Administrator & Alpha Bitch of the Wild Bunch
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: Michigan, USA
Re: How old is "too old" for Schutzhund?
I would say the average age for stopping serious training is between 7-9 years old. Though since some dogs age quicker than others, both mentally and physically, much depends on the individual dog.
Many people do continue tracking with their seniors (no, sense of smell doesn't typically fade with age) as it's a fun way to keep a dog who's used to working still working and still mentally stimulated, without being physically taxing. Many senior dogs still do obedience too (though often without the jumps). And many still do protection, though again not as intense as in their younger years. We have a retired 9yo and retired 10yo at our SchH club that still do protection from time to time. While not as spry as they used to be, they still love it, and those old, retired dogs who know what they're doing can be great for teaching novice helpers the ropes. A friend has a GSD who is almost 14, multiple SchH3s, and he still does some tracking, obedience and protection for fun sometimes.
Injuries do happen. SchH is very much a "full contact sport". I wouldn't say they are common, but they aren't rare either. While I've personally never had a dog get a serious injury in training, I've known others who have. Just like any athletic endeavor, the potential for injury is always there. We as owners can help cut down on the incidents of injuries by making sure our dogs are in excellent physical condition, warming them up and stretching them out before going on the field just as human athletes would do. And also being smart in our training. Don't do work that requires lots of running and jumping and turning if it's icy or muddy and the dogs can't get good traction. Be careful what helpers work the dogs in protection, especially on things like courage tests... only use safe helpers. Any helper, even the best, will make a mistake at some point and an injury can result, but the good ones aren't going to make those mistakes as often.
Though the typical SchH dog temperament is one that could potentially injure itself just by the overall high drive, gung-ho attitude they exhibit off the field as well as on. The only serious injury we've ever had with any of our dogs was a CCL tear while playing ball in the back yard.
Broken teeth do happen as well. Again, while certainly not common, it's not rare either. And yes all the bite work can wear a dog's teeth down over the years. But good SchH dogs are often very mouthy in general and are often the kind who will spend a couple hours a night in the living room gnawing on a nylabone, so that contributes to wear and tear too and again is tied in with the general sort of temperament of many good SchH dogs. So it's not just the bite work that can wear down the dog's teeth prematurely, but the fact that the dog has a personality that makes him a big chewer even when not working.
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