Dog Sports: A Weave Pole Problem Can Be a Sign of a Shoulder Injury

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By Dr Sophia Yin

Have you ever had a leg injury that was mild enough so that you didn’t limp but serious enough that you had problems during intense sports? For instance, you could run fine in a straight line but favored the leg when making sharp turns or when you had to jump. Luckily as humans we can identify the ache and tell a doctor, but when the problem is with our pooch how do we figure it out? Sometimes the hint can be in their gait.

Last month at the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Annual Conference, I attended a lecture given by Dr. Christine Zink on gait and locomotion in dogs and found something new to watch for at agility trials.

When dogs are speeding through the weave poles, each time they change direction they should change their front lead leg. The front lead leg is defined as the second leg to land and when dogs turn they lead with the inside leg—it pulls them through the turn. Since with weaves dogs alternate between curving to the right and to the left the leg that lead should change with each pole.

Here’s Jonesy demonstrating first at regular speed and then in slow motion. He switches leads with each pole.

Here’s a video provided courtesy of Dr. Zink showing two dogs that have a good left leads but are avoiding the right lead.

This type of problem can indicate a shoulder issue such as a rotator cuff injury. So if you notice this issue in your dog who is already well-trained on the weaves, you should consider having him examined by an orthopedic surgeon.

For more information on canine gait and locomotion, get Dr. Zink’s new DVD, Building the Canine Athlete at www.caninesports.com.

Have you noticed this type of injury (or similar) in your dog?  Share your story here.

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One response to “Dog Sports: A Weave Pole Problem Can Be a Sign of a Shoulder Injury

  1. Shoulder injuries are just too important to be ignored particularly in dogs that participate in agility trials.

    An examination by an orthopedic surgeon can help identify the treatment categories (i.e. mild, moderate, or severe).

    In our practice, we often meet performance dogs suffering from rotator cuff injuries and other forms of orthopedic problems.

    Dogs that undergo surgery are usually advised to wear a total body harness system as a part of the postoperative care. These dogs also undergo rehabilition therapy with a guide that dog owners can download for free.

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