A First for Agility?

Monday, March 30, 2009

I could be wrong but I think this could be the first of it’s kind. I have a friend that is currently doing her PhD on injuries to dogs competing in the sport of

An agility dog teetering on the edge!

An agility dog teetering on the edge!

 agility. Before you think this is just someone out to prove we shouldn’t do agility with our dogs, let me tell you that Kim does compete in agility herself and does quiet well. She actually won the Canadian Nationals last year with her Border Collie “Recess”, and was an alternate on our IFCS World Team, so she is no slouch! Kim needs everyone’s help. She has put together a survey to help her gather data.  I will just let Kim tell you, in her own words, what is going on. The more information we get the better it will be for all of our dogs participating in the sport of agility in the future so please take a few minutes and fill in the survey!

Encore tumbles out of a wet tunnel.

Encore tumbles out of a wet tunnel.

Does your dog play agility? We need to hear from you!

Agility Injury Survey: 

A research study examining the injury risk factors for dogs participating in agility.

The purpose of this study is to describe the injuries that are occurring to dogs participating in agility events. We are interested in knowing more about what types of injuries are most common (such as muscle strain, ligament sprain) and what part of the dog’s body (e.g., shoulder, toes, etc) are most commonly involved. We are also interested in learning how the injuries occurred – such as whether or not there was a specific event that contributed to the injury (e.g., collision with handler, or specific piece of equipment on course). 

We would still like you to complete the survey if your dog(s) has(have) not had an injury playing agility. It is important to understand how ‘big’ the problem is, which means we need to know about the injuries that are occurring within the context of understanding how many dogs play without ever having an injury.

This survey will take about 10-15 minutes of your time to complete. We would be happy to share the findings of this survey with you if you are interested. You will be given an opportunity to sign-up to receive a summary of the research findings before you finish the survey.

Encore's experience with a break-away tire at her first trial.

Encore's experience with a break-away tire at her first trial.



If you agree to participate in this study, we would ask you to answer some questions about you (your age and how long you have been training agility dogs, for example), and questions which focus on your dog’s participation in agility events. The survey will collect information on any injuries your dog has sustained while playing agility (either in training or competition). You will have the opportunity to enter information separately for each dog in your household that has participated in agility events.

The study is being conducted by Ms. Kim Cullen from the University of Guelph under the supervision of Dr. JP Dickey, Dr. NM Moëns and Dr. J Thomason. 

The information collected from this survey will be used to guide the development of Ms. Cullen’s PhD dissertation, which focuses on examining the biomechanical risks of injury to dogs participating in agility events. This project represents an important first step in building knowledge about common injuries occurring to dogs participating in agility which can result in improved treatments for these injuries, as well as improved equipment safety standards to reduce the future risk of injury to dogs participating in agility.

This study is sponsored by the Ontario Veterinary College Pet Trust Fund.

Click here to access the survey:


Kim completed a B.Sc. in Kinesiology from the University of Waterloo in 1996 and received an M.Sc. degree in Clinical Rehabilitation Science from McMaster University in 2002.  Kim is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Biophysics at the University of Guelph.  For the last six years Kim has been

Recess, Kim & Ryan.

Recess, Kim & Ryan.


 working at the Institute for Work and Health as a Research Associate where she has been a co-author on more than 20 scholarly papers.

Kim spends her free time teaching family dog obedience and training her four dogs: Bailey (12 years), Maddie (8 years), Recess (5 years) and Gossip (1 year).  Currently, Kim and Recess are the 2008 AAC National Champions in the 22” Regular Division.  For the past 10 years, Kim has been an active participant in agility, competing in AAC, USDAA, and NADAC with her two Labrador Retrievers (Bailey and Maddie) and Border Collie (Recess), all of whom have placed at the AAC Regionals and Nationals.  In 2008, Kim and Recess were selected as alternates for Team Canada (IFCS) and in October, Kim and Recess participated in their second USDAA National Championship, qualifying for the Steeplechase finals

Kim also shares her life with her husband John and son Ryan (3 years) and they are expecting their second child in July.  They live in Ancaster, Ontario, Canada.

Okay guys, lets get on board and fill out those surveys, if you have a blog of your own, please pass this link around, the more information we can get for Kim the better our dogs will be in the long run!

Today I am grateful for people like Kim that are looking to advance our sport with more in depth knowledge helping us more fully understand the physicality of our agility dogs.



  1. Hi All,

    We have presented last year at VOS and just had accepted for publication in VCOT our paper on injuries occurring in dogs participating in agility. It is due out in July. I would be very happy to share our experience and help in any way possible.

    Marty Levy
    I. Martin Levy, MD
    Professor and Program Director Orthopaedics
    Albert Einstein College of Medicine
    Montefiore Medical Center

  2. In the survey, the question “How long has your dog participated in agility?” is unclear. It doesn’t give a unit of measurement (years, months, etc.). It just asks for a number.

  3. I am unable to get past the birthdate for my dog and cannot complete survey

  4. Not sure if my data will be suitable for your paper, but nevertheless I was more than happy to share information about my first dog, a lab, age 2, who I had continued to train in agility twice a week for 3 months not realizing she had some kind of lower back muscle injury! I started to have big problems: my dog started to growl at other dogs and got a reputation for having a bad character! on several occasions she couldn’t move, my vet said “no agility for 3 weeks” – but in fact it took over a year for the inflammation to completely disappear! I finally stopped doing agility at all with her, fearing that out of ignorance I was going to ruin my dog’s health.
    I hope this info will help others. How did this happen? Because I went into agility with absolutely no knowledge of the fundamentals of jumping, and what is really worse, no one in my dog club was better informed. The “advice” I was given? I was accused of not motivating my dog, not being strict enough!
    Now I try to keep informed as best as I can through books and DVD’s.

  5. Hi Shannon,
    Good criticism! I had intended the question to be about years, but I agree it should be clearer…

  6. Hi, A question for Kim. Just wondering if you are able to use data from dogs out of Canada and the USA. It states that you need registration numbers to extract frequency of competition data?
    Charlotte, New Zealand.

  7. Hi Charlotte,
    Absolutely, I want to hear about your experiences!

    I am not intentionally limiting data collection to just Canada, USA, or UK. When you enter the survey, you can enter manually where you live if you live outside of Canada, USA or UK. There is another question that asks what venues do you play in – and the list is mainly based on these three countries… but if you can’t find a venue (meaning I didn’t know about it) there is also a place to enter extra ones…

    The follow-up question asks for dog ID’s for AAC, UKA, and USDAA because these venues have more detailed records on how many events the dogs have been in… the intent for this question was to get at the dog’s exposure for injury… obviously dogs that participate in more events/trial and more trials/year have a higher ‘exposure risk’ to injury. It is also possible that dogs might compete very rarely and this might also make them more susceptible to injury risk…

    The survey serves 2 main purposes:
    1) to get a tally of the kinds of injuries that are occurring and the likely culprits that are causing these and;

    2) to understand how ‘big’ the injury risk is – this is why I’d like the exposure data… due to many constraints, it just wouldn’t be possible to get data from every organization on this matter… so I targeted the main three…

  8. Hello! This is so exciting! My friend, just hours ago, sent me this link knowing that this past weekend, I was doing a survey just like yours! Recently, we rubberized two of the contacts at our club and two at a training facility we use. I have heard a couple complaints; probably because people just don’t like change but also because most agility competitors just don’t know what is or isn’t safe when it comes to the equipment. Will the rubberized contacts cause abrasions to the pads or will it help prevent slippage and therefore, prevent injury? Also, I have heard many stories over the years regarding injuries caused by the sport. This intrigued me so I decided to do a survey. I wrote it up, made copies and handed it out at this weekend’s trial. People were wonderful and I got somewhere between 25-50 back. I want to get at least 100 responses before I tabulate the results, so I thought I would just continue at the next couple trials. When I read the blog and saw what you were doing Kim, you have the same questions although, I haven’t taken yours yet. Now I don’t know alot about surveys but perhaps we can use the data together but in any event, you will be welcome to my results. I hope to put them in my blog and they will hopefully also go up on my club’s site. If you email me, we can keep in touch. My hope is to have equipment more standardized and to do so means having data to back up the decisions. As for my experience, I am a veterinarian doing behavior consulting and have been involved in agility for 4 years. I have two dogs that show – an Aussie and a Pom who are both in AKC Exc and ASCA Elite levels. I am thrilled about your survey and truly hope we can make Agility as safe as it is fun. Best to you, Carolyn Lincoln

  9. Kathleen,
    The date is in the format for DD/MM/YYYY, NOT MM/DD/YYYY. That may be why you can’t get past the birth date. Try it again with the day preceding the month and see if it works.

  10. Too answer an earlier posted quesion….the format of date of birth is a little off from what I normally see it wants day first, then month, then year. Hope that helps!
    I actually had this survery info going around 3 of my active Yahoo E Groups the past few days and did the survey before even seeing Susan’s blog today. My kids have yet to have an injury while working (hopefully never) but I filled it out anyways. Hope it helps dogs that have gotten injured somehow avoid it in the future.
    Thanks for sharing Susan and Kim!!!

  11. Hey Kim,

    I just finished doing the survey. Two questions/comments: First, I was unable to enter data on my Mastiff, Stella- I THINK the problem was in entering her weight- the survey would not accept 155.0 as a valid entry, but did let me proceed if I shortened it to 55.0 (don’t worry, I deleted the entire entry).

    Second, 2 years ago, my older Border terrier, Robin prolpased a disc and required surgery. This happened AT a trial, i.e. the symptoms presented the second morning of a trial, but there was no preceeding injury or event, either on course or during warm-up. I did not include this, but wonder if I should have.


  12. One more comment/question…

    When you ask about agility training sessions, you do not specify the type or duration of the sessions.

    I try and do “something agility” every day- e.g. stair contacts, weave poles on the lawn at work, directionals, etc., but only usually manage to get onto equipment monthly (or less) in the winter. I answered with respect to time on equipment, but I wonder if that need to be calrified?


  13. I am very excited to see that somebody with experience in dog agility is rounding up information on injuries. I have had a dog break his leg while practicing so it is nice to see such a comprehensive survey like this can be presented in a professional manner and maybe an organization will take note and listen. If this helps prevent just one dog from hurting himself, then it’s worth it.

  14. a friend stopped competing as her dog got caught in the tire by her neck and was swinging back and forth. it was not a breakaway tire.
    my dog fell off the dog walk onto her back, sometimes you jsut dont know if there is an injury till much later. the only thing i do notice is lots of brokend nails. not quite sure where that is happening.

  15. Hi, Kim…just filled out your survey on my two dogs..appreciate the work you are doing …

    As for the podcast…great info from Susan and great hearing her reiterate the “reinforcement builds behaviour” but it quit half way through her sentence…….about 2/3 way thru the podcast..I tried it again but it stopped in the same place again..any suggestions anyone?

  16. Well, neither of my dogs has been injured while participating in agility, I have noticed sore muscles and overall tiredness. This is not addressed in your survey.

    I also only participated once in USDAA. I felt the jump height was too high for my older dog entered in the lower jump category. I do not plan to enter this venue again. I do hope this survey helps lower jump height categories.

  17. Hi.

    I just tried to do the agility injury survey and it would not let me get past the page where it asks for my dog’s DOB. I entered it correctly three times, but it kept coming back with the statement in red, “Please enter a valid date.” I finally gave up.

  18. I did finish the survey, but there was no real place to enter pre-agility injuries/surgeries. Thought that might be interesting as part of the study, too. I have a six-year-old bichon frise who had a femoral head excision for Legg Perthes at the age of nine months. We have been doing agility for 3 years or so. She appears to love it and has not let that little short-legged gait bother her one bit. She is every bit as fast as her sister, zoom, who is just starting agility.

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