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Analysis of the risk factors for injury through the measurement of the joint angles and forelimb ground reaction forces of agility dogs over the dog walk contact

Abstract

The injury rate in agility dogs has been found to be relatively high, with the bar jumps, A-frame and dog walk cited as the obstacles most frequently associated with injury. Multiple studies have considered the biomechanical effects of the bar jumps and A-frame on agility dogs, but none so far have considered the biomechanical effects of the dog walk on agility dogs. The aim of this study was to test for correlation between dog age, weight, speed, contact training method and agility experience and forelimb joint angulation and peak ground reaction forces (GRFs) over the dog walk contact. Dogs were run over a Kennel Club (KC) standard aluminium and rubber dog walk with reflective markers attached to specific anatomical points of the forelimbs for joint angle measurement using video recording and subsequent analysis with Quintic Biomechanics. Peak forelimb GRFs were recorded using a Tekscan Comformat and a Tekscan Walkway pressure mat secured to the dog walk contact and the ground at the end of the dog walk respectively. The results of this study show that more experienced agility dogs demonstrated significantly increased flexion of the elbow joint and significantly reduced extension of the carpal joint on the dog walk contact than inexperienced agility dogs, suggesting that the biomechanics of agility dogs changes over the dog walk contact with experience. Increased speed over the dog walk also resulted in significantly increased elbow joint flexion. More acute joint angulation places more strain on the associated soft tissue structures and can therefore increase the risk of injury to the area. It can therefore be concluded that inexperienced agility dogs may be more prone to injuries in the carpus and potentially shoulder areas and experienced and faster agility dogs may be more prone to injuries surrounding the elbow joint and associated structures. The dog walk contact may also place more strain on the forelimbs than jump landing due to greater GRFs and more acute joint angulation than that reported in previous studies. As a result of this study, it is recommended that inexperienced dogs are potentially trained on a considerably lower version of the dog walk and that the number of repetitions of the dog walk in training in all levels of dogs be kept to a minimum.

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