Doggin’ It

Andrew Sullivan —  Jan 21 2015 @ 8:29am

Canine athletes would take exception to that expression:

Ben Richmond reads through Julie Hecht’s “great article over at Scientific American about dog athletes and how often they end up injured”:

Although all but the mellowest of pooches seem to enjoy a good wrestle with each other every now and again, it’s not like these athlete dogs are playing contact sports. While new dog sports like dock jumping and flyball are catching on, the most popular dog sport is the agility contest: running an obstacle course with only the vocal commands of their trainer to guide them. (The sport was just added to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show last year; a seven-year-old border collie named Kelso won.)

While they obviously aren’t injury free, I was surprised to find that dog athletes that are doing the agility course are generally healthier than their human counterparts.

Hecht cited two studies that appeared in Veterinary and Comparative Orthopaedics and Traumatology and Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association which surveyed dog trainers and found that slightly less than one third of dog athletes develop some sort of agility injury. The most dangerous parts of the dog-agility course are the A-frame, where dogs have to run over a small pointy hill, and jumping over bars. The most common issues were sprains and strains, followed by injuries to their furry little shoulders, backs, necks, and phalanges. Slightly over the half of the injuries are considered mild, and don’t take more than a month to come back from.

Being brainy doesn’t appear to be a great help when handling the agility course obstacles, as border collies were the likeliest breed to be injured in competition, something the study attributes to how fast they are. Commenting on the research, the veterinarian Dr. Nancy Kay wrote in a blog post that, “I suspect this susceptibility to injury has more to do with the breed’s insanely intense work ethic than it does any inherent musculoskeletal weakness.”

Some have other weaknesses: