Laurie's Blogs.


Apr 2022

4 Sporting Dog Research Papers in less than 5-minutes!

Laurie Edge-Hughes, BScPT, MAnimSt, CAFCI, CCRT

1.  Why do Gun Dogs Cease Working?


Houlton, JEF.  Survey investigating the reasons why UK-based gundogs ceased working between 2010 and 2019. Vet Rec. 2021;e1080.


  • The median age at which Springer spaniels stopped work was 11 years and for Cocker spaniels, it was 9 years.  The median age for Labrador retrievers was 10 years; for Golden retrievers, 11 years and Flat-coated retrievers, 9.5 years.  Cocker spaniels stopped work at a significantly younger age than Springer spaniels (p = 0.0003) or Labrador retrievers (p = 0.0407). There was no significant difference between the other major breeds. 
  • The majority of owners (54.3%) were satisfied with the working lifespan of their dog. Seventy per cent of dogs were retired, the three most prevalent reasons being lameness (25.2%), old age (23.7%) and deafness (7.8%). Forty-four dogs died (6.6%) and 158 (24%) were euthanised, with cancer (58%) being the most common reason.


Thoughts?  This actually seems like a decent working lifespan for these dogs.  Most of the field trial or hunting dogs I’ve seen have been very happy and well cared for (then again, my dog clientele base is very skewed towards fabulous dog owners!  



2.  Types of Injuries in Agility Dogs


Pechette Markley A, Shoben AB, Kieves NR. Internet-based survey of the frequency and types of orthopedic conditions and injuries experienced by dogs competing in agility. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2021 Nov 1;259(9):1001-1008. 


  • Owners of 1,958 (41.7%) dogs reported that their dogs had experienced an injury. The most common injury locations were the shoulder region (n = 589 [30.1% of all dogs with an injury]) and iliopsoas muscle (380 [19.4%]). 
  • The percentage of Border Collies sustaining an injury (549/1,052 [51.9%]) was significantly higher than percentages of other breeds. 
  • Percentage of dogs that sustained an injury varied by country, with the highest percentage reported in Australia (93/174 [53.4%]) and lowest percentage reported in the US (1,149/2,889 [39.8%]).


Thoughts?  Well, I would say that these two locations (shoulder and iliopsoas) are very common sites that I see as well.  I would likely add SIJ to what I see… but since this was a survey and perhaps less agility competitors sought out the services of a persons that could diagnose and SIJ dysfunction, that may have led to a lack of SIJ reporting (my 2 cents!)


3.  What do we know about the training and management of agility dogs in Finland?


Inkilä L, Hyytiäinen HK, Hielm-Björkman A, Junnila J, Bergh A, Boström A. Part I of Finnish Agility Dog Survey: Training and Management of Competition-Level Agility Dogs. Animals (Basel). 2022 Jan 17;12(2):212. 


  • Most dogs trained agility 1-2 times a week, with a median active training time of 18 min a week. 
  • Dogs competed in a median of 2.1 runs per month at a speed of 4.3 m/s. 
  • Common field surfaces were different types of artificial turfs and dirt surface. 
  • Warm-up and cool-down were established routines, and 62% of dogs received regular musculoskeletal care. 
  • Moreover, 77% of dogs underwent conditioning exercises, but their frequency was often low. 
  • Additionally, dogs were walked for a median of 1.5 h daily.


Thoughts?  I just find this interesting.  We really don’t know how much a dog should train or do conditioning exercises, or whether conditioning exercises have an impact on reducing injuries.  Happy to read that 62% received regular musculoskeletal care however!


4.  What injuries and risk factors were associated with agility competition-level dogs in Finland?


Inkilä L, Hyytiäinen HK, Hielm-Björkman A, Junnila J, Bergh A, Boström A. Part II of Finnish Agility Dog Survey: Agility-Related Injuries and Risk Factors for Injury in Competition-Level Agility Dogs. Animals (Basel). 2022 Jan 18;12(3):227. 


  • The rate of competition-related injuries was 1.44 injuries/1000 competition runs. 
  • The front limb was injured in 61% of dogs. In 65% of dogs, the injury presented as lameness. 
  • The main risk factors for agility-related injury during 2019 were multiple previous agility-related injuries, older age when starting course-like training, high training frequency, diagnosis of lumbosacral transitional vertebra, and physiotherapy every two to three months compared with never. 
  • The most important protective factors were moderate competition frequency and A-frame performance technique. 
  • These associations do not confirm causality.


Thoughts?  Well, I’m glad they added the line about the associations no confirming causality, especially as it relates to physiotherapy!  In my head there is likely a correlation between all of the other risk factors as being a reason WHY the dogs were attending physiotherapy every 2 – 3 months!  



Well, there you go… 4 interesting research articles to top up your knowledge bank for the week!