Common Injury to Dogs in Dog Agility
Injury to you or your dog in dog agility is almost inevitable and doesn’t really change depending on the level of competition that you do. In fact, if you are a weekend warrior with your dog, meaning your dog only runs full speed, full height, full courses on the weekend, you could be at the greatest risk of injury. Reason being that those running harder tend to do substantially more conditioning on themselves and their dogs. Thus they are better prepared for weekend competitions.
On the flip side, if you are too competitively driven you are putting your dog at a greater risk as well. Soft tissue and minor injuries left unchecked could in turn become big issues with repeated injury to that area. Both sides of the spectrum need to remember their four legged partner is doing highly athletic and demanding work that requires both adequate conditioning and rest to keep them healthy and strong.
Most surveys show that injuries are most common by contact either with an obstacle or the ground. We all know that the most “dangerous” obstacles are the a-frame and dog walk due to the height and speed combined. In fact they account for nearly half of all reported injuries. Thankfully, most if not all venues have lowered the height on the a-frame cutting down injuries due to fly-offs and missed down contacts. Most organizations are making the switch to a breakaway tire obstacle and which has dropped injuries down significantly on that obstacle. As well as switching to better strapping on tunnel bracing which reduced injuries to the back and shoulders of the larger dogs.
Lets face it, bar jumps are going to have the most injuries because they are the most used obstacle in dog agility with repeated force to the front end of the dog on landing. The harder and more technical the patterns get the more twisting and turning that is required of the dog causing uneven landings. This adds to the stress to the dog’s front end.
You may have already guessed that the Border Collie is at the top of the list of most frequently injured dogs. These high drive dogs have a tendency toward running with a bit too much abandon and especially young inexperienced dogs. They are also the most common of the medium to large dogs in heavy competition due to their talent in dog agility making their exposure to injury higher. They are closely followed by the Australian Shepherd for similar reasons. The Shetland Sheepdog rounds out the top three breeds that combined make up a little more than half the injuries to all breeds combined.
Surprisingly in a 2006 survey the Shetland Sheepdog and Australian Shepherd sustain more injury to the shoulders than the Border Collie’s shoulders and back combined. The Australian Shepherd had the most injuries to the shoulders and back compared to either the Shetland Sheepdog or Border Collie. Interesting facts that should help guide you in your conditioning and training regimen of these breeds. For complete information on this survey click here.
So what does all this mean? It just shows how important it is to get proper training and conditioning for your dog. All dogs, no matter the level, need to be fit and prepared to work on agility equipment to avoid injury. And they all need down time to allow for healing as well. We can’t get rid of all the risks but we can go into the ring fully prepared.