What do you look for in your sport dog?

Running, catching, leaping; this is the forum to discuss dog sports and agility training with other active pups!

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I'm your new- best friend! Pet- me!
Barked: Sun Jan 30, '11 7:35am PST 
Thought this might be a fun and informative topic!

What do you look for in your sport dog, if you get a dog for that purpose? Temperament, size, trainability, the way the dog is put together? And for what sport?

If you got your dog and then decided to do a sport, what do you wish was different or what do you like about your dog?

Ch. BIS- Wandering Spirit- Vom Wildweg CGC
Barked: Sun Jan 30, '11 9:43am PST 
The most important thing is good conformation, if I dog isn't put together right he won't enjoy any hardworking activities that put strain on his body.

After that temperament, chances are good if I'm training I will be competing, I want a dog comfortable in social settings who won't stress.

Last is good drives, prey drive, food drive, I want it all smile
Maggie NAC- WV-N TN-N- CTL-3 RE

Tunnel Suckin'
Barked: Sun Jan 30, '11 5:02pm PST 
I fail at finding me a sport dog! I have two that were gotten with the plan to be agility dogs...neither one is capable of the level I wanted lol!

Porter had everything I could have wanted (awesome structure, power, focus, and drive) yet he broke his pelvis in the summer of '09 and that shattered my dreams him being a high level agility dog. I have done some puppy agility with him, but the fact that he will be 6 this year and is already showing signs of arthritis have ended any hope of him making it far in agility.


Wishing For Snow
Barked: Sun Jan 30, '11 6:02pm PST 
Interesting topic.

I would put temperament above all else. Why? Because my dogs are family and companions first, then sport/competition dogs second. What is good with having a dog with nice structure and good drive, if they have a crappy temperament and you can't live with them. Also, if for some reason this dog does not work out as a performance dog (injury, ability, etc) it will still be with me as a valued companion.

Second, I would want outstanding structure. Dogs with poor structure tend to break down faster and end up with injuries. It is really not fair to ask a poorly structured dog, no matter how high drive the dog is, do to high level performance if his body will not hold up.

Third, I would want a dog that is very biddable and has the drive to work. I personally do not want a super high drive dog, but rather a dog that is willing to work with me and is happy to work.
Kyuu, S.T.A.R., CGC

Got to Play
Barked: Sun Jan 30, '11 7:42pm PST 
My first 2 sport dogs were bought before getting into agility. Both were small but that didn't stop them from learning and doing well. The only problem was one was diagnosed with a heart murmur and the other one was not sound enough to continue.

So now I am getting another puppy with the hopes I can go back to agility again. I looked for a breed that would be compatible with me because he will be a companion first but also has a good prospect towards agility. I talked with a breeder about what I was looking for and found a litter I wanted a puppy from. Since I won't meet the puppy for the first time until I get him at the airport, the breeder will be selecting the puppy ideal for me. I do hope it works out, but if it doesn't. I will still love him.
Shayne CGC,- RL2

Shayne- Disc Doggin in- the 'Burgh!
Barked: Sun Jan 30, '11 8:08pm PST 
Shayne came to me broken and damaged... a mess psychologically and physically... but we did LOTS of work and have created an amazing sport dog from a fragile, terrified dog.

HOWEVER... with Rio (and all future puppies) I looked at a wide variety of features.

--I wanted an outgoing, fearless, persistent, pushy dog (NOT necessarily a good family pet LOL...but that's what I like)

Level of drive--now this is a little hard to assess in young dogs and you can build drive with dogs that don't seem too drivey...but I wanted a drivey dog so i tested play drive with a few different toys

Interactive-ness (err... you get the idea)--is this a dog who is going to be willing to work with me, or a dog who WANTS to work with me... is there natural handler focus or is there need to build that from "scratch"?

confirmation--I gave Rio a once-over when i met him... moved his joints all around.. checked range of motion felt knees to see how they were put together (at this age they aren't fully formed but you can get a sense of if the cap is in the appropriate place or not)... Watched him move and watched his gait closely.

physicality--How does he use his body... is he rough and tumble in his body or is he more dainty... i like my dogs to be pretty rough and tumble and willing to get little rough and to burst personal space bubbles... i need this type of willingness to interact with me physically for frisbee games and the like.

Many of the things i looked for could be BUILT UP if the dog wasn't a natural...but they are things i look at an assess when i'm selecting a sport/performance prospect.

(those are listed in no particular order)

Ollie a-go-go
Barked: Mon Jan 31, '11 1:41am PST 
Dog agility sounds fun! I'd love to have a go with my 8month old pup. I'm not sure how to go about it?! I think my pup would love it - he loves running up and down mountain steps and running under and jumping up and out of mountainside drainage pipes - agility may be just the ticket for him. Any suggestions? Ps we live in hong kong, do I'm not sure if we even have it here!

Throw it!- Again....and- Again...an..
Barked: Mon Jan 31, '11 5:13am PST 
With Indy I got him primarily as a companion dog but shortly after got involved in disc dogging and started dabbling in agility in our later years together, but with Dexter I did actively seek out a few traits.

Personality was big for me - I can relate to what Shayne said about Rio. My girlfriend is astounded by Dexter because he would absolutely make a TERRIBLE house-pet only and she likes very laid back dogs. (I had a wisdom tooth removed just this Friday and was down and out most of Saturday and he was an absolute MESS!) But I love it, he's drivey, pushy, always has a ball/rope/stuffed toy in his mouth ready for a game.

Drive was a big deal to me. Drive can be built but I do think there's something to be said about just raw natural prey drive. One of the biggest reasons I chose a BC over another Aussie was that Indy had -some- drive but I LOVED the amount of focus and intensity that BC people got from their dogs.

Conformation was a pretty big deal, I spent time as a radiology tech while in my undergrad degree and know the importance of a solid frame oh so well after seeing more TTA's and joint issues than I EVER wanted to see. Both of Dex's parents were tested and certified Penn-Hip etc.

All in all I'd say what I looked for worked out well. I ended up with a 15 week old with incredible focus, he's doing "takes", has great eye, rollers have no chance of getting passed him. He's not food motivated (which I prefer) we work with a clicker and a disc for motivation and he absoluetly loves it.

Awesome Dog
Barked: Mon Jan 31, '11 6:58am PST 
Risa is my first dog and my sport dog. While I got lucky with some aspects of her personality there are a lot of things I would change if I could!

Confidence is super important. I won't begin to tell you how much extra work and planning goes into trying to trial with a fearful dog because this post would be huge! You can certainly do it; I do. But it is a huge detriment and you may not get the best performance out of that dog.

Handler focus and love of the work are also super important and things I struggle with at times. You want a dog who is going to look to you and focus on the task at hand no matter what else is going on in the room (or outside). If you can get it naturally, that's great. You'll still need to work to build it anyway but it's easier in a dog that already wants to look to you.

Conformation is key too. Especially if you're participating in high-impact dogsports like flyball, agility, and disc. A dog that's not put together well will break down and get hurt.

On top of all that important stuff, I also like a flashy dog. I lucked out there with Risa. Her obedience and other performance behaviors have a bit of style to them. I LOVE IT!

Wishing For Snow
Barked: Mon Jan 31, '11 2:06pm PST 
I just wanted to touch on structure as someone mentioned that their puppies parents were hip certified.

Hip and elbow testing is great and I am all for doing testing before breeding, but (a big "but" here) a dog can pass hips and elbows and still have awful structure. Hip and elbow certs are only a part of what makes up good structure on a dog. I have a dog, whose both parents have hip/elbow certs, and that I am certain if I send in her x-rays, she would pass hips and elbows. However, this is a dog with awful structure - she is very barrel hocked, has a short upper arm, and is loose at the elbows (which is different than a poor elbow joint) as well as some other things. Good thing that she does have good joints, especially knees, as if she had weak joints I am sure that she would have a lot more injuries.

Good structure encompasses the entire dog, not just joints, or topline, or rear angulation (which some performance people seem to think more is better). It is the proper balance of the dog from front to back and top to bottom. Proper front angulation and shoulder layback is very important for our performance dogs - 60% of a dog's weight is carried on the front and when you combine that with activities such as jumping (or rather the landing) the front of the body takes a lot of stress. An all over, sound and solid body is what we should be looking for in our performance dogs.

Pat Hastings just released a book based on her Structure in Action seminar. I attended her seminar last year and was so enthralled with everything that I learned that I have ordered the book (can't wait until it gets here). If anyone is interested in how structure affects our performance dogs, this book should be a good read.
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