Lyx’s return to agility after surgery

In the previous blog post Sanna Saarinen talked about training periodization and its importance. This has been a very current issue for me and my dog Lyx as well. Lyx is an agility dog and she was sterilized in late November 2022. I have been working on her recovery with our physiotherapist Ulla Tuomi at Espoon eläinfysioterapia and in this blog post, I will tell you about our rehab journey and what we are currently working on with Lyx.


Meet Lyx

Lyx is a Shetland sheepdog and she has just turned 4 years old. She is 31,5 cm tall and weighs just under 4 kg, so she is quite tiny. As agility is a very physically demanding sport, keeping Lyx fit and in good condition is very important to me, not only with regard to speed but first and foremost to prevent injuries. I am very meticulous with her health and basic condition, which is something I feel is sometimes overlooked in the agility world. The dog must be in good shape and most of the fitness work isn’t done on the agility course, but outside it in our everyday lives. I am referring to walking the dog, running, exercising to build up strength and coordination and so on. Our goals for 2023 have been to take part at the EO and AWC national tryouts in the end of February and mid May.

Sterilization by endoscopic surgery

Since I didn’t have any puppy plans for Lyx, I had decided to sterilize her. Undergoing surgery in the middle of the training and competition period is always somewhat risky, but I had booked the sterilization for mid-November since it was just in the middle of Lyx’s heat cycle and I had calculated that there would be around 3 months to work on her recovery from late November to the end of February. I thought that would be enough time to recover and get us back on track, even with a margin in case something wouldn’t go as planned or there would have been some setbacks. After consulting Ulla I decided we would go through with it. The operation was performed as an endoscopic surgery and luckily it was successful and everything went according to plan.

Even if most dogs recover very fast from endoscopic sterilization surgery, we had decided with Ulla that we would take our time working on Lyx’s recovery in order to try to avoid any possible setbacks. Even though endoscopic sterilization is sometimes marketed as a miraculously fast way of sterilizing the dog and getting back to doing agility or obedience or whatever, it is still a surgery. The wounds may heal quite fast on the outside, but we never know what is going on inside or if the dog is experiencing some discomfort due to the surgery. This is why I wanted to take my time and let Lyx heal properly before starting to train agility again. Even if dogs in general heal very fast and we sometimes like to think they heal faster than humans, this has proven to be an anecdote and dogs take about as much time as us humans to heal. The tissues take their own time to heal, and starting with heavy exercise or agility too soon after the surgery is not only potentially risky and painful for the dog, but also might cause problems later on.

Getting back on track

Soon after the surgery we started the laser treatments in order to avoid scarring and keep the tissues flexible. Lyx was kept on a leash at all times to avoid any rapid or sudden movements that could affect the wounds. We gradually did longer walks with her, starting at just 2 x 5 minutes the day after the surgery and increasing time and length little by little. A couple of weeks later we had the first physio treatment and Lyx was cleared for hydrotherapy. The next few weeks we had regular hydrotherapy sessions and at home we worked on some exercises mostly just to increase and obtain movement rather than working on getting stronger.

Lyx was in very good physical shape before the surgery and she was used to doing very challenging exercises. As Lyx’s surgery was pre-planned and not sudden, we went through rehabilitation exercises already before the surgery. These exercises were quite easy when looking at Lyx’s body control and strength and what she was used to doing but there was a purpose for this – we wanted to implement into Lyx’s mind that she doesn’t need to offer the hardest possible exercises or variations of them but rather offer basic movements done with slow or moderate speed. This way the easier movements were safe and clear for Lyx when she was ready to do exercises after surgery.

The first exercises were meant to very carefully improve the metabolism of the operated area for better wound healing. These movements were also planned to maintain Lyx’s middle body mobility and prevent scar tissue from forming attachments.

After the first few weeks, some strength exercises were introduced for both front part and hind legs in order to avoid muscle loss during the break from sports. This can fasten the return to sport but also make it safer! The exercises were made more challenging as the weeks went – strength, mobility and coordination were challenged more and more throughout the rehabilitation process.

Since Lyx was in very good shape at the time of the surgery, she recovered quite fast and in January Lyx was ready for small jumping exercises and short sequences without any tight turns, weaves or contacts. The following weeks we worked on increasing her training load and intensity bit by bit and at the end of January we had our first competition.

Set a baseline before surgery

Many times post-surgery I have wished I would have recorded Lyx’s movements, turns, performances etc. much better than I have. During recovery, you examine the dog under a magnifying glass and pay attention to everything, every minor detail in her movements and stress about whether something is off or if it’s normal – and all of a sudden you just can’t remember quite how it was before the surgery. So a big tip to everyone whose dogs are undergoing surgery of some sort: film your dog’s movements in all paces, see how it sits and stands up, goes down and so on.   Do this in advance, so you have something to compare to after the surgery when the paranoia hits.

In Lyx’s case I was quite concerned about her weight distribution when sitting. She tends to sit heavier on her right hind leg and let her left leg externally rotate. This is a small detail that I had never paid that much attention to beforehand, but after her surgery I couldn’t stop thinking about whether it is something she has always done or whether that is something new and surgery-related. Since she seemed fine and her movements have been clean and symmetrical, we decided to address the issue and started working on specific exercises to help alignment and weight distribution in her hind legs.

Lyx has always had a bit of a sloppy way of sitting, letting her hind legs externally rotate out like Charlie Chaplin. I believe this is quite common among shelties and border collies and sheepdog in general , but since I wanted to correct her weight distribution we started working on her core and leg alignment. It has improved a lot due to exercise and just simply by reminding her of it, and it is very motivating to see results even if it is a work in progress.


A work in progress

So did we get Lyx ready for the national tryouts at the end of February? Yes, yes we did! Physically Lyx is probably in even better condition now than before the surgery, and the paranoia about surgery-related uncomfort or pain has finally left me. We did some good runs at the tryouts, but unfortunately didn’t manage to do any clean runs. Lyx did fantastic though, so we keep training and working and our eyes are set on the second tryouts in May.

Fitness and strength training is always a work in progress, so we will keep working on leg alignment, core strength, general strength etc. making sure Lyx stays fit and well conditioned. And I can train with her with a clear conscience knowing she is well recovered from the surgery and fit and ready to do agility.


Thank you for reading!
Lyx & Linda

Leave a Comment

Shopping Cart
Scroll to Top