Written as part of the Blog Agility Action Day on Health and Happiness
My friend and orthopedic vet, Dr. Jessica Waldman, VDM, of California Animal Rehabilitation, told me, “Your agility dog came with a punch card!” Agility dogs are athletes, and as with any athlete, there are a finite number of years that they can compete. There are a finite number of times your agility dog can do the a-frame, the weave poles, 26” jumps, etc.
Luckily if you lost your dog’s punch card, you can get another one! Be thoughtful about how many times you do the a-frame every week. Work weave entries and exits on less than 12 poles, train foundation and new skills on jumps with no bar or low bars. Develop focus and relationship skills using fun tricks and body awareness activities. Go for a hike! Find as many ways as possible to keep your dog’s mind and body fresh for their agility job without doing agility.
Many handlers want that last QQ at the expense of an older dog’s body. Their dog’s punch card is used up but they still enter every trial in search of that MACH/ADCH/NATCH/Etc. I know a few people who have quit while they were only a few QQ’s or points, or whatever away from that last title. I know many more handlers who are still out there, with dogs who shouldn’t be, still plugging away at another championship. I’m pretty sure when the time comes; you aren’t going to remember your dog has 13 MACH’s. You are going to remember the hikes! And your dog’s companionship, and having them next to you at night, and hugging them when you were sad, and how they kept your feet warm in winter, and, and.
If you use your dog’s punch card up doing agility they aren’t going to having anything left when it comes time for going up and down the stairs, or getting in or out of the car, or going to get the paper. I miss doing agility with my retired dog Pickle, but I cherish walking around the block with him, looking for sticks and just hanging out! Pickle’s punch card is worn and tattered. I could have quit sooner; I’m glad I quit when I did!