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Safety First  

by Jenni Lott  


Agility is a rigorous, athletic activity, both for you and your Newfoundland. You are responsible for the well-being of your dog and must determine whether it is an appropriate activity for your particular Newfoundland. Consider the following:

Your Newfoundland must have sound hips, elbows and heart. Agility has the dog running very fast, turning sharply and jumping repetitively. The laws of physics tell us that these activities are harder on large-boned, heavy dogs. Newfoundlands that are not physically sound should not be asked to participate in this sport.

Your Newfoundland must be in good weight and condition. Overweight dogs or those that are not in good physical condition cannot work safely in this sport, and may sustain soft tissue injuries, tendon or ligament damage, or orthopedic damage. It is your responsibility to condition your dog on a regular basis while participating in agility to help prevent injuries.

Your dog's age should be a consideration. While young dogs can gain confidence by learning some of the agility obstacles, most young Newfoundlands have not developed the necessary coordination to safely perform these obstacles. Until your dog's growth plates are fully closed, you should not jump your dog at heights over 12 inches, you should not work agility exercises with great speed and you should not teach the weave poles. The temptation to "rush ahead" with training before a dog is physically ready must be resisted at all costs.

Your Newfoundland MUST be under control. A dog not under voice control of its handler is both an accident waiting to happen and a detriment to other dogs in an agility class. Take your dog to obedience classes for socialization and manners before starting agility. Seriously evaluate your dog's responses to your commands and continue to work on basic obedience for the life of your dog. It is common in agility classes to have more than one dog working on different equipment at the same time, often off leash. Your dog should mind his own business and listen to you instead of focusing on the other dogs.

When looking for an agility class, look for instructors who are aware of the above safety concerns and have experience working with giant breeds. They should ask you questions about your dog's weight, physical conditioning for such a strenuous sport, soundness, and manners. Watch the instructor with their students to see how they insure the safety of each dog, how well they insure working through exercises slowly until the dogs understand, and check to see that their equipment is sturdy enough for a 150 pound Newfoundland. Good instructors will suggest training games and conditioning exercises that can be done at home in between classes.



Reprinted from NewfTide 2002



Agility Resources



AKC - Agility




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