Sunday, March 23, 2014

Dr. Christine Zink seminar

This weekend I attended a seminar called "Coaching the Canine Athlete" with Dr. Christine Zink. Dr. Zink is a veterinarian who is boarded in canine sports medicine and rehabilitation. There were quite a few people in the veterinary profession at this seminar (I saw 2 other vets from my school, one a year ahead of me and one a classmate, and there were several technicians and chiropractors) but also just dog sport enthusiasts.

I learned A LOT. If you ever have an opportunity to attend this seminar I highly recommend you do so. It was a 3 day event, but unfortunately I had to miss the last day because we had agility class... oh and because I'm broke! But on the days that I went we discussed nutrition, vaccination protocols, spaying and neutering, conditioning the healthy athlete and rehabilitating the injured, and we also discussed structure and gaiting. There are so many things I am now going to be incorporating into Kili's routine, and that I also want to try to do with Summit as well to help him live a long and mobile life. Luckily, some of those things I have already started with Kili without realizing exactly how wonderful they are for her. For example, I have been teaching her to sit pretty and to wave. Both of those "tricks" are conditioning exercises for strengthening the core, hind legs, and front legs. We will be working on that more from now on!

I also got to get Kili up on a FitPaws Egg and Peanut. I would very much like to get one after we move. I do not have the space to exercise her on one of these right now, but hopefully at our next house we will. It's going to be great for her strength!

There were also some really great victories at this seminar. This was the first time Kili had been to a canine event since her last conformation show (remember that was a small disaster). Although she did have difficulties with letting me stack her (necessary for the structure portion of the demonstration) she did manage to let me. She was also quite squirrely about people coming up and putting their hands on her, similar to the way she would balk in the conformation ring when the judge would try to touch her. But she was okay, and I didn't feel like she was completely overwhelmed. We also had some great tugging! In fact, she was almost in hyper tugging mode. If we were just sitting around watching other dogs demonstrate or listening to Dr. Zink explain something she would be grabbing her toy and wanting to tug. Now, I'll take it because I love to see a strong tug drive from her, but I also know that it was probably her way of blowing off a bit of stress or adrenaline.

What I learned is that greyhounds are pretty disproportionate and are really not built for agility. They have a lot of hind end angulation which makes turning difficult. They also tend to have very straight shoulders which puts extra stress on the shoulder joint during jumping. I guess a lot of warm up, cool down, and conditioning is going to be important! Interestingly, she had remarked on the first day that she liked Kili's build better than the racing type dogs, yet after doing structure on the second day I am curious why. Summit has a more typical build for a racer and after looking at him at home... he is a lot less extreme. He has moderate hind angulation and he has a much nicer shoulder than Kili (not as straight). I am thinking about e-mailing her to ask her about it.

We also analyzed the dogs' gaits. Dogs that have a lot of hind end angulation tend to have more difficult gaits. Basically, in a trot the hind foot is supposed to step directly into the footprint of the front paw on that same side. If the hind leg is longer relative to the front leg then it takes longer to get it around and the front leg needs to do something. Some dogs flick their front paw in front of them, others high step, but most end of having "bypassing" or "crabbing". You can see bypassing as the hind leg crossing the front leg when they come together in the trot. Pretty much all German Shepherds bypass because of the huge amount of hind end angulation they have. Kili wasn't bad. She did see some bypassing as we sped the trot up but (and unfortunately this didn't make it onto the video) she did say that even if you watch wild canids (wolves, foxes, coyotes, etc.) that you would see bypassing at the faster paced trots... so it might be normal.

It was also our first opportunity to try out Kili's new crate. Her wire one was just a tad too small now that she is full grown. Unfortunately the next size up in the wire crate is just too heavy and builky to be very portable. She wasn't tolerating the soft crate either. Besides, I use the soft crate for Summit if I ever take both dogs somewhere. I had a heck of a time finding this plastic crate. As you get into the larger sizes it becomes harder and harder to find a crate that snaps together... most have the screws for airline travel which is not very convenient when you want to put it together quickly. Finally, I found one and Jarrett gets brownie points for being a good boyfriend and buying it for me for my birthday. Here was our set up for the weekend:

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