K9 Corner, Dec. 12

Published 9:28 am Tuesday, December 12, 2017


Some people purchase or acquire their canine pets dreaming of a variety of activities they can do together. However, each dog is different, not just different in breeds, but different in bone structure and personality. If the bone structure is faulty, such as hip dysplasia, the sport of agility, lure coursing and other athletic activities is out. If the temperament is dominant or shy, the dog will probably not do well as a therapy dog unless it has extensive conditioning. Puppies are not always sound due to extensive inbreeding or convenience breeding where the mating takes place without regard to the qualities of the parents.

Other reasons why new pets should be evaluated can include such common things as taking long walks or jogging. If the individual dog is shorter in the back than the breed standard calls for, this might affect the animal’s gait causing sidewinding or crabbing, (where the dog moves with his body at an angle to the line of travel). By angling his body, the dog relieves the strain on his back and thigh muscles. If this particular dog is asked to jog with his owner for any distance, he will probably resort to a “bunny hop” movement with his hind legs or possibly pace with the left foreleg and left hind leg advancing in unison like a camel.

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Poor shoulder placement for the breed can result in paddling with the front feet. This is caused by the pinching in at the elbows and shoulder joints resulting in the front legs swinging forward on a stiff outward arc. Such a structure problem will not interfere with the animal practicing agility which requires drive from the hindquarters, but may cause the dog to tire more easily.

Even if the dog checks out as normal (most dogs come close), the animal’s personality and temperament should be evaluated. Not only using the dog as a therapy dog when visiting the residents of nursing homes and hospitals which requires a steady, compassionate personality, but selecting a sport to play with your dog may depend on its temperament.

For instance, group sports like flyball racing, where teams compete against each other, demand dogs that will ignore the other racing dog and focus on the jumps and retrieving its ball. The same is required of scent hurdle racing; the competing dogs must be able to ignore the other dogs even though they are strangers and are running close to each other. However, agility and dock diving competitions are individual sports. 

Who should do these evaluations? I would select an American Kennel Club or United Kennel Club judge of your breed or a handler with extensive experience showing your breed. There is usually a fee for these tests or opinions. These people might also be talked into evaluating your mixed breed too. Go to a dog show and walk around the grooming tent to find a handler. Finding a willing breed judge might be more difficult.