Canine Performance is based upon three major factors

  • Anatomy (musculoskeletal system)
  • Physiological (conditioning and training)
  • Psychology (drive)

“The most important element of canine sports medicine is recognizing the athleticism of the patient.”

Managing the Canine Athlete

To design the best conditioning and training program for your dog you must have:

  •  A basic understanding of performance metabolism
  • A working knowledge of the canine anatomy
  • A technique that can be used to assess these two areas.

The working dog and the canine athlete require a different view medically than the normal companion canine. The tried and true methodologies of the past are often inadequate for establishing the levels of performance required by today’s standards.  To best address the medical conditions of performance,  the veterinarian must have a working knowledge of the physiological, and psychological demands placed upon these dogs.  Trainers and owners should also have an understanding of the physiological demands placed upon their dogs.  This mutual understanding is the basis for a synergistic veterinary/client relationship.  Therefore the following information is provided to help both parties to develop training, conditioning, nutritional, health care and breeding programs based upon the needs of the performance dog.

Canine sports medicine is the field of veterinary medicine devoted to the special needs of the working dogs and the canine athletes.  The methodologies that are used in Canine Sports Medicine can also be used in the active pet dogs and the couch potatoes.

Canine Sports Medicine is divided into two areas of interest, Pre-Performance and Post-Performance.

This area of medicine includes conditioning and  training for optimum output and prevention of illness and injury. Post-Performance medicine includes the decisions of treatment or therapy of an injury and then a rehabilitation program that allows the athlete to return to its work safely and efficiently.
Areas of influence are: 


  • Genetics
  • Training
  • Conditioning
  • Nutrition
  • Injury Prevention
Areas of influence are: 


  • Nutrition
  • Medical Care
  • Injury Treatment
  • Rehabilitation
  • Reconditioning

There are 3 general conditions that have a detrimental affect on performance:

      1. Fatigue
      2. Pain
      3. Psychology (Drive)


        The moment fatigue sets in, it will begin to diminish the level of performance.  Energy and focus is diverted away from the activity and utilized by the body to maintain function. Designing a training and conditioning program to suit the type of work or athletic event your dog competes in can minimize the affects of fatigue.  The program should address: Genetics (breeding), Training, Conditioning, Nutrition, and Health Care.


        The effects of pain on performance usually go unnoticed.  The dog has the ability to minimize pain by altering body movement in such a way that the abnormality is unperceivable by the naked eye.  This altered movement created by the primary cause of pain puts altered forces upon the rest of the body.  In the athletic or active dog these abnormal forces lead to secondary and tertiary gait problems.  At some point in this chain of events breakdown occurs and an injury will be the result.


        If the drive to compete is not in the dog it does not matter what kind of condition the dog is in it will not perform at it’s full potential.  This psychology could be a result of genetics or training, or it could be medical. Both of the two previous affectors can alter the psychology or drive of the canine athlete.  Sometimes the will to perform will over-ride these conditions.  This can be good for a single event, but can push the body past normal limits which can affect future performances.  The effects of fatigue or pain will then act to divert attention away from the competitive performance or daily task.  Before beginning any animal behavior therapy the medical problems should be resolved.