Risk Factors in Agility Sports

It is estimated that one-third of all agility dogs are injured at least once during their sporting career. A recent study looks at the risk of injury.

Researchers from Washington State University (USA) investigated risk factors that can favor a rupture of the cranial cruciate ligament. The study is based on a questionnaire completed by the dog handlers and available online. The group of 260 dogs active in agility with a cranial cruciate ligament tear (group 1) faces a control group of a total of 1,006 dogs without a cruciate ligament tear (group 2), which are also used in agility. Whether the cruciate ligament rupture in the affected dogs is due to progressive degenerative causes or was caused by acute trauma cannot be determined from the survey. The focus of the evaluation is on the responses to the signalment and the physical characteristics of the dog, the dog sport experience of the handler, and physical activities before the cruciate ligament rupture.

Physical risk factors

Consistent with other studies, a significantly increased risk of a cruciate ligament rupture was found in

  • neutered bitches,
  • younger dogs
  • heavier dogs (higher body weight/higher body condition score/larger body weight-to-height ratio.

In this study, the Australian Shepherd is overrepresented in both groups. Although the survey did not ask about the presence of a tail, the authors suspect that the Australian Shepherd’s short tail, which is typical in the USA, hurts its balance. Movement patterns adapted as a result could represent a predisposition for a cruciate ligament rupture.

Sport risk factors

ACL tears are more common in dogs that compete at a low level or less than 10 times a year than in dogs that are more qualified and compete more frequently. The poorer fitness of the dogs and inexperience of the dog handler can therefore increase the risk of injury. The design of the course is also important. With lower hurdles, obstacles without jumps, and elements that are further apart, the dogs reach higher speeds, which increases the risk of injury. Additional canine sports such as flyball, which are characterized by sprints, abrupt movements, and jumps, also increase the stress on the cruciate ligaments and the risk of a rupture. dog sports such as nose work, Rally obedience, or dock jumping, on the other hand, are characterized by a balanced load on many muscle groups without abrupt movements. In general, good fitness and core strength and stability can prevent rupture of the cranial cruciate ligament in agility dogs.

Frequently Asked Question

Where was agility invented?

Agility is a canine obstacle sport invented in England in 1978. This sport can be practiced by older and younger people, with small or large dogs, for fun or in competition.

Is agility a sport?

This sport came from England and, like all the other sports described, is open to all dogs. It consists of letting the dog overcome the most diverse obstacles in a constantly changing order to test his leadership and his dexterity as well as speed.

Is agility healthy for dogs?

Is agility healthy for dogs? Agility is a healthy form of exercise that challenges the dog both physically and mentally. He learns to slalom through poles, jump over hurdles and overcome other obstacles such as seesaws and tunnels.

How big does an agility course have to be?

The terrain required for setting up an agility course should be approximately 30 x 40 m. The area required for setting up a course is 20 x 40 m.

Why shouldn’t dogs play with balls?

When landing, the entire body is compressed by momentum. This promotes joint wear and causes massive damage to the musculoskeletal system in the long run. Landing is unhealthy for the dog and damages the entire musculoskeletal system.

Why aren’t tennis balls good for dogs?

This can have fatal consequences for the dog’s teeth: when biting down on a tennis ball or catching it in the air, the abrasion on the teeth acts like sandpaper. In the long run, it wears down the tooth enamel of the dog, the four-legged friend gets a toothache.

For which dog is agility suitable?

There is no perfect agility breed.

Most races also have sufficient skill. However, which breed is best is still debatable. Active and smart dog breeds, such as the Border Collie or the Jack Russel Terrier, find it easiest to negotiate the course.

Which breed is best for obedience?

Sheepdogs, especially the Belgian breeds such as Malinois or Tervueren, as well as Border Collies, Poodles, and Retrievers are at the forefront. In principle, however, obedience is suitable for every dog.

Can you do Agility with a Labrador?

This sport is suitable for any healthy dog, including retrievers, of course. The dog should i.a. X-rayed for HD and ED and not overweight. When you engage in agility with your retriever, you both have fun in the fresh air.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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