Training and Behavior

Training Issue or Injury? Some common agility foibles might actually indicate something’s wrong with your dog.

By By M. Christine Zink, D.V.M., Ph.D. |

Weave polesMany canine competitors seem endlessly enthusiastic as they zoom through tunnels and leap over jumps, but what about dogs that have a little less spring in their step? It could be performance anxiety, but behavioral changes often signal physical problems. Any dog that suddenly seems down in the dumps about working should be checked for an illness or injury, even if there are no other obvious signs of a problem. This list of common behaviors that could indicate an injury will help you detect and treat minor problems before they become major ones.

Avoiding jumps
If a dog intentionally runs around jumps, people often assume it’s a training issue. The truth is – barring handler error – a trained dog is unlikely to avoid an obstacle directly in its path. If it hurts to land on its front legs, your dog will be reluctant to jump.

Forelimb pain sign of many musculoskeletal conditions, such as biceps tendonitis (inflammation or tearing of the tendon of the biceps muscle), sesamoiditis (inflammation of small bones in the feet) and osteochondritis dissecans (a developmental cartilage defect, most commonly in the shoulder joint). These conditions are more often seen in dogs with upright angles of the scapula or humerus (upper arm), and in obedience dogs, which often jump on hard surfaces, such as thin mats over concrete.

Dogs that avoid jumps also might have weak rear limbs due to lack of conditioning, an injury or a condition, such as hip dysplasia, that makes it painful for the dog to extend the rear legs. A painful back due to muscle strain or arthritis of the spine can also prevent a dog from using its rear limbs well and lead to knocked bars.

Want to read the full story? Pick up the July 2012 issue of DOG WORLD today, or subscribe to receive the best dog articles, dog news, and dog information every month!


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