by Pat Rock

Ligaments must be bred for, fed for, and cared for.

There is an old truism about coats, that “Coats must be bred for, fed for, and cared for.” The same is true about ligaments. There is no denying that it is possible to ignore performance in breeding programs long enough and you can end up with a gene pool that has a critically high percentage of individuals that can’t move out of their own way. I have often puzzled over another terrier breed where promising puppies start out with reasonable reach but as they mature something happens to their ligaments that restricts their free movement, leading to an inability to lengthen stride at the trot. When a dog is asked to move faster at the trot, a properly made athlete will NOT take more steps, he or she will cover more ground with each stride. Interestingly, the idiom in French that translates to the English idiom “Lickety-split” is “ventre a terre” which literally translates “stomach to earth.” That is exactly what occurs when an animal covers ground faster; the limbs stretch out with each stride, bringing the underline closer to the ground. But in order to move “ventre a terre” the ligaments must be flexible. So based on observation, proper ligaments must be bred for.

Recent research indicates they must also be fed for.

According to Dr. Karen Becker, DVM cranial cruciate ligament injury is a very common reason for hind leg lameness, pain and arthritis in dogs. She has observed that cranial cruciate ligament injuries often occur under circumstances that are not associated with drastic injury as might be expected (hit by car, caught leg in fence, etc). Apparently lack of manganese leads to problems with ligaments. Turns out that dogs eating poor quality kibble as well as dogs eating a so-called “prey-model” raw diet have ligaments prone to injury. The poor quality kibble isn’t difficult to understand, as often the minerals in the food are minimal and not bioavailable. The problem with the prey-model diets is that they aren’t really just like consuming prey. The manganese in a wild canine’s diet comes primarily from fur, feathers and wool. So unless you are adding a dollop of one of these ingredients it’s important to add an appropriate supplement containing manganese! This is just one example of how correct, enduring structure must be “fed for.”

The third leg of the stool (metaphor, peeps; I know dog people automatically think of bowel movements when that word is used!) is “cared for.” A pup born with the most perfect genetic makeup imaginable cannot mature as the canine equivalent of an Olympic athlete if it is not raised in appropriate conditions and with optimum exercise and just the right level of stress. Puppies play vigorously. They quit when they are tired, and not long after will start playing hard again. They should have access to different types of surfaces. Exercise on hard surfaces builds bone; too much exercise on hard surfaces can harm joints, just like every substance is a poison, it just depends on the dose (you can kill yourself with water.) Dr. Carmen Battaglia published studies years ago about optimum surfaces and inclines to optimize musculoskeletal development.

My own theory is that galloping exercise is necessary for optimum development of the “free stride of good length” required of Lakelands. Varied movements are essential; continuous running back and forth for a short distance is not ideal, nor is long walks or jogging with a puppy. Puppy Culture publishes a good booklet delineating appropriate exercise for each age.

We must be doing something right with our breed to have so many Master Agility Champions and Master Earthdogs in relation to our small numbers, some of them still competing after a decade or more!