Pro Tips to Avoid Dog Back Problems

In this article you are going to learn how to avoid canine sports injuries while training a dog directly from a famous Russian athlete and experienced cynologist Sergey Zhirkevich. Sergey is a co-owner of "Love & Spirit" - the largest FCI breeding kennel for working German Shepherds and Malinois, a winner of the Russian Championship among dog helpers and decoys "Nevsky IPOdrom" (2010). He conducts international seminars sharing his enormous experience in upbringing strong and healthy champions. Here are the most useful tips from a noted Russian dog handler.

Dog Spine Injury! Be Aware and Train Your Dog the Right Way!

"Dog's back problems are getting more and more urgent today. And I’ve made a list of recommendations on how to avoid such health problems of your beloved four-legged fellows. However, this is not so much a genetic problem as our carelessness and this is in our hands.
How to prevent dog injuries during active sports and to maintain dog’s health.
Here are my recommendations how not to artificially cripple your dog and look for the causes of back problems afterwards.                                                           

                                 Safe Dog Toys UK

1. Play with your dog and see the way he picks up a ball or a toy thrown far away. If he waits for it to bounce and grabs, then there is no problem. If he “kills” the ball when it is on the ground, then do not throw the ball too far to such a dog - a probability of a spinal injury due to sharp shock-twisting loads is very high.

2. Never throw a ball or a toy to the dog down the slope, even if it does not seem steep. Try to avoid frontal attacks and while training to fetch don’t throw a ball downhill - this is dangerous not only for spinal injuries but the dog can knock his incisors out on the toy.

3. NEVER throw a ball up to the dog.

4. Do not play Frisbee with your dog.

5. In winter dogs that are kept in aviaries should have a good weight not to chill the kidneys. So do not overload your dog with dynamic exercises, jumps and frontal attacks in a cold season.

6. Never train your dog when it’s slippery in winter. It’s quite enough for a dog to slip at the entrance to the shelter to have huge back problems later.

7. Avoid keeping the dog in narrow cages or aviaries.

                                  Warm Dog Coat for Large Dogs

8. Before any training session, especially hopping or guard training, warm up yourself and your dog as well. Sometimes a simple five-minute walking around is enough. Nevertheless it’s better to take up more intensive exercises. In no case pull your dog out of the aviary nor car before jumping or protection training.

9. Working out the protection elements, do not use different rubber bands to increase attack speed or to improve dog’s grip - this wears out the intervertebral disks.

10. Don’t get too fond of dog bite pillows while frontal attack training, work with a normal dog bite sleeve as much as possible so that the dog has a REAL idea of a sleeve, groups and strains the necessary muscles more. Remember: during a strong frontal attack, first there is a shock compression of a spine, and then a relatively smooth decompression. Overload increases 6 times (i.e. the dog’s weight reaches 200-250 kg). I say this as a former pilot who experienced the effect of overloads on the spine. Just think of this, one of the occupational diseases of fighter pilots and sports pilots is an INTERREDIGENTAL HERNIA that some of my friends unfortunately have up to 7-8 at once.

11. Do not work out frontal attacks too often.

                                  Dog Jump Training Hurdle

12. While performing protection training 1-meter barrier does not have detrimental effect on a spine if the dog does not fall on his back.

13. Do not hold the leash too high while protection training and you will avoid turning the dog and his falling on the back from a 1 meter height and above if you want the dog to bite the sleeve (I hope, you understand what I mean).

14. Do not work protection with unknown decoys - first see how he works with other dogs. When in doubt, do not work frontal attacks and other dynamic exercises, start with guard phases, barking in a shelter and so on.

15. TAKE CARE OF YOUR SPORTS DOGS – They don’t choose to be athletes! You are responsible for their health. REMEMBER! Injury largely happens out of nowhere.  Be proud of what you do! Spine injuries - they are forever!

Take care!

by Sergey Zhirkevich

Sergey Zhirkevich is a chief trainer, a dog handler, a decoy, an athlete and an international dog sports judge. He was born on 30 June 1970. He served as an instructor pilot in fighter aviation, then in engineering design administration, was given lieutenant colonel rank and retired as a reserve officer in 2006.

Since 1987 Sergey has been practicing in the field of cynology.
Some of his latest achievements in sports with dogs:
3-time Russian Champion in IPO-FH, 2009, 2017, 2018
2-time Winner of the Cup of Russia on IPO-FH, 2010 and 2017
Vice Champion of Russia in IPO-FH, 2011
Silver Winner of the Cup of Russia in IPO-FH, 2011
IPO-FH World Championship, 2011, 10th Place

Sergey is a dog owner and handler of a Russian Universal Champion among German Shepherds in 2011 and Russian Universal Vice-Champion among German Shepherds BRIT EQIDIUS in 2012.
Sergey was awarded the Medal "105 years of the Russian Cynological Service".