When Tire Jumps Go Bad
Surprisingly, the Dogwalk and the A-frame aren’t the most hazardous obstacles on the course. The innocuous looking tire jump is! Dogs can be injured in countless ways on them. Your dog can be flung back, slide between the frame and the tire on either side, ‘clothesline’ themselves on the tire or the bungees, knock the entire frame over, become ‘caught’ in the tire (in one awful instance I recall seeing, a dog was caught and completely flipped onto their back), go under the tire, or get caught on a side support. What can you do to avoid this? How can you make agility safe for your dog? Watch the video below: NOTE. The dog in the video, by all reports, was not permanently injured. The movie is disturbing, however.
What can you do to avoid accidents like this? We have some very helpful tips to give you…. (click below to keep reading)
Safety Tips for Tire Jumps
Keep these things in mind when you’re working on any Tire Jump:
- Send the dog straight through the tire. A few seconds of course time is never worth your dogs’ health. Angled entries are the second most common causes for injury on the tire – the first being handler error.
- Make certain your dog is trained to their jump height, and that they have practiced the tire jump sufficiently before competing. Don’t raise the tire jump higher than is recommended either.
- If your dog is having problems taking off too early, set up cavalettis before the jump to help gauge their stride better.
- Position yourself for clear verbal and non-verbal cues. Point to the tire, motioning through, and give your dog a clear verbal command- ‘go tire’, ‘tire’, or ‘through’ are all good ones and commonly used.
Using Break-away Tires:
One of the safest options is to use a break-apart tire (AKA ‘safety tire’, break-away tire, or the displaceable tire) that is currently required by most organizations. The break away tire works by breaking apart if your dog collides with it. Strong magnets within the foam hold it together and separate on impact, lessening the impact on your dog and the frame as well. That means the frame is less likely to tip over on your dog, and the other injuries mentioned above are lessened or negated by the Velcro used to attach the tire to the frame instead of bungees. It’s designed to go with the flow and let your dog go!
The break away tire is trained the same way as a normal tire. Simply recall the dog through the tire at its’ lowest setting, and work your way up to the dogs’ recommended tire jump height! Once you are jumping the tire jump at a certain height, it’s important to not move the tire up and down. Your dog ‘memorizes’ the placement, and changing it on him is setting him up to fail. That said, if your dog runs at two heights (you do AKC and USDAA) you could train him on two jumps so he can learn obstacle discernment. But be careful, and consistent.
Safety should be our first priority in agility. Our dogs’ are our best friends, and they are doing agility to please us, and because its’ fun. A break-away tire makes the sport that much safer, and because its’ safer, it makes the sport more fun for everyone.