Working Dogs


Working Dogs Fitness Assesment

Working dogs such has police dogs, sheep dogs, gun dogs and competition dogs that regularly compete at agility, obedience and flyball are the athletes of the canine world. These active working dogs are especially prone to sustaining minor musculoskeletal injuries that do not always result in an obvious lameness or signs of pain. Approximately 50% of canine body mass is skeletal muscle and Grade 1 muscle strains are the commonest and often undiagnosed injuries in the working dog. The handler / owner may notice a slight loss in performance or a change in behaviour which could signify that their dog may be carrying a minor injury. Any loss of performance should be investigated, as these untreated minor injuries could cause more serious injuries over time.

Working dog in actionGeneral Signs of Injury in the Working Dog

  • Lameness
  • Heat and swelling around joints
  • Muscle wastage
  • Stiffness especially after exercise
  • Reluctant to exercise or train
  • Difficulty jumping in/out of the car
  • Behavioural changes
  • Reactive to being touched
  • Weight shifting

Working dog in actionSigns of Potential Injury in the Agility Dog

  • Knocking down poles
  • Coming out of weaves
  • Decreased time
  • Shortened stride

Signs of Potential Injury in the Obedience Dog

  • Crooked sits
  • Fidgeting in stays / breaking stays
  • Mouthing the retrieve article
  • Loss of concentration in heelwork

Working dog in actionCauses of Injury in the Working Dog

  • Poor training programme
  • Over training/repetitive stress/fatigue
  • Slipping
  • Collisions with equipment
  • Falls of equipment
  • Impact on landing
  • Mistiming jumps
  • Over stretching
  • Poor technique
  • Trodden on by handler

Musculoskeletal Health Checks

Working dogs are subjected to far more stresses and strains than the average pet dog experiences and subsequently they need a little more help to keep on top form and recover from the wear and tear that training and competition produces. To keep our working dogs in top condition it is recommended that they undergo regular musculoskeletal health checks to identify those little niggles and treat accordingly before they develop into more troublesome problems. Minor injuries are much easier to treat when caught early enough. It is far more difficult to treat and resolve problems when injuries have become established and tissue changes have occurred due to the dog working with a subtle injury that has gone unnoticed.

A regular Musculoskeletal Health Check is an excellent way for handlers and owners to monitor their dog’s physical well being and aid in the early detection of potential problems. Regular assessment of the dog’s muscles and joints noting both the quality and amount of movement in the joints can help prevent the development of chronic injuries.

Musculoskeletal Health Check Assessment

Dogs attending Safe Haven Clinic for a musculoskeletal health check will undergo an assessment relating to the sport they are working in. Each musculoskeletal health check will include:

  • Movement assessment
  • Palpation of spine and peripheral joints
  • Palpation of soft tissue
  • Proprioception check
  • Injury prevention
  • Performance enhancement
  • Training review

If you require further information about the musculoskeletal health check or wish to discuss your dogs requirements or make an appointment then please call or email me.