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Assessing working dog fitness with the Penn Vet Working Dog Center Fit To Work program – Presented by Brian Farr

Working dogs require a high level of strength, stability, proprioception, and mobility to perform their jobs safely and effectively. Regularly assessing a working dog’s fitness enables monitoring of their performance over time, comparison of their performance to a peer group or standard, and evaluation of their readiness to return to work after an injury, illness, or gap in training or utilization. The Penn Vet Working Dog Center Fit To Work program incorporates four assessments suitable for working dog handlers, trainers, and organizations. The assessments are simple to perform, safe for working dogs, and can be completed in a short period of time with limited resources. The Sprint Test is a measure of whole-body power and primarily hindlimb extension strength. The Progressive Plank Test is a measure of core stability and primarily resistance to spinal extension. Together, these tests can be completed in approximately 30 minutes and require no additional behaviors beyond those common to working dogs. For a more specific assessment of hindlimb fitness, the Progressive Pivot Test measures hindlimb stability, and the Progressive Squat Test measures hindlimb extension strength and muscular endurance.  The Penn Vet Working Dog Center has completed over 250 assessments on over 100 working dogs and has collaborated with military, law enforcement, and search and rescue organizations to assess their dogs. The results of these assessments can inform fitness standard development, enable performance enhancement research, and guide retirement decisions.

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