Dog Agility Equipment Safety
Dog agility has come a long way from it’s humble beginnings here in the USA back in the 1980’s. The training has gotten better, the dogs have gotten faster and the courses have gotten harder. But with all these advances there have been safety concerns that have grown equally as fast.
The A-frame was one of the first pieces of equipment to undergo changes as dogs started flying over the apex and missing the entire downside of the frame. This was an easy fix by merely dropping the height of the A-frame making it easier for the faster dogs to still make good solid contact with the downside.
Another easy fix was the distance between the weave poles. As bigger faster dogs became more prevalent, it became necessary to widen the distance to save the backs and joints of the dogs bending through the weaves.
Some venues eliminated obstacles all together like the crossover, due to fly-offs by dogs. And while the dog walk has not changed physically yet, many are pushing for course designers to be required to allow at least one straight stride onto the obstacle. Others would like to see the planks widened as larger dogs are at danger of falling with a misstep.
One of the most controversial obstacles has been the tire jump. The older jumps where made on solid metal frames with a solid tire that caused injury to dogs with hitting the tire and flipping through, getting hung up in them and even being hit by the frame as it came crashing down. Now, with the displace-able tire, if a dog hits the obstacle the tire opens to allow them to slide through while closing after they clear the obstacle.
The tunnel has recently undergone scrutiny with the safety of the strapping used to secure the tunnel. Larger, faster dogs that have to duck to get into the tunnel have hit strapping that has been too tight causing the tunnel to collapse and the dogs to hit the “solid” strap doing harm to their necks and shoulders.
And while jumps may get the glance over, they too have undergone changes for safety’s sake. The jump cups are moving toward plastic displace-able cups with rounded edges. The standards are moving away from the solid format to two independent standards so keep a dog safer if they hit one side.
Now there is some unrest about the collapsible tunnel or chute. Faster dogs can sustain injuries to their noses if the material is rough while many dogs get hung up in the chute if they do not enter and stay straight through the chute. Some would like to see the chute removed for good due to it’s safety concerns, questioning the reason for it’s existence in the first place.
While we all want dog agility to be as safe for all dogs as possible, we also have to remember that this is a sport with inherent risks. If you want to run a fast dog or one that may be at a disadvantage on an average course, your training must center around keeping your dog safe while competing. We don’t want to see all the obstacles removed, but we do want all dogs to be safe.
Please leave your thoughts and concerns on the safety of current dog agility equipment in the comments below.