Anyone that knows me personally or reads my blog knows that it K-I-L-L-E-D me to put weight on Bug, both last year and again this year, to finish him. However, I made a good faith agreement with his/my breeder, Holly, to try and finish him when he came home with me. He was finishable and only needed 3 singles at that time. The hard work of finding majors was already done.
Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that a dog, or at least a Cardigan, cannot be competitive in the breed ring at performance weight. "Performance weight" equals xylophone ribs. I want to feel every single one of those suckers and see them, too.
This year I half-heartedly started fattening him up because I was really hesitant to put weight on him while he was coming back from an injury. I received his Physical Therapist’s blessing to put weight on him for the show ring and so I started by upping his food.
In order to be competitive in the breed ring Bug eventually gained 5.4 pounds (starting weight was 31 pounds). That is 17% of his body weight. Imagine gaining that much weight in 5-6 weeks? I think it is safe to say you would be miserable.
At 34 pounds, after he did nothing at a show, I spoke to the judge about what she liked and didn’t like in my dog. Her sole complaint about Bug was his weight. That confirmed what my handler and Holly had been saying for weeks - the weight discrepancy between performance and the breed ring is real. Judges do not like skinny dogs regardless of their structural attributes or the fact that it does not say anywhere in our breed standard that a Cardigan must be heavy. Note: there is a difference between bone and weight.
I had been in denial; Bug needed to be heavier in order to be competitive.
Ultimately I had to resort to adding Satin Balls to his diet in order to reach his "show weight," that lucky number where the judges think he looks "good." For Bug “show” weight is 36 pounds, for other Cardigan dogs I know it is closer to 40 pounds, for some it might be below 36 pounds.
As it turns out Bug’s Physical Therapist was astounded by the impact the additional weight had on his swimming (he had trouble swimming straight! and was listing a lot more), UWTM (he was lagging) and general muscle health (iliopsoas started showing signs of tightness after being very soft and pliable for months). I am surprised that she was so surprised, only because the mantra at rehab is "a thin dog is a healthier dog." Repeatedly they witness that taking weight off a dog has them acting 10 years younger. Why should it not work in reverse?
Bug is now on a fairly strict diet. He has lost 2.5 pounds of the 5.4 pounds he gained to be competitive in the breed ring. He will not be going back to agility or herding until he reaches a minimum of 31 pounds. My personal opinion, obviously influenced by having a long backed dog and dealing with soft tissue injuries, is that it is not healthy for a dog to be training and competing heavily in performance sports at breed ring weight.
Can a dog do it? Can a dog be at show weight and compete in herding or agility? Absolutely. Is it wise? In my personal opinion, I think the likelihood of an injury occurring goes up astronomically. Having dealt with soft tissue injuries not even caused by performance sports, but definitely impacted by weight, I don’t think it is worth the risk.
In the future, in order to get the right dog (i.e. great structure plus temperament) I would consider the breed ring again. However, while that dog was showing I would stick with foundation work and avoid heavy, repetitive training of contacts and weaves or trialing.
What I would really like is to see a trend toward dogs in the breed ring at the appropriate working weight. Is that possible?
What are your thoughts about weight and dogs? What about the discrepancy between performance weight vs. breed ring weight? I would love to know what you think, particularly those of you with long backed dogs where weight can contribute to back issues.
17 hours ago