Fourth Height

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This page is here to help people to find out about the fourth height and what's happening with the Kennel Club.  I'm not expressing any views for or against the introduction of a fourth height but I thought it would be good to read some reference material and to find out what research is being done and where and also what the ongoing situation is with the Kennel Club.

Where we are now

In October 2014 Wrexham Dog Agility Club submitted a full proposal for the Kennel Club Agility Liaison Council (ALC) meeting on 22nd January 2015.

A number of area meetings were held so that people could put forward their points of view and vote on the proposal.  The representatives took these views to the January meeting where the proposal was discussed.

It was agreed to defer any decision on the proposal until the ongoing research has been completed in December 2015 and the results are available. This doesn't mean that the proposal has been rejected but it does mean there will be a substantial delay.  The research is due to finish at the end of this year but my guess is that it will take some time to analyse all the data and to provide some results and conclusions.  If the results are available before the submission date for items to be put on the agenda for January 2016 or July 2016 it could be discussed then. 

One thing we need to think about in relation to the fourth height is how clubs would be able to run all these extra classes at their shows.  It is possible that the number of grades may need to be reduced and/or for some different heights to walk the course together.  

As we don't know what is going to come out of the research it's impossible to predict what will happen.  We can only guess what the future will bring and my best guess is this.  I think the Kennel Club could well adopt the FCI rules where jump heights can be variable.   Height: Large: 55 to 65 cm. - Medium: 35 to 45 cm. - Small: 25 to 35 cm.  If the full rules were adopted then the spacings would change so that the distance between two consecutive obstacles ranges from 4m to 7m for the smalls and 5m to 7m for the Medium/Large dogs.

 

 The Fourth Height Story

When I first started agility with Jamie we had a very different set up to the one we have now.  Jamie was expected to jump the full height of 30" (about 75cm) unless we were lucky enough to find some elementary classes where the height may have been reduced to 24" (about 60cm).  Jamie was a tall dog but it was still hard on him and I never ever trained him at full height. 

 

Left: Full height was 30" (about 75cm).

Below: Elementary could be set at 24" (about 60cm)

 

 

Jamie found the lower height a lot more comfortable.  He was able to jump full height but I preferred to enter elementary classes in the summer where possible. 

The full height jumps were easier for him in the winter when the weather was cold.  He didn't cope very well in summer temperatures and so we didn't enter many shows.

When the discussions were ongoing about lowering the maximum jump height there were endless debates about the perils of allowing dogs to speed around the courses over lower jumps. 

Tempers became very frayed but eventually the jumps were lowered. 

Now there is a call for jumps to be lowered again for the smaller large dogs and for the new lower height to become a standard height as in UKA shows.  The fourth height would come between the medium height and the large height.

It was put forward to the Agility Liaison Council as a discussion item in January 2011 but it was thrown out by the council as there was little support at the time.  Nevertheless a lot of people would have liked to see the fourth height introduced. 

The Activities Health and Welfare Group

In 2011 a sub group of the Activities Health and Welfare Group was set up with the aim of looking into activities such as agility and flyball and reporting on any research that needed to be done with regard to the safety and wellbeing of the dogs.  By definition  they would have to look at jumps heights and spacings and slowly but surely the possible move towards a fourth height had started to gather a little pace.

Research into Jumping

In January 2013 there was another discussion on the fourth height at the Agility Liaison Council but this time it wasn't rejected out of hand.  However, rather than simply put the jumps down for the smaller large dogs it was decided that there should be some research done by the Activities Health and Welfare Sub Group.  This group has some well qualified people to undertake the research including scientists and Kennel Club staff.  see below

During 2013 a lot of data has been gathered and high speed cameras have been used for filming agility dogs jumping. The way in which they jump is being analysed, the speed, turns and heights will all be looked at very carefully.  I've given a link to the relevant document below that explains what is being done.  The research has to be very thorough so it will be a while before the findings can be presented to the Kennel Club Dog Health Group but an initial report was tabled for inclusion on the agenda at the Agility Liaison Council meeting in January 2014. (see below) 

There have been so many calls for research that this is very welcome and hopefully will benefit agility dogs world wide. 

The long awaited results of the research has been presented to the Agility Liaison Council at the meeting on 17th July 2014.  It seems that the research has concentrated on distances and how they affect our dogs' style of jumping rather than jump heights. 

The Kennel Club offered £7000 for more research into jump heights but said there needed to be a good business case for further further funding.  They have said it will help if agility competitors are willing to contribute towards the funding.  This is very disappointing for those of us who had hoped to see some useful results on jump heights in this report.  However, in the report on the research into dog jumping carried out at the Kennel Club International Agility Festival it was stated that,

"One area that has raised debate is jump heights.  To properly address this debate, it is important to know how dogs are jumping.  The effects of changes in heights can then be assessed on the analysis of data. It is hoped that when completed, this study will provide the Activities Health and Welfare Sub Group with a clear idea about what further research is necessary to inform decisions about, for example, appropriate jump heights for all dogs, and guidelines for best practice in training and conditioning dogs taking part in agility competitions."

 

Useful Links

January 2015 Minutes of the Kennel Club Agility Liaison Council meeting

Annex A - Activities Health and Welfare Sub Group progress report December 2014

Annex B - Code of practice For owners and handlers with dogs taking part in canine activities.

Annex C - 4th Jump height proposal - This is the full proposal from Wrexham Dog Agility Club

Further annexes can be found on the Kennel Club website

July 2014 Minutes of the meeting of the Kennel Club Agility Liaison Council

This includes a verbal report on the research conducted into dog jumping.

 

January 2014

Meeting of the Kennel Club Agility Liaison Council
Annex A - Note to the Agility Liaison Council (DHG) Activities Health & Welfare Sub-Group

This includes an interim report on the research into jumping. 
 

December 2013

Kennel Club Agility Liaison Council agenda
For the meeting to be held on 22nd January 2014.  The agenda includes four annexes one of which, Annex A has yet to be tabled. 

Activities Health and Welfare Sub-Group
b. The Council is invited to note a written report on the progress of the Activities
Health and Welfare Sub-Group following a meeting on 11 December 2013.
(Annex A – to be tabled)

September 2013

Research Into Dog Jumping Conducted At Kennel Club International Agility Festival - 12th September 2013

Around 120 dogs participated in a research study, conducted at the Kennel Club International Agility Festival, which aims to get a clearer picture on how agility dogs jump.  This report outlines what the study entailed and what it is hoped will be achieved.  In the long run we should get a clearer picture about how the jump heights and the spacings affect our dogs.

It is hoped that when completed, this study will provide the Activities Health and Welfare Sub Group with a clear idea about what further research is necessary to inform decisions about, for example, appropriate jump heights for all dogs, and guidelines for best practice in training and conditioning dogs taking part in agility competitions.
 

June 2013

Dog Activities Health and Welfare Sub-Group Report - 6th June 2013

This report is the annex to the Agility Liaison Council Meeting minutes. 
The Sub-Group accepted that there were some dogs that might benefit from
the introduction of different jump heights.

 

January 2013

Minutes of The Kennel Club Agility Liaison Council meeting held on 17th January 2013

The Council noted a report on the progress of the Dog Activities Health and Welfare
Sub-Group.
 

 2012

The Kennel Club Dog Health Group Annual Report 2012

The Activities Health and Welfare Sub-Group was set up in late 2011.  The aim is to review current research and proactively pursue any need for research to be undertaken regarding specialised activity disciplines which include: Agility, Obedience, Heelwork To Music, Flyball and Working Trials.

January 2011

Minutes of The Kennel Club Agility Liaison Council meeting held on 20th January 2011

There was an item put forward for discussion on the possibility of introducing a fourth height but it was dismissed by the Agility Liaison Committee as there was little support from the regions at the time.  The following is taken from the minutes of the meeting.

ITEM 7.   DISCUSSION ITEMS

            Introduction of a Fourth Hurdle Height – Standard

17.       The Council discussed the possibility of introducing a fourth hurdle height at 550mm, “Standard”, on behalf of Mrs Layphries. The Council gave feedback from its areas, however, there was a lack of support as it might eventually lead to an introduction of another height such as “Micro”. It was stressed that the large height had already been lowered once before and competitors were unlikely to want further changes at this time.

18.       The Council did not support the proposal agreeing that a dog’s fitness to jump current heights should be more important than introducing a fourth hurdle height. It was further queried whether the medium dog height should be altered instead of introducing a fourth height, but it was expected that medium classes would then become another collie dominated category. The costs for show societies and manufacturers were also considered. The majority of the Council voted against the introduction of a fourth hurdle height, emphasising that the matter centred on fit dogs more than anything else.

Tony – Although the South and West region had a majority for the proposal, it was not supported by the majority of the regions.

Who is involved in the research?

The research, which recorded high-speed videos of dogs jumping recorded by members of the Kennel Club Dog Health Group's Activities Health and Welfare Sub Group, was undertaken and facilitated by a large team, including Gary Doyle (University of East London), Dr Jacqueline Boyd (Nottingham Trent University), Dr Anne Pullen (Nottingham Trent University), Becky Gibson (Kennel Club Charitable Trust sponsored summer student), vet Rachel Mowbray, chiropractor Emma Fretwell, Natasha Wise and Steve Croxford.

Gary Doyle
Senior lecturer in sports biomechanics and exercise physiology  at University of East London.

Dr Jacqueline Boyd
Lecturer in the School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences at Nottingham Trent University, specifically teaching across Animal and Equine courses. Her research relates to aspects of parasitology, genetics, performance animal biology and anthrozoology.

Dr Anne Pullen
Dr Anne Pullen is Course Leader for the BSc Zoo Biology degree at Nottingham Trent University. She also teaches on other courses in the School of Animal Rural and Environmental Sciences, including BSc Animal Biology. Her main area of research interest is understanding animal behaviour to improve welfare.

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