Should I let my performance dog play with other dogs? My dog may suffer an injury.
This is a common concern for canine athlete owners and trainers; injuries in general are concerns, so why take a risk with an athlete that will have to perform? The thought about not letting them play with other dogs to reduce the chance of injuries is common however is it right? In one study performance dog play with the human handler is important especially right before an event. It helps with keeping the dog focused during the event. But how about dog on dog play? Should you let your prized performance dog play with that other dog? - You want the short opinionated answer, yes you should allow your performance dog to play with other dogs.
Let’s go through my reasoning for allowing performance dogs to play.
First – your fear here is injuries,right? Why are you letting your dog do an athletic event in the first place? It is much more likely to be injured in its sport than playing with another dog. The most common type of injuries in performance dogs are repetitive stress injuries – shoulder instability, carpal strains, cruciate ruptures, and tendon/ligament strains/tears.The most frequent type of injuries that veterinarians see are broken bones from car accidents and other equally severely traumatic events and then the next most common has to be cruciate ruptures. In canine sport medicine practices cruciates and other tendon/ligament injuries are the most common – the repetitive stress injuries. Besides lacerations to ears and the skin on other areas of the body, dog play does not cause very many injuries and the injuries that it does cause are not likely to affect performance.
Second – dogs are pack animals. The nature of a dog is to be and interact with other dogs and that includes playing. Apologies to my single dog family homes for the next statement, but dogs that are not allowed to interact with other dogs are more likely to have behavior disorders. So for the mind of the performance dog, it would be best to allow the dog to have its natural tendencies and then control/moderate the activity. Dog play is going to help the dog in other aspects, such as relaxation (we all know – all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy), develops coordination and muscle development utilizing different muscles than the normal routine of training which will help balance, and can learn from the other dog such as restraint and impulse control.
Lastly – is your dog a superstar, and no, not in your own mind? Is it one of the top dogs in the nation? Are you going for your second national title in your chosen canine sport? If you are, then you are in the top 1% (and I am being generous) of canine performance dog owners. So then why do all these owners do it, when only a select handful make it to the top? Very few are making money from it, even some of the top are spending money not making it. It must not be about being the top or about making money, it has to be about something else. For the majority, it is about having fun with the dog. OK, then how about it? You are going to prevent your dog from having fun, because you have a fear that it is possibly going to injure itself so that it will not miss out on the opportunity to perform something else that is fun but is more likely to cause injury? How does that make any sense?
Let the dog be a dog and let your performance dog play! There is much less of a chance of injury playing than in the sport itself, it helps the behavior and mind set of the dog and its fun!
Do you really want to prevent performance related injuries, then stop worrying about your performance dog playing with other dogs and condition your dog against the repetitive stress injuries by purchasing (and then using) one of Dr. Chris Zink’s Canine Sports Production books, Clean Run’s Canine Fitness and Conditioning videos, or Dr. Debbie Gross Saunders’ Strengthening and Stretching the Performance Dog videos. You will have a happier and healthier performance dog!