After the Pat Hastings seminar concluded several weekends ago, I was left very concerned about Ris’ structure and was worried whether I should allow her to continue in dog sports. Using what I had learned, I felt like Risa was put together all wrong. That asking her to perform would cause her to suffer as she ages because of her structure. But, after a few days of letting things sink in, I decided I was overreacting. I remembered that Risa is not going to fit the idea of a golden middle dog because of one main thing: she is a sighthound mix.
One would think that wouldn’t make a difference. A dog should be moderate regardless of breed. But, even Pat herself, states that breed standard should be considered when judging a dog against this ideal average. Risa, being a mix, doesn’t have a breed standard. In most cases, it would be ideal to judge a mix using this ideal standard dog. But sometimes you need to look at what is in your mix to truly understand what you’re looking at. Especially when looking at a breed that has exceptions to the golden middle rule.
I did some research and looked into what comprises a good sighthound. Sighthounds should have very moderate rears; excessive length and angulation decrease the dog’s strength and ability to power forward. Typically, sighthounds have long loins and a slight rise over the loin that gives them a rounded appearance. The rise is muscular, however. A roach (where the spine itself rounds up and is higher than the withers) is not the same. Almost every sighthound I’ve looked at, regardless of the prey it was bred to hunt, has very upright shoulders. They also all seem to have shoulders placed far forward on the body. While Pat seemed to think this was less than ideal, it clearly serves a purpose in the sighthound. I wonder if perhaps having the shoulders farther forward increases the reach of the dog since upright shoulders decrease reach. While I may not know the reason, you can see that it’s commonplace in all sighthounds and must serve an important purpose in a dog built to run things down.
I can certainly understand Pat’s concern with straight shoulders. The less angle there is, the less impact absorption can take place. I have also read that this is less of an issue with dogs because their shoulders are not fixed in place. A dog’s shoulder is only attached by muscles and connective tissue which allows it to absorb impacts easier than if they were rigid. If this were an issue that caused sighthounds to break down early, this structure would not be so prevalent. It clearly serves a purpose in a dog meant to run full out versus most other working dogs whose ideal pace is a trot.
On top of all that, Risa’s breakdown points are all in her rear. She’s had back problems for a long time and her knees have started to bother her. She has significant arthritis in her left knee. Her rear is pretty well-put-together and very moderate; I would not expect problems there based on what I learned at the semniar. Yet that is where she is experiencing some trouble. Along with seeing the chiropractor regularly, I have started her on a joint supplement. I also recently came across a company that makes products for dogs to help them build their core strength and stabilizer muscles: FitPAWS. I haven’t purchased any of their products yet but I am using Risa’s wobble board to try and work on her stability every night. I also plan on asking her chiropractor at our next visit if there are any additional exercises I could do to help alleviate some of Ris’ discomfort in the rear while allowing her to stay active.
I know she’ll have to retire some day but I want her to be able to be the crazy thing she is for as long as I can. Hopefully some additional conditioning and supplements (that don’t set her gut off) should help her continue to act younger than her years for a long time to come.