Keeping Your Working Dog In Line

Reader Contribution by Mary Powell
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That morning started out like any other morning on the farm, with Fly helping me with chores.  My soon to be two-year-old Border collie gets to help me move goats around, while I put feed out.  Fly moved perfectly and perhaps a little slower than normal but not enough to cause alarm.  Two hours later, when Fly walked in the door from playing in the yard with her brother, Tucker, her back legs were not working correctly and I immediately knew we had to get her to our vet.

Dr. Arbuckle pulled blood on Fly but nothing showed up but the physical exam was much different.  There were no broken bones but she was definitely out of alignment and needed a chiropractic adjustment.  Not only was Fly whip-lashed, two other spots along her spine were out of place.  Fly was not happy with the adjustment and dragged herself over to me after the adjustment, back legs still not working correctly.  Two weeks of complete rest were ordered and I carried my scared pup out to the car and home.

The day of the adjustment, Fly’s legs went from barely working to not working at all.  I carried her outside to do potty breaks, which she quickly figured out what I was trying to help her do, by holding her back legs for her.  I put her on a puddle pad in the living room, while I was sitting beside her and the rest of the day, she was in the crate.

The second day she showed some improvement and was standing on her own but needed me to carry her outside to do her potty breaks.  You could see the look in her eyes that she did not understand what was happening to her.  My heart was nearly broken, thinking she would never fulfill the dreams I have for her going to a sheepdog trial.  I wondered if I would ever see her circle the goats and creep up on them in her flashy way.

Two weeks later, Fly was starting to come around to her normal self or at least she was trying her best with all the restrictions she was under.  The vet adjusted her again at the two week visit and ordered another adjustment two weeks later.  By the third adjustment, Fly was bouncing around as if she had never been unable to walk.

Our vet was very adamant about Fly getting regular chiropractic adjustments.  She lectured me that every working dog should have regular adjustments, to keep them in working order.  They are athletes and like human athletes, the occasionally tweak their body and need to be put back in alignment.  Dr. Arbuckle also said that Fly’s longer body style also makes her more prone to slipping out of alignment.  Lesson learned.

Your working dog is an extension of you and that extension is not an unbreakable.  They strain muscles and break bones.  It is up to you as their owner and caregiver, to ensure they keep themselves in top operating shape.  If they get tumbled by a cow or goat, you may want to consider chiropractic care, just to help them recover faster.  If your vet doesn’t do chiropractic care, you should find a vet that is trained to do adjustments so you can keep your working dog athlete in tip top shape.

Mary Powell is a goat rental business owner and agricultural educator with more than 27 years’ experience working on ranches, farms and feedyards. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science from Kansas State University with an emphasis in Livestock Production Management. Follow Mary and her many misadventures with the goats on Facebook at Barnyard Weed Warriors and Ash Grove Goat Ranch or on her BarnyardWeedWarriors website.  If you have questions for her about her goats or Border Collies, email Mary at Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

Gain a deeper understanding of your canine friends through in-depth breed profiles that showcase how working dogs think. From familiar breeds such as the Border Collie, Corgi, and Dachshund to the lesser-known Akbash, Puli, and Hovawart, Janet Vorwald Dohner describes 93 breeds of livestock guardian dogs, herding dogs, terriers, and traditional multipurpose farm dogs, highlighting the tasks each dog is best suited for and describing its physical characteristics and temperament. She also offers an accessible history of how humans bred dogs to become our partners in work and beyond, providing a thorough introduction to these highly intelligent, independent, and energetic breeds.
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