For the moment, no Picardy Sheepdogs are competing in any sport, due to the still small members of dogs and their young age. But some are beginning training and they are helping us with their expertise so we can inform on the risks and preventive actions needed when engaging in an activity. There is nothing more rewarding than practising with your companion, but it must be done respecting their physical integrity and their maturity
Truly a team sport, agility combines skill, training, and human-canine communication in a display that’s as fun for spectators as it is for participants.
While certain breeds seem to excel at agility, most notably Aussies and Border Collies, the sport can be enjoyed and done well by any dog. Even if you have no intention of ever competing, the benefits are many–two of the biggest being the intense mental and physical workout agility provides.
Bolstered confidence is another major plus. As your dog masters particular jumps and moves, and her focusing ability and athletic skills are honed, a more self-assured and nimble animal emerges. (You’ll notice her confidence permeating other areas of her life as well.). Additionally, agility training strengthens the bond between dog and human. As you work and play together, you’ll learn to read one another on a unique and deeply satisfying level, communicating well beyond basic cues such as “sit,” “stay,” and “down.”
And perhaps the biggest reward? Agility training is just plain fun.
Before starting agility training, schedule a check-up with your vet to make sure your dog is physically able to participate. Breeds prone to hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, or vision problems should be carefully evaluated. Your dog’s mental health should be considered as well; while agility training usually builds confidence, you want to make sure a shy or nervous dog is up to the task of performing.
Usually a pup must be at least a year old to participate in classes or competition, but requirements vary. It’s important to remember that your puppy’s bones and joints are still forming and growing–sometimes up to 18 months of age–and high-impact sports during this period can cause problems down the road.
These last years, veterinarians have began looking at injuries occurring during agility training and competitions, using internet to conduct a retrospective electronic survey was used to investigate potential risk factors for injury among dogs participating in agility-related activities. You will find a resume of those results by clicking on the following link Sport Injuries-vetm0412
You can also access KC guidelines to owners and handlers for dogs taking part in canine activities here
You should attend an agility foundation class in the first instance, run by a properly trained and preferably KC accredited trainer. In these classes you should aim to work on proprioception and spatial awareness, build inner core strength and enable careful introduction to equipment.
To prevent further problems arising, you will find below 2 videos by Wendy Baltzer, DVM, PhD, DACVS about harmful warm-up exercises and examples of appropriate warm-up and cool-down exercises for agility dogs.