The Urban Challenge

How do city dwellers train their preformance dogs for success?


The Labrador Retriever, Duke, paused on the dock for just a heartbeat and then ran and leaped off, splashing into the water after grabbing his toy out of the air. Dock jumping has become a very popular sport, especially for water-loving dogs like Duke. However, Duke lives in La Jolla, Calif., a suburb of San Diego, and his owner, Janet Santora, has to work to get Duke ready for these outings.

“Duke is prone to gain weight,” Santora says, “so keeping him fit is very important. Also, although I’m not too far from the beach and I can let him swim in the ocean, for a long time I didn’t have access to any docks or piers where dogs are allowed. So for that I had to improvise.” Santora solved a part of her problem, though, when she found that a neighbor had a long narrow lap pool. She offered to pay for a portion of the pool’s upkeep if she could build an attractive yet useable dock for Duke to jump off into the pool. The neighbor was agreeable, and Duke is able to practice regularly.

Preparing a dog for a performance event, either for fun or for a title, often requires some long-term planning. After all, the dog needs to reach the peak of training and fitness for the event. However, when the dog and owner live in an urban or suburban area where resources may not be readily available, that planning can be significantly more difficult.

Fitness First
Any dog competing in any performance event should be physically fit. Chris Zink, DVM, Ph.D., of Ellicott City, Md. and the author of The Agility Advantage (, 2008) says, “Fit dogs compete better and have fewer injuries. In addition, should a fit dog get hurt, the injuries tend to be less severe.”

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