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Lucky circle or wheel of mis-fortune?

RowdyThe hoop is the only jump without a detachable element. Martin Pollard thinks that means it cannot be as safe as other jumps. He believes that there are people out there who have some good ideas for improved equipment, especially perhaps, the hoop. He's ask if Agilitynet could use the power of the Internet to encourage people to share their ideas. It doesn't matter how daft they are, one or more might spark a new train of thought like what about water noodles?

The problem as I see it is the structure rather than materials used. The original diameter of the hoop was 15" and it was possible to use a car tyre, although, by the end of the eighties, when the size of the hoop was increased, these were becoming hard to obtain.Sandy

The 18" motorcycle tyre was only partially successful as the actual diameter was 17.75". To make a tyre comply with the regulations the inside rim had to be gouged out, and the gap sealed up by tape or, horror of horrors, radiused blocks of hardwood.

The 19" tyre was OK, but rather skimpy. In any case, tyres were difficult to obtain in quantity. I used to tour around the tyre depots picking up ones or twos. Then the law changed. Depots were not allowed to store tyres on their premises as if they got wet they produced a nasty toxic fluid. How much easier for the manufacturer to buy a nice new Perry buoy with nothing to do to it.

JoshA better mousetrap
I believe that for both dogs and handlers the lollipop frame is safer. There is less for both to get mixed up in. I have seen many handlers trip over the side foot of a frame while watching their dogs penetrate the hoop. The safety of handlers is equally as important as that of the dogs when designing equipment. However, woe betide any maker who introduces 'give' into his equipment. In parts of the country 'brick wall agility' rules and it would be turned out of the ring.

TammyMany years ago I designed a soft hoop made from a ring of ply covered each side with 3" polyurethane foam. The whole was flock sprayed. Unfortunately the only waterproof flock I could get was black. This was not acceptable although I received much encouragement from handlers. It was also very expensive.

The accident mentioned by Jenny Sculley Willis in Speak Out started me thinking again. While I respectfully disagree with Jenny's suggestion to remove the hoop from competition, I am sure this obstacle which is attractive to the public can be made safe and enjoyable for all.

HollyFirst thoughts on a design brief to make a safer hoop.
The hoop should be made so that there if the dog collides with the hoop the obstacle gives way, or if this is not feasible that the hoop is well padded to absorb as much energy from the dog as possible. It would also be safer if the clearance around the dog was made greater by increasing the diameter of the hoop, so that if the dog makes a mistake and approaches the hoop sideways , it has a better chance to get through the hoop.

To start the ball rolling I would suggest that the internal diameter of the hoop should be increased for standard dogs to 24". If the centre remains at the same height i.e. 3 feet the bottom centre of the hoop will be at 2ft. (This lines up with the FCI standard). The maximum width of 2 feet which the dogs will then negotiate will obviously be 2feet, the same as a flyball jump.Serendipity

However, increasing the size will mean that the hoop will have to be specially made, (unless Evans sells lifebuoys?) which will increase the cost, probably doubling it. However if everyone joined together, a tool could be made, perhaps for rotational moulding (like road cones) or polyurethane foam casting (like dashboards) or any other method - suggestions?

A further possibility would be for the hoop to be split along its horizontal diameter. The bottom U would have a short pole each side in line with the horizontal diameter of the hoop which would fit into jump cups. The top (inverted) U would be suspended just above its highest point by another cross pole also fitted into jump cups but made so that it could not fall off. When a dog hits the hoop, the bottom part would fall away below the dog, and the upper part would pivot upwards and away. The disadvantages with this type of hoop might be

  • the bottom part might wrap itself round the dog, although the larger the diameter the less likelihood there is of this.
  • It might take some time to re - set the hoop after it has been hit.

NB. If you are wondering about Kennel Club regulations, these state a minimum diameter of 18".

If anyone has ideas on how this can be achieved, however crazy, please e-mail Agilitynet and we can have a cyber brainstorming session.

About the author...
Martin Pollard was the founder of Alvah agility equipment and the designer of the Tarnytimer electronic timing device which he claims is as easy to use as switching on a kettle.

He is making a special offer to agility clubs within a 100 mile radius of his home in Essex - free hire for shows or training. For more information, contact him at 33a Beeleigh Road, Maldon, Essex CM9 5QH or telephone on 01621-852809.

Click to enlargeFrom Robin Masion...
Just read your sites article about Hoops and the dangers of their design. I began thinking and came up with an idea of using Water Noodles. Those foam logs that are sold for play/floats for children in pools. They are round logs about 5 ft long and 4 inches in diameter. They are made of a foam material something like the stuff of packing peanuts.  You can buy foam sleeves to fit over the ends connecting the two ends into a circle.   You would then form the log into a circle using the sleeve on the bottom (glued to one end of the log but not the other) so that if the dog hits the tire it can break away. The log, being attached to the frame, would spring upward and open up to its original straight shape effectively removing it from the path of the dog.  This type of tire would be safe and would be easy to put back in place. They come in great colors and it's relatively cheap, too.

The only problem I see is how to attach the tire without putting too much stress on the sleeve so it does not open up at the slightest touch.  A longer sleeve?  Maybe someone can come up with a solution.  I have not been able to try this idea out yet.  I am waiting until the pool supplies come out of Winter hibernation.

In case you don't know what Water Noodles are see .(22/03/04)

Betsy Huhn writes
Here in the U. S the agility organization NADAC has already changed its specifications for the tire jump. They require that the tire be made of flexible landscaper's drain pipe filled with insulation foam, the kind that sprays from an aerosol can and hardens within seconds. It is split in half, and the very lightweight halves are attached to bars and used like a standard bar jump. I believe the split puts the majority of the bulk of the tire below the dog. Personally, I haven't used this yet, but do have an all-PVC framed tire with bungee cording holding the tire centered, and although we've had lots and lots of crashes, we have yet to report a single injury-not even a momentary limp. Construction plans and specs for the NADAC tire can be found at their website (25/06/00)

A comment from The States
Just wanted to give some input on this. After watching the pictures of the tire jump, I noticed that they were make rather big and sturdy. Here in the U.S. all the tire jumps are made from PVC and not such a wide base. If a dog should hit the tire to hard, the jump would just fall down or move.

I'm sending you a picture of what it looks like (right).

An idea from Shari Santos
I hadn't thought much about tire jump safety, but since I am always trying to 'build a better mouse trap' too, I decided to think of other ways to make the hoop.

How about the interior of the tire (or hoop) be lined some how with soft nylon broom like bristles. This would make the opening appear a certain size to the dog, but it would give several inches on all sides for error and also create a little cushioning. The rest of the tire could be padded, and it could be mounted on two legs extending out in the five and seven o'clock positions with perpendicular crossbar (feet) long enough for stability, or also it could be staked down. As for adjusting the height, that's just another thing to figure out, but possible. And this would eliminate the big frame around the tire.

Response from Martin P.
This method is used in National Hunt horse racing. I think it is the hurdles? which look daunting but are made of fine sticks which brush aside quite easily. What about a circular car wash 'mop'? Some industrial doors have enormous brush strips; perhaps these can be bent into a circle? Some more ticklish dogs might defer? I will search the net for brushes. His/her ideas on the stand are also original and worth considering.

More from Martin
I have found a brush strip with 2" long bristles. I don't know yet whether it will bend round into a circle. If it will, then the hard bit to which it would be fixed to would be 18" +2" +2" = 22" in diameter. It might be an idea to increase the internal diameter to 20" making the hard bit a safer 24" diameter. Perhaps clubs could charge for grooming services? (30/06/00)

TurboFrom Penny Garner-Carpenter
aving thought about this my comments are:-

* Rubber tyres are extremely solid, particularly when wrapped in tape (for safety).

* Injuries seem to have occurred when a dog hits a frame tyre rather than a lolly or aluminum frame tyre

* Lifebuoys are not 'solid plastic', but lightweight plastic & are full of air. They give considerable ground when hit.

* All obstacles have an element of 'danger.'

* We should train our dogs to jump the obstacles. Oddly this doesn't always happen. Would your dog continue to jump full height if there was no pole?)

* Tyres are normally pegged down (again for safety), perhaps it is safer not to peg them securely, but allow them to fall if a dog misjumps.

I for one, whilst full of sympathy for dogs who have been injured and their owners, would feel it was a retrograde step to remove the tyre.

As a judge I would like to continue to include tyres in my courses, but will endeavour to make my courses as safe as possible without removing the 'challenge' of agility. As a handler/trainer (with a new pup just learning), I will try and train my dogs to judge distances and jump safely.

An idea from Gary Spindler
I've just read the article concerning the safety of the Tyre within Agility again, and have come up with an idea.
How about if the Hoop were split in half, so you have a Top and Bottom section. These two sections could then be joined by some method such as Velcro at each side. The amount of Velcro required would be sufficient to hold the Lower section in place, but not sufficient to keep it there in the event of an impact. This method would be both cheap to make and allow for easy adaptation of current equipment. What do you think? Should I patent it now, or deny all knowledge of it ?!!!

Martin Pollard in reply to:
Gary Spender
I made one along these lines a few years ago. The top swung upwards - that was out of the dog's path, but I was always worried about what might happen to the bottom half. If the dog whacks it, it will travel down the course with the dog and entwine itself around the hound. Might be all right if soft enough. but I can feel objections rising from handlers. The Velcro idea will work in fair weather, but after a few muddy landings will the teasels still grasp each other? Also a bit difficult for the ring party to put the section back accurately after divorce. Pole pickers are not always highly skilled.

Still let's see what Gary can come up with. Good luck to him.

I am going to make a Spiro idea tyre - have ordered the brush.

Penny Garner-Carpenter
I agree with her as to dangers. The tyre is in a class of its own as it is the only jump which does not have a displaceable pole or brick for safety.

Other obstacles.
FCI rules are thinking of altering the A-ramp to a more gradual slope. They had a nasty accident - last year I think. Since their jumps have been lowered to 2ft. the dogs are running faster, and attacking the ramp at higher speeds.

The following points come mainly from highly competitive handlers:-

The answer is not just the equipment but the amount of work they give their dogs. Say six runs at the weekends plus three(?) nights training at a club?

Moderation required.

Weaving poles - People are worried about backs being damaged by the tortuous path.

Jumps - Damage to front legs by many landings. 15 jumps or more in a jumping ring these days. (RSI).

Tunnels - Burns on head.

The British Flyball Association have lowered the maximum height of jumps to 14ins from 16ins for safety reasons. I don't know how well this was argued or if any research was carried out. A BFA flyball dog may have say 15 runs in a day's meeting, eight jumps each run = 120.

At the other end of the scale, couch potato dogs run the risk of damage however safe the equipment. The Americans seem to run more articles on physical fitness for dogs. Perhaps you can find a guru.


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