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Anyone in the UK who knows Dave Munnings, who not only competes, but is also an osteopath who treats animals, will know from his recent postings that there appears to be a developing problem in agility, which a number of influential people are starting to sit up and notice.


Agility is still a young sport, and I  think it is only now that people are starting to realise that something is going awry, but nobody appears to know quite what the problem is stemming from.  There appears to be an awful number of regularly competing dogs who are finished, or more or less finished by the time they are 8 years old.  Problems such as spinal lesions, spondylosis and other arthritic conditions.


Some people are blaming very twisty courses, others say it is the spacings between the obstacles which are the problem.  See-saws, twisting in weaves.  Maybe it is a combination of  it all.


Another problem I am thinking is  the age that dogs are encouraged to start competing.  In the UK it is 18 months.  IMO this is far too young for large dogs.  It may be ok for small dogs who would have finished growing, but large dogs such as collies, and our beloved Setters, I am convinced this is too young.


I had Tallulah out in the ring by the time she was 18 months.  Yes  she really enjoyed it, and hared off round the ring like a whirling dirvish, but at 18 months, she was still developing.  I find most of my large dogs have settled down in their growth by  the time they are approx 2 1/2, maybe 3 before all signs of filling out is complete.


When we are making these demands upon our dogs, running, jumping, scaling, twisting and thumping see-saws must ultimately take their toll on the immature structure of the dog.


Tallulah has also developed peripheral neuropathy. Whether this is totally linked to her thyroid issues I am not 1000% sure.  Her spinal xrays are revealing problems which could ultimately be affecting her nervous system. Certainly her osteopath says her spinal issues are consistent with what she would be expecting to treat in a working sheepdog/agility dog.


Tallulah still enjoys doing some agility, and I have been encouraged by her specialist to continue with her (apart from the dog walk, where she could loose her balance and fall), but it has made me scale back a lot of what I am doing with Barkley, and certainly my young red and white.  Occasional training, and not so many competitions.  I would rather keep my furkids safe into old age, whilst still allowing them to enjoy the things they really enjoy doing.  After all, they still have to live.

I also think there is too much emphasis on weekly training and competing once you are into the loop.  I have always found my dogs were much fitter in the ring when they had a good rest from training before they went in the ring.  I also know other people who have found this too. 


Has anyone else competing with a setter discovered structural issues yet? or aren't there enough of us yet to discover what the collie owners are now starting to wake up to?


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Replies to This Discussion

Hi,  here in the states you can not compete until your dog is 2.  I did not start training my Aussie, Tiz until she was 2 and we did not compete until she was 4.  Tiz was retired at 8 and at 13 she is very healthy and mobile.  She does have a pinched nerve in her back that I do not believe was from agility, but from getting plowed by another dog with her back to him.   I waited until Hawk was 20 months to start taking lessons in agility, we stopped as he would rather do field work.  Also I did not have the time to do both.

Never trialed heavy with Tiz,  I have seen and heard about really bad injuries accuring doing agility.  I took Tiz for chiropractor and massage which helped also. 


Have only been competing in the field work with Hawk for a year.  I do not trial in the hot weather only from February to May.  He is not in the shape I would like him in to be trialing heavily so will only be doing hunt test not the longer field trials.  He is more important to me than the wins





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