the owner can't easily
see, and a trip to the chiropractor can bring about amazing improvements
in performance. One of our dogs used to lick her flank to the point
where she had a red mark, we thought maybe allergies or an infection,
she was not lame and showed no other obvious signs of injury. However,
the underlying problem was in her back, after one trip to our chiropractor,
the mark miraculously disappeared within two weeks!