The Disabled Handler, Agility and other dog sports

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

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Ember FDX

Go Go Devil- Bunnies!
Barked: Fri Oct 18, '13 12:57pm PST 
I love this topic hamster dance

I's been mostly agility-focused, so I wanted to chime in with some flyball stories.

We have several owners on our team with various physical limitations. There are advantages and disadvantages to choosing flyball when you have a disability. On one hand, the dog is doing most of the physical work. On the other, most dogs are extremely amped up and it can be difficult to restrain them pre-race, and then to catch them coming off the course.

There are a few ways around this. Really precise training is one. I have seen dogs that can hold a down/stay until released, race past their owner coming off the course, and recall back. I have also seen dogs who come back to a bucket of treats the owner puts down, so they rush up to the bucket, then stop and stand in place so the owner can leash them. I'm sure not everyone who does things does them due to a disability, but they do work if you would have difficulty physically restraining or catching a fast, driven dog.

You can also have up to 6 people on the course with your team at once. Only one person can actually handle the dog. We have used this to give a physically disabled team member a helper. For instance, one person has a condition that makes her unable to crouch down to hold her dog, and also look up to see the race. When her dog runs, another team member sits next to her, watching the race, and waves her hand in the owner's line of sight when she needs to release her dog (tournaments are too loud for a verbal signal). The three of them have gotten a "perfect start" this way, where the dog crossed the start line at 00:000 seconds.

If things really fall apart, someone else can run your dog in flyball. This doesn't happen to us often, but knowing the option is there in a worst case can be reassuring.

Training is very team-oriented to start with, so there are plenty of extra hands when you're teaching the game. We frequently have team members who are not actively working their dogs put their dogs in a crate for a bit to help out.

Speaking of invisible disabilities, I have struggled with anxiety off and on throughout my life. Events over the past year have made things dramatically worse, and the excitement around flyball is actually very triggering for me. I've chosen not to drop out in spite of this. I have no method for what I do, but whatever it is, it works. More than once I have gone up to race mid-panic attack. And I have to do it, because my particular dog will not race for anyone else. There is something about being relied on, swallowing what I'm feeling and focusing entirely on the task at hand, then succeeding at it that is extremely helpful and healing to what I go through.
Charlie- Chaplin

A day without- laughter is a- day wasted
Barked: Sat Oct 26, '13 7:37pm PST 
If you check out this year's purina pro plan incredible dog challenge youtube page there is a man with a disability that competed. He is in a power chair and has a Malinois -- they did a great job working together if you ask me. I'm sure it isn't easy what so ever.
MACH4 PACH2- Aslan

Barked: Mon Oct 28, '13 12:10pm PST 
Thank you so much Ember for adding ideas on how a disabled handler can also compete in Flyball. That is VERY useful!! And thanks for being open about your own invisible disability and how you overcome it to be able to compete in the sport you and your dog love. I think that's just flat awesome.

Charlie, thanks also for sharing the information about the man in the wheelchair completing in agility. We see these people at local shows, and they are just stunning. The relationships they've developed with their dogs and what the CAN do is just so inspiring.

Thanks guys. smile

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