Thursday, February 10, 2011

Getting To The Bottom Of My Dog's
Start Line Stay, Literally
(Part 1)

Recently, I observed my agility dog break his "sit" start line stay, yelping and looking at his rear end. Yelping at his rear end was nothing new, and neither was breaking the start line stay, but seeing the two behaviors together was new. Could this be a clue?

For the past year and a half, my Doberman Lucas, has been struggling with anal gland issues. These issues have been steadily getting worse. For example, after yelping at his rear end in practice and breaking his start line stay, I took him to the vet to have his anal glands expressed. The anal glands were impacted and his entire rear end was very sore. 

Five days later, Lucas had a sleepless night, standing and pacing. Having not ever seen Lucas act this way before, I was very concerned. Honestly, I thought he had bloat. After taking him to a different vet. for a full evaluation, the prognosis again was impacted anal glands.

Clearly, Lucas' anal gland problem is very painful. So much so that I can not express them myself anymore. All that can be done at this point is to add more fiber to his raw food diet, and regularly get his anal glands expressed. Having the anal glands removed does not seem like a good option at this point, for it could cause fecal incontinence.

Lucas' History With The Start Line
In the beginning (novice level) of Lucas' agility career he did not have a problem with his start line stay. 

Months later (open level), he started to have concerns with the dogs standing behind him, resulting in him breaking the start line stay. He would run around the jump to be with me. After working on this problem, he developed confidence and was holding his start line stay. 

Sometime, after moving up to the Excellent level, his anal gland problem started and his start line stay was off and on. (More off than on)

Wanting to fix this problem, I started implementing the popular start line solutions and games. I religiously walked him off the course in trials and practice if he broke his start line stay. The result, still Lucas was still breaking his start line stay. (We walked off more courses in 2010 than we ran)

My Light Bulb Moment
After watching Lucas break his "sit" start line stay, yelping and looking at his rear end last week, I realized, his anal gland problem and sore rear end, could very likely be a large contributing factor to why Lucas breaks most of his start line stays.

In practice, I have started putting Lucas in a "down" at the start line. So far, Lucas has held a solid down until his release cue is given. Could it be that simple? I think the true test will be in a trial setting.

Look for part two of "Getting To The Bottom Of My Dog's Start Line Stay, Literally" in mid March after our first trial of the year.

Note: Although Lucas' anal gland problem is painful at times, he has not exhibited any pain or discomfort running a course or playing. In fact, he is eager, happy, and energetic during his physical activity.


  1. I am so glad you got to the 'bottom' of your dog's issue with his start line stays and I hope the down works for here on out. :-) It is interesting that I came across this very post today, because I just posted in my own blog about a similar 'aha' moment with my Labrador, Toby. If you get the time to check it out, it is "When to say When?" Nice to meet you, and I look forward to exploring the rest of your blog!

  2. Thanks Donna for the nice response to my post. I'm excited to go read your blog. I'm adding you to my blog list. Us "off-breeds" have to stick together in agility!

  3. Hi Holly,

    Sorry for the misunderstanding - I am not doing agility with any of my crew, but two of my dogs are doing Rally and my Shep/Dobe mix is doing Nose Work. Thanks for adding me to you list, I added you to mine as well - and am really looking forward to reading Part II of this when it is up!!

  4. That's ok! I love what you are doing with your dogs : )

  5. Thanks for stopping by Bocci's Beefs and becoming a follower-just returned the favor. I'm off to add you to my blogroll-you've got an excellent blog! When you have chance, I'd be honored if you'd add Bocci's Beefs to your blogroll:-)


    Bocci and Parental Unit, Joan

  6. Hi there:
    I can't say that my dogs are involved in agility, but I did want to comment on Lucas' anal gland problem. I too have a doberman and have rescued two so far. However, the gland issue has little to do with breed and more to do with diet, allergies, etc. My last dobie had very little dog anal gland issues, but "Jenna" my present dobie did (she no longer does). I too express their glands. I wanted to respond to the "adding more fiber" to his diet comment. I was wondering if Lucas drinks alot of water or not. The reason I ask, is because if he doesn't drink adequate amounts of water and he's on a high fiber diet, this can actually make the problem worse. I've seen a big difference in my own dobe "Jenna" who eats a grain free dehydrated diet. Jenna also had kidney issues which makes these types of diets a nice option. While pumpkin, etc. is often recommended as a great fiber source, it often does very little if the main diet isn't working for a dog. Because water is added to dehydrated diets, I believe that it can help with several health issues in dogs. I do a great deal of research on dog foods, diet, allergies, skin problems, anal gland problems, etc.

    Anyway, I wanted to share my thoughts with you and tell you what a great blog you have here. Before I forget, Lucas is gorgeous by the way. I love his agility pictures. I was told that Jenna would have been good at agility, but my own schedule just didn't permit.

    Take care.

  7. Hi Janie,
    Thank you for your response. You have given me a lot to think about.

    Lucas has been on a raw diet for years. The type of raw diet where he eats whole turkey legs, chicken breasts, whole fish, liver, gizzards, etc. He is not a big drinker so I also make him "meat soup" where I add a lot of water in a bowl and add raw some ground beef and carrots to the mixture.

    Two years ago Lucas had liver biopsy because his liver enzyme levels were out of control He had some cirrhosis of the liver and high copper level values.

    This is when his anal gland issues started. He was put on 2 liver medications and I had to change his diet to a low copper. A lot of the copper that was in his diet was from the organ meats. I think between the medications and a no organs in his diet lead us to his anal gland issues.

    I'm also not a big believer in adding grains or even vegetables to a dogs diet.

    Adding the pumpkin to the diet didn't help, so one of the vets I see, wanted to to add grain. Lucas is having better bowel movements, but on the other hand, I did have to do his anal glands this Saturday because he was yelping and biting at his rear end. They weren't impacted for the first time in a long time, and not completely full.

    I find it strange that he presented himself as being in a lot of pain, but yet they were not full. This behavior of being in pain went away after the anal glands were emptied. I don't know what to think about that.

    I do agree with you about the grains, but I don't see any other option right now. Thank you for reminding me that he needs more water with the grains. Another reason I don't like the grains.

    Let me know if you have anymore thoughts on this. I'm off to check out your blog.

    Thanks, Holly

  8. Hi Holly:
    My girl Jenna eats Grandma Lucy's and I actually add a cup of white rice to hers. For some reason, Jenna does much better with a little grain where my lab Maggie, does better without it. My impression of anal gland problems is that they pinch or sting -- the reason I say this is because if you watch a dog whose glands were full or just bothering the dog, the dog will often quickly turn and look at their back end like something pinched him.

    I don't necessarily feel that grains are bad - I feel they can be a problem when a dog eats more grain than wholesome, healthy food which is often found in cheap dog foods.

    Should you run into any liver or kidney issues with Lucas, let me know and I will recommend a herbalist who kept her own dobie alive for 3 years when he was diagnosed with renal failure.

    I wanted to share this thread with you from dogster about root canals and dog owners who elected to have the tooth extracted. The dogs did fine. I also left you message on my blog along with another link.

  9. WOW!! Very nice information about your dogs.
    Thanks for post..
    Dog Walker Los Angeles

  10. JoAnne DunnewoldJuly 2, 2011 at 3:35 PM

    Hi Holly, this blog is pretty cool. Dobies and anal glands, hmmm...been there, done that one.

    Coincidentally, you have a link for an alternative to wobblers surgery about Dr. Durkess. I actually took my dobie, Emma, to him last summer for the gold bead implants. That's why her neck is wrapped in pink in some of the pictures that Candy sent to you.

    Hugs to Lucas!

  11. In modern war... you will die like a dog for no good reason.