Ep. 9: Injured at a Trial

Dianna L. Santos

This episode was originally aired as part of the All About Dog Sports Podcast, which has been merged into the It's Time to Train Your Dog Podcast.

No dog sport is without risk for physical injury. However, it is our job, being the caretaker for our dogs, to be mindful of this possibility and to make the best decisions possible for them.​

In this episode, Dianna shares an experience where her personal dog was injured at a CAT (coursing ability test) lure coursing test and outlines ways all dog owners can better advocates for their dogs.


Welcome to the All About Dog Sport podcast. This is a podcast where we talk about whole things, dog sports that can include training tips, a behind the scenes look at what your instructor or trial official may be going through and much more. In this episode, I want to talk about something that happened to me and my dog where he actually was injured during one of his dog sport adventures. Before we start diving into the podcast episode itself, let me just do a very quick introduction of myself. My name is Dianna Santos. I'm the Owner and Lead Instructor for Dog Sport University, Family Dog University, and Scent Work University. These are online dog training platforms that are designed to provide high quality dog training instruction to as many people as possible. And we're very fortunate to have a client base that's quite literally worldwide. For Dog Sport University. We focus on a variety of different dog sports, including Agility, barn hunt, competition, obedience, CDSP, rally obedience tracking, tribal tricks, and much more. We provide online courses, seminars, and webinars in these topics as well as our regularly updated blog and podcast episodes of what you're listening to today. So I should know a little bit more about me. Let's dive into the podcast.

So I really went back and forth whether or not I should do a podcast episode about this, but I do think it's important that we are all very transparent and that we share experiences when they do occur. So roughly over two weeks ago, my dog was entered into a CAT test, which is a cosing ability test, which any breed of dog would be able to enter into. Whereas traditional lure Cosing is only opened to Sighthounds, and he has done this a number of times. He's actually done seven cat tests up to this point, and he absolutely loves it. He thinks chasing the plastic bunny is a whole lot of fun. But at this particular cat test he ran, he was entered in two tests. So one was supposed to be in the morning, one was supposed to be in the afternoon, and our morning run didn't actually happen until later on in the afternoon, which was a little surprising.

I've only done it at this facility, and they're usually pretty quick. You have a morning run and you have an afternoon run, but we didn't run until almost close to one 30. As I released him to begin running, the hunt master turned to me and said, oh, you just want to make sure you check his pads, because some dogs been coming up and their pads have been chewed up, which I thought was odd to tell me after I released my dog. So he runs the whole course, ran it the way he normally did. The only thing that was different is he wasn't barking as he was running, which he normally does. So he came to me, he looked fine. He was really super excited. I thanked the trial officials, the trial host, and the secretary as we were walking out, because I had pulled him from the afternoon. It was just getting too hot.

As I got to my car, I then noticed that he was limping and I looked and he was bleeding profusely from all four feet, and his pads had been sliced pretty badly. So I rushed him into my car. I contacted my emergency vet and doused his feet with water, and it turned into a whole big long thing where he needed to go to the emergency vet. He needed to have his feet wrapped, and he was basically sidelined this entire time. We needed to go to the emergency vet three times in order to have his bandages changed over a course of three days, because during that time, my vet was not open. And then on the following Monday, my vet was not able to see him. My vet was then able to see him on the following Tuesday, and then they started wrapping his feet and doing laser therapy and all this other stuff, and I had to keep my very energetic and happy little doberman, very quiet during all this time, meaning that we couldn't do anything.

He really just needed to sleep so that he could heal. And it was literally all four feet. All four pads had been very badly damaged. He wasn't going to be disabled or anything like that, but it was extraordinarily painful for him. The experience at first day in the ER was awful because they took him in the back and as they were trying to take care of his feet, he was screaming. And for anyone who knows Dobermans, they're very stoic. They don't really let you know when they're hurting. And to hear him making those noises was just heartbreaking. So now I also had to pull him from a variety of other things we were going to be doing this month where we were going to be doing a fast cat test, which is different from Cat in that with a cat test, there's actual turns and there's a course and it's longer.

Whereas a fast cat test is just a straight line, and it basically is clocking your dog to see how fast it can actually go, and then you accrue points over a number of runs in order to achieve different titles and placements and things of that sort. In addition to that, we also were entered in several network trials, which I've been on the fence back and forth, whether or not I want to do, trying to figure out whether or not trialing is the thing for me personally, he does great, but I'm not the best competitor as far as being able to deal with the stresses of trialing. But I had convinced myself that no, we were going to give this another go, but now we couldn't because he's hurt. So why am I putting all this into a podcast? Well, I wanted people to have an opportunity to learn from the things that I have been experiencing so that they can make better decisions for their dogs.

So the first thing to realize is that the people who are putting on this event are not at fault. I don't think anyone was maliciously causing for dogs to become injured, and my dog was not the only one who was injured at this event as far as the number of dogs, to my knowledge, from speaking with the trial secretary, there were seven dogs that were known to have had injured paw pads as a result of this cat test. And the explanation was that it was the ground that there was very hard ground. There were a lot of weeds and things, and they tried to reroute the course, and they tried to make adjustments. It just wasn't working. Now, what I'm hoping that people can ascertain from this podcast is that it's our jobs as our dog's owners to always be the advocates for our dogs.

But there are times when we need to just be mindful of the potential that our dogs could become injured, and that could very well mean that we have to be even more active in making good decisions for them. So the one thing that I'm doing is I am trying to contact the trial secretary in a KC just to see whether or not there's anything that could be done in the future just for allowing competitors to make good decisions. Because if I had known that they were having that much difficulty, I would've just pulled him from the entire day I was going to be pulling him from the afternoon anyway because it was too hot. I'd be happy to donate the $35 for entry fees so that the club isn't losing out, because who knows? Maybe they thought the ground was going to be different than it was.

Maybe something was supposed to happen to the facility that didn't. I don't know. I'm not privy to that information, but I'm the one who's responsible for my dog, and I just want to be able to make good decisions for him. So if they had communicated to us as competitors that they were having trouble, I would've gladly just said, you know what? Keep my entry fees. I'm just going to scratch 'em for the day, and I'm just going to go home with him. And I've done that before. I've done that with other trials where either I knew I wasn't feeling well enough, where I knew that I would be giving him such a terrible handler experience where I would be screwing up my cues or I wouldn't be handling him very well, or I just wouldn't be thinking the way that I should that I scratched and we just went home.

Or if I thought that it was just way too hot. A lot of our events are taking place in Southern California during the summer and it's really, really, really hot, and I don't want him to get sick. So yeah, I will donate my entry fees if I think that there's any chance or likelihood that it's not going to be a good experience. So for anyone who is involved in any dog's wart, whether it be lure cosing or agility or disc dog or anything, you always want to keep in mind that it is your job to keep your dog safe at all times. But in order to do that, you need to have the information in front of you. And if there's any red flags at all, for myself, I should have realized like, Hey, it's really kind of weird that this cat test that we normally or morning run has done by now that we haven't even run yet.

That should have been a red flag to me. The fact that I saw another dog limp off, that should have been a real big red flag to me. I should have just pulled him. But that doesn't mean that it's my fault. It doesn't mean that it's the host's fault, it's just something that happened, but it's something that happened that has a lot of consequence because we're out all these other events that we wanted to do. He hasn't been able to do much of anything during this whole time. And it's also just frankly, really expensive. That $35 day has cost me close to a thousand dollars in medical fees. That's not fun. So what I'm hoping with this podcast episode is that people can understand that dog sports are not without risks, but our dogs need for us to make good decisions for them. And that includes making some hard decisions sometimes where you may have to look at what's going on around you and say, you know what?

I just don't think this is going to work. And it very well may be that you will not be able to get a refund of your entry fees. I will say for this event, the secretary refunded me, which they didn't have to. They honestly didn't. It's in the actual entry form that they're not required to do anything, but they did, which was very nice of them. And you could tell from when in my communication with them that they were very concerned and they felt very bad, and even one of their dogs was injured at the event. They weren't doing these things on purpose, meaning that they weren't trying to hurt the dogs purposefully. It's just something that happened. It's important to point out that these things are indeed possible, which I think that with the influx of dog sports and the influx of people into dog sports, sometimes that's not really understood that your dog could become injured doing any of these activities, whether or not it be a trial or in training.

I've known of dogs doing agility that broken their legs. I was present during one when it was just doing an a-frame for fun, and they took the wrong step. They fell off when they broke the leg. It was awful. I have a colleague where they were doing training and very accomplished. The dog fell off the dog walk and they broke their leg. I mean, these things are possible. You have all kinds of things that are potential as far as injury, but you want to do as much as you can to keep your dog safe and to make good decisions for them. So the last thing that I wanted to point out with this podcast episode is really being mindful of what you and your dog can actually do and whether or not it's realistic. So for myself, I now have a decision point to make of, well, am I going to try a cat test again and am I maybe just going to do fast cats?

Because with the cat test, there's a lot of turns. There's more likelihood in some view in opinions for your daughter to become injured, or would I just do a fast cat because it's a straight line, and I have to tell you, I'm on the fence about doing any of it, and we don't need much in order to get titles in both. He would get his second level title for cat tests with three more runs, and he would get his first level fast cut title with probably two more runs. But is it worth it? I don't think so. And what kills me is that he loves doing this. He loves chasing the plastic bunny, he thinks is the best thing ever. But I can tell you that he has not thoroughly enjoyed the last two weeks. He's a fantastic patient. He's a wonderful dog, but he wants to do more, and he simply can't because I need to protect his feet.

Even this far out, there's still about a core of an inch of flesh that's missing from all four of his pads where they were torn up, and it's going to take time for that to grow back in. So he's actually scheduled to have a completely unrelated surgery in about a week. So he's going to be laid up for another bunch of weeks, and it's just going to be a thing if nothing else. I hope that this can give people pause that not every dog sport is for every dog. Not every activity is for every dog. And that in every single instance where you bring your dog into an activity, whether it just be for fun, whether it be for training or trialing, it's your responsibility as their caretaker to be an advocate for them. And if you notice something going on ask, that's the one thing that I could have done.

Honestly. I could have walked up and said, Hey, we're running a little late and I saw this other dog limp off. Is everything okay? And maybe if I had asked, they would have said, oh, we're having some difficulty with such and such. And I said, oh, okay. Well, we're just going to pull, then no worries. You can keep the entry fee because I didn't want to cause any issues. I didn't do that. Again, that doesn't mean that I'm wrong. It doesn't mean that I'm bad. It doesn't mean that I'm a bad owner, but I try to look at these experiences and try to figure out what is it that I could have done, if anything, so that I know how to do it better next time. I can't control the world around me. I can only control me, and I can only advocate for my dog.

So like I said, I am in touch with the A KC and trying to see if there's a way that we can promote more communication between hosts and competitors if things go awry, and they may. And it's not just in lurk cosing. It can happen at anything. It can happen at any kind of event with the understanding that I'm not trying to make trial hosts lives difficult. They have a very, very hard job as it is trying to put on an event. And I have a lot of sympathy, and I definitely appreciate when people want to step up and host events for us to have fun with our dogs. I also don't want them to front a bill. I don't want them to be out a ton of money to try to put on an event if it doesn't go well. At the same point, there has to be a way for competitors to get the information that they need so that they can make good decisions for their dogs, and there has to be a way of meeting that in the middle.

So with nothing else, I just wanted to share the experience that we had, some of the things I'm going to be doing going forward, and maybe that'll help someone. Again, I'm not trying to say that anyone is bad, that anyone was doing this on purpose and that they're evil, terrible people. I don't think they are. I was very upset. I was very angry when it happened, which I think is pretty understandable and natural. But I don't want anyone to take that as licensed to attack people on social media or to get really unpleasant and unprofessional. That's not necessary at all. And communication is key. When you are at an event and something goes wrong, it may not have to be as serious of what happened to me, but it could just be anything. It could just be, well, maybe certain procedures weren't followed or what have you.

Talk to the trial secretary or the trial chairperson first. Just bring it up and be polite about it. There's no need to be nasty, and then go from there. If you have to bring it up to levels, that's fine. But the one thing that I really wish people would stop doing is not talking to anyone who's actually involved with the event and immediately going on social media and just blasting people left and right. That doesn't help anybody because again, I was not aware before I reached out to the trial secretary how many issues they were having. I didn't know how many adjustments they tried to make. I didn't know how many other dogs were injured. I didn't know the trial secretary's dog had been injured. So if I had just gone on social media and just went off, I would not have been providing the complete picture.

So again, it's all about trying to figure out how can you be the best advocate for your dog? How can you navigate all of this knowing that some of these activities have more risks than others, and how can you be professional about it? How can you be mature about it? Particularly in the moment when you're probably super emotional and you're pretty upset, you just have to be able to breathe, deal with it, and then go from there. So I hope this podcast is a little bit helpful for people who may either be new to dog sports, maybe competing in dog sports for a while, maybe just doing things for fun or with training, whether or not they're trialing or not, that if you ever find yourself in this kind of situation where you are doing something and just things don't seem to be going, really all that well ask.

And don't ask meanly, don't be snarky or anything. Just say, Hey, by the way, what's going on? Is everything okay? Because if it's not, then just simply pull your dog. You can come back another day. You can enter into another trial. If I had done that with him, he could have run his fast cat the next weekend and he would've been fine, and he would've been happy, and he wouldn't be all laid up, and I wouldn't have had any problem with it. I wouldn't have had any issue with it. So again, I'm just hoping that we can have a better approach to these sorts of things, and I'm all about if something happens to me, I want to see if people could benefit from that experience in any way, shape, or form. So I hope you found this podcast episode somewhat helpful. We'll be back with some happier topics later. Thanks so much for listening. Happy training. We look forward to seeing you.