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Pit Bull Informational Pages
by Diane Jessup 

WEIGHT PULLING

The Organizations
The Rules
Training Tips
Equipment
Gallery

Boldog kennels breeds American pit bull terriers, otherwise known as pit bulls, for schutzhund, weight pulling, tracking, obedience, ring sport, narcotics, explosives, arson and cadaver detection for LawDogsUSA. Our dogs are Sorrells line pit bulls, and are not available for sale to the public. The Working pit bull site will show you everything you need to know about pit bull care, pit bull feeding, pit bull training, pit bull springpole, pit bull breeding, pit bull jenni, gamebred pit bulls, game bred pit bulls, pit bull dog fighting - something we are very much against - pit bull rescue, pit bull puppies, how to raise and train a pit bull to be a pet. Our pit bulls are specifically bred to be police K9 sniffer or narcotics and bomb detection dogs so that they will be a useful working dog in the future.

I'm "pulling" this page together!



The Importance of Maturity In The Canine Athlete



How young is too young to compete? Is there scientific evidence for those age requirements for canine competition? This article explores what is known about the relationship of early joint stress resulting in lifelong hip disease.

Canine Hip Dysplasia
It has been known for sometime now that canine hip dysplasia (HD) is not a simple genetic trait. This affliction of our canine companions is not as simple as “the dog is born with or without it” based on the genetics of the parents. Obviously, breeding two untested or dysplastic dogs is foolhardy and increases the risk of producing crippled pups, but even when breeding two HD free parents there are risk factors to be considered.

The importance of early hip health becomes apparent when you realize that all pups are born with normal hip sockets. “The changes in bone [in cases of HD] merely reflect changes that occur in the cartilage, supporting connective tissue and muscles.”1

When a pup is born, its femur head (ball) and acetabulum (joint the ball fits into) are soft cartilage. The genes which determine if a pup will develop HD are “not related to the structure of the hip itself but rather the traits that interfere with the hip’s normal growth and development. Stress begins when the puppy pushes itself to nurse. The most critical period of development of HD is from birth to 60 days.”2

Even in puppies predisposed to HD, the disease can be completely prevented by confining the pup to a small cage, forcing the animal to sit on its haunches most of the time.3 However, the severe mental and physical deprivation (and resulting lifelong damage) of such confinement makes this method unacceptable. For the serious working dog handler or breeder, a program of sufficient exercise and mental stimulation which avoids undue stress to the hip joints until the dog matures results in the best results.

There has traditionally been a reluctance to embrace testing and selective breeding against HD in the American pit bull fraternity. The reasons vary and are beyond the scope of this article. Of great concern, however, has been the recent influx of mastiff and show bulldog blood into “purebred” American pit bulls, and the resulting loss of quality. The breeds most often utilized in producing “bully” type and “giant” type “American pit bulls” are breeds ranked4 the very worst in order of incidence of hip dysplasia in the breed: the AKC show bulldog (#1), dogue de Bordeaux (#3), Neapolitan mastiff (#5), cane corso (#10), American bulldog (#15), and presa Canario (#17). As well, “pure” American pit bulls are increasingly mixed with “pure” American Staffordshires (which rank #20). These heavier built “hybrids” are likely responsible for a breed considered the “gold standard” of athleticism - the American pit bull - to place a miserable 25th place in the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals’ hip dysplasia ranking.

So, the problem is here; the American pit bull is not somehow immune to the problems of “lesser breeds”. The serious breeder takes advantage of the relatively inexpensive tests which can remove diseased hips from their breeding program and, having done that, scientific research shows that even more can be done to ensure the hip health of our canine athletes.

The Wisdom In Waiting
The Europeans can be credited with starting formalized dog sports and to this day many look to Old World trainers and organizations as having some of the most advanced techniques and tests in the world of dog training. The sports of schutzhund, ring sport, police trials, hunting tests and agility hail from Europe.

One element of all serious working dog trials is a minimum age requirement for participating animals. These age requirements reflect the amount of physical (and often emotional) stressors which the dog can reasonably be expected to be subjected to in the course of the training and testing. These age limitations are in place for the protection of the animal as well as the sport; an activity which resulted in injured animals would soon find disfavor with the public.

Here is a listing of the minimum age at which a dog may compete in some of the more common dogsports:

Schutzhund “B” (basic obedience/temperament test) - 15 months
SchH I - 18 months
SchH II - 19 months
SchH III - 20 months
Tracking Test - 18 months
Advanced Tracking Test - 20 months
Endurance Test (12 mile run) - 14 months to 7 years
Watch Dog Test - 15 months
Random Article Search - 15 months
Rescue Dog Suitability Test - 15 months

Most agility registries require a dog to be 18 months old to begin running.

Obviously, there is concern on the part of those who developed and participate in dogsport that the animals be fully matured, mentally and physically, before entering into the rigors of these tests. When it started holding agility trials, the American Kennel Club allowed dogs as young as 12 months of age to run, but complaints from exhibitors caused them to raise the minimum. It is easy to see that if a dog is competing at 12 months, it is training many months earlier in order to be trial ready.

Weight Pull and Hip Health
There can be no argument that weight pulling contests put tremendous strains on the canine athletes. If any sport needed a well thought out minimum age, it is this sport. The stress on the hip joints is intense, and the obvious correlation between weight pulling and the development of HD later in life is clear.

Dr. Riser’s research showed that there are very clear correlations between certain physical traits in dogs and high incidence of canine hip dysplasia. Some of those traits are:

TRAIT
LOW INCIDENCE OF HD
HIGH INCIDENCE OF HD
Feet
Small and well arched
oversized and splayed
Skin
Tight and trim
Loose, thick, wrinkled
Size
About 35 - 40 pounds
Over 80 pounds
Birth
Small at birth
Fat and heavy for age


Obviously the larger, heavier type dogs (those often favored by weight pullers) are at increased risk of developing HD. It is especially important that these animals not experience stress on their hip joints early in life. “Another environmental factor in the development of hip dysplasia is excessive exercise during the growth phase, when it produces injury and stress to vulnerable, rapidly growing hips, especially between the ages of four and six months.”5

Some trainers feel it is imperative to start a weight pull puppy as early as 8 weeks of age. Certainly there is no harm in introducing the pup to the feel of the harness, but scientific evidence warns clearly against adding weight at this young age. The best evidence suggests that significant weight should not be applied until the animal is at least 16 months old. Organizations which sanction weight pull events should heed the scientific evidence and self-regulate in order to present the best image to the public. Puppies being allowed to over-exert themselves is detrimental to the sport’s image.

Obviously, the American pit bull is a tough animal, and has been bred to continue its work even if sore or painful. For this reason, many members of this breed will not show clinical signs of HD even when suffering from severely diseased joints. This is why it is impossible to determine the health of a dog’s hips “by how it acts”. It is up to the responsible breeder/handler to monitor their dogs for its own good.

Any weight puller who experiences lameness in their dogs - at any point in the animal’s life - needs to reconsider their training and conditioning methods. What good is a “championship” if it results in a lame dog? A disease like HD is progressive, and will not necessarily result in lameness for several years. A well managed pull dog should be able to pull for five years and retire without undue injury to its joints. A dog which is pulled too early and/or too hard and ends up lame gives the sport of weight pulling a black eye.

The Well Managed Puller
How best to bring up that future puller with this information in mind? First, chose your future weight pull champion from parents which are representative of the athletic American pit bull, a dog of medium build and no more than 65 pounds. Look for strong, tight feet and make sure the hocks don’t slip (for an illustration of slipping hocks). Be sure the breeder you are dealing with does either OFA or PennHip clearances on hips. If they use Pennhip, be aware of what the numbers mean - just having a number does not mean the animal is clear of dysplasia.

When you get your pup home start a regiment of age appropriate exercise. Pup-pup can start wearing that harness and pulling an empty milk jug behind them to get them used to the noise and feel of something behind them. However, remember a pup is at extreme risk of injury to those hip joints until after six months of age. Adding weight before that time is an unnecessary and thoughtless risk.

Most weight pullers are good about making sure their dogs are not “weekend warrior” animals which laze around all week and then throw it down on the weekend. The weekend warrior is the dog (and human) most often seen with sprains and strains. Feed a food high in protein (for building and repairing muscle) and fat for energy. Remember to keep your pup lean - being overweight is a major source of stress to the hip joints.

It has never been a good idea to put puppies into competition - of any sort - and weight pulling is perhaps the best example of this. Don’t be in a hurry to get Pup-pup to competition if you want a long and healthy dog sport career for him or her.

 

1 Dr. Wayne Riser “The Dog As A Model for the Study of Hip Dysplasia: Growth, Form and Development of the Normal and Dysplastic Hip Joint”. Veterinary Pathology 12 (1975)
2 Jackie Isabell: Genetics: An Introduction for Dog Breeders
3 Dr. Wayne Riser “The Dog As A Model for the Study of Hip Dysplasia: Growth, Form and Development of the Normal and Dysplastic Hip Joint”. Veterinary Pathology 12 (1975)
4 The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals website (www.OFFA.org)
5 Jackie Isabell: Genetics: An Introduction for Dog Breeders


Boldog kennels breeds American pit bull terriers, otherwise known as pit bulls, for schutzhund, weight pulling, tracking, obedience, ring sport, narcotics, explosives, arson and cadaver detection for LawDogsUSA. Our dogs are Sorrells line pit bulls, and are not available for sale to the public. The Working pit bull site will show you everything you need to know about pit bull care, pit bull feeding, pit bull training, pit bull springpole, pit bull breeding, pit bull jenni, gamebred pit bulls, game bred pit bulls, pit bull dog fighting - something we are very much against - pit bull rescue, pit bull puppies, how to raise and train a pit bull to be a pet. Our pit bulls are specifically bred to be police K9 sniffer or narcotics and bomb detection dogs so that they will be a useful working dog in the future.


 

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