When Injury Interferes with Your Dog Agility Team

One of the lovely aspects of dog agility is that it is all about you and your dog. You don’t have to be the fastest or most talented team on the field, you just have to be the best team you can be. Sometimes life throws a curve ball that may distract you from that simple truth. Injury or surgery can limit a handler, which is fine if you have a slower dog, however it can cause issues with a fast dog. One of our viewers asked for help on such a situation.

I’ve had replacement surgery in both my knees (not recently though, thank God!), and I want to know how realistic an idea it is for me to compete.  I just can’t run so fast! My trainer says my dog and I can do it since we’re good in practice, but I’m concerned I just won’t be able to run fast enough.  I love agility, and so does Maggie, but I don’t want to disappoint her.

First, you need to talk to your doctor to find out if there are any restrictions or precautions you need to take. There is a lot of twisting and turning in running a course with your dog, you may need special footwear or braces to protect your knees.

Beyond that, if you want to compete, being slow is not a reason to stay away from competition. There are plenty of handlers that have handicaps and issues they overcome with  training and smart handling. Trying venues that run courses with a slower course time and not as challenging courses will help  you be able to stay with your dog.

As a handler, you need to minimize your weakness while accentuating your dog’s strengths. One way you can do this is with distance handling. The better your dog is at taking direction and the better your cuing, the less you have to move. Practicing lines at home and studying your course maps looking for the shortest lines for you will help you run smarter. Try watching Paragility and NADAC runs to give you an idea of what you can accomplish with your team.

And last of all, don’t worry about disappointing your dog! They are there to run with you, be with you, enjoy the time with you. In dog agility, every completed run is a winning run. Each one is brings us one step closer to our goal of building us into the best team we can be.

We got a couple comments from others who have walked this path before.

Daphne Wilcox says:

I am not very mobile, myself. My dog worked very well at a distance and just started to “compete”, when he lost an eye. We still did agility for another year until he lost his second eye. Now, we do a low-key fun on obstacles course and he does everything but the table. I am determined to get his poles back up to speed. He is a real inspiration!

rocketdog shared:

My knees are both shot and I am recovery from left knee surgery. My doctor and therapist both have said you cannot run after a knee replacement. The best thing is to limit all impact to your knees like walking and running and cycle more to help with creating fluid in your knees. I have been advised to cycle more before and after training and competing. That being said, I am following the advise to try and keep from having a knee replacement any time soon. I plan on training my rocket dog to distance. A fellow competitor has a bad back and cannot run. He is consistent with double q’s handling from a distance, and makes time barely, but he is doing what he loves, working with his dog and I believe that is what agility is all about. A side note, there is also a local competitor that runs on crutches with her sheltie. She directs her dog around the course pointing with her crutch. She inspires me.