Research Into Dog Jumping Conducted At Kennel Club International Agility Festival

Around 120 dogs participated in a research study, conducted at the Kennel Club International Agility Festival, which aims to get a clearer picture on how agility dogs jump.

The research, which recorded high-speed videos of dogs jumping recorded by members of the Kennel Club Dog Health Group's Activities Health and Welfare Sub Group, was undertaken and facilitated by a large team, including Gary Doyle (University of East London), Dr Jacqueline Boyd (Nottingham Trent University), Dr Anne Pullen (Nottingham Trent University), Becky Gibson (Kennel Club Charitable Trust sponsored summer student), vet Rachel Mowbray, chiropractor Emma Fretwell, Natasha Wise and Steve Croxford.

This was one of a number of data gathering exercises conducted by the group during the International Agility Festival weekend.

Why do it?

Whilst there are a few scientific studies that have examined how dogs jump and have started to build an information base, there is much that is still not known.

One area that has raised debate is jump heights.  To properly address this debate, it is important to know how dogs are jumping.  The effects of changes in heights can then be assessed on the analysis of data. It is hoped that when completed, this study will provide the Activities Health and Welfare Sub Group with a clear idea about what further research is necessary to inform decisions about, for example, appropriate jump heights for all dogs, and guidelines for best practice in training and conditioning dogs taking part in agility competitions.

What was done?

Approximately 120 dogs of all heights and grades took part, one of the largest number of agility dogs ever used for a data gathering exercise of this type. Dogs were asked to complete a line of 3 jumps at a spacing of 3.6m (KC minimum distance), a line of 3 jumps at a spacing of 4m (FCI minimum distance for small dogs) and a line of 3 jumps at a spacing of 5m (FCI minimum distance for medium and large dogs). This was done at their own pace and the handler reset the dogs after each set of 3 jumps.

As the dogs jumped they were filmed by high speed cameras.  These cameras were recording at 240 frames per second, meaning every second they took 240 separate pictures.  As a normal video camera (in sports mode) will work at 50 frames per second, the amount of information is nearly 5 times greater.  This is the kind of equipment needed to capture such fast moving dogs.

What happens now?

Over the next few months, the data from the video recording needs to be analysed frame-by-frame, for all dogs, for each set of jumps using Dartfish, a computer-based video analysis.  As the study was fortunate enough to capture data from so many dogs, this is going to be a rather time consuming process.

What will be examined?

A number of factors such as speed of jumping, angles of take-off and landing and differences between the 3 jump spacing.

What will this achieve?

This will contribute to the understanding of how dogs jump and how jump spacing affects these factors. The Kennel Club will publish what it finds to the agility community, as well as to other locomotion scientists at conferences and through journal articles aimed at both scientific and applied audiences.

The information will also contribute to ongoing discussions about jump heights, distances between jumps and other agility related issues.

What was not done?

Dogs who took part jumped at the heights they would use in competition.  A reasonable question is why we did not alter the jump heights and examine the effects.  It is rare that a dog is trained to jump more than one height and hence jumping an unfamiliar height would influence their jumping pattern.  Handlers were also advised to tackle the set up as they would in training/competition and no repeat of attempts was allowed in order to obtain data as representative of 'normal' conditions as possible and to avoid habituation of dogs to the study set up.

What happens next?

The data analysis part now starts, for which the videos will be edited and analysed.  Preliminary data will be presented to the Kennel Club Dog Health Group's Activities Health and Welfare Sub Group at its next meeting in December and all subsequent data/outputs will be made available publicly as soon as practically possible. 

The Kennel Club would like to thank all those who participated in the study.

Copyright © The Kennel Club Limited 2020. The unauthorised reproduction of text and images is strictly prohibited.