A personal opinion
Safety is an issue that has been cropping up on the Agility Forum lately, specifically the height our dogs jump. Jackie Gardner intentionally trains her dogs over different heights in order to make them think about what they are jumping. She's competed in the UK and Europe with no problems, and found that whatever height her dogs are asked to jump, they quickly adapt to. So what's the problem?
I find it very strange that some people are saying that lower height jumps would result in more injuries. Do these people not put their own dogs over lower height jumps in training ever? What about if their dog was coming back from an injury or operation, do they go straight back to competing at 30”?
There are also a lot of people who want to prove that lower jumps are safer. This is, of course, a very commendable thing... if it was possible. But do they really believe that when agility was invented a proper study was undertaken?
The original jump heights were 3ft (36”) as this was what the dogs were jumping in Working Trials, so they just kept the same height. The bars were later lowered to 2ft 6in. (30”). There was no outcry or referendum. It just happened. Jumps were usually homemade, so you didn’t really know what height your dog was jumping anyway.
Europe also started competing over 30” but decided to lower the height of their jumps. Once again I don’t think any proper study was undertaken, but I might be wrong. They decided that was what they wanted, and it works well for them as our height does for us.
height is best for our dogs to jump?
I personally believe that it would be a benefit to agility to add an extra lower FCI height band for the Standard dogs, and then let people with standard height dogs choose which category they want to compete in.
Agility is a sport, although an unrecognised one. All sports come with an element of risk. If you take away all the risks that we put our dogs and ourselves through in agility, we would have a very boring sport indeed. It would probably be who can be the quickest from start post to finish as every obstacle on the agility course carries a risk.
Remember Agility is supposed to fun. There will always be winners and losers, but if you are not enjoying yourself, then you are in the wrong sport.
She started training her for Agility in 1983 at St. Edwards DTC, and competed in her first agility show in 1984 where she became hooked. Gemma quickly won into Senior, but had to retire early as she had suffered from anal cancer at the age of three. The disease had taken its toll. She was a very special dog, who started Jackie's love of Border Collies.
Jackie has now been competing in agility for 20 years, and has owned five dogs in that time including:-
Unfortunately Jackie has suffered two major agility injuries. She damaged her back in 2001 at Supadogs show, and she had to have an operation on a disc in March 2002. Recently she damaged her knee while training for Olympia. She still ran (hobbled) at Olympia and won the pairs with Stuart Carter. After Christmas she saw a private consultant who has subsequently operated on her knee. She is currently undergoing physio.