Running, jumping, weaving through obstacle courses⁠—whether it’s a human or a dog, that kind of activity has the potential for pain or injury.

There are more than a million entrants to American Kennel Club agility competition events each year. Despite that, there isn’t much high-quality scientific research to guide veterinarians in caring for agility dogs.

Dog jumps through a hoop on the back of a woman in agility training.Ted S. Warren/College of Veterinary Medicine

Debra Sellon, a professor at the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, owns and trains agility dogs, and recognized that lack of information when one of her border collies was injured.

That led her to other veterinary researchers across the country. Together they founded the Agility Dog Health Network in early 2021. The members of the network have produced online seminars. Next they’ll use competition data to learn about the safety of artificial surfaces versus grass.

Sellon, who specializes in equine medicine at WSU, says she hopes the agility health network can be expanded for the sake of the dogs.

“I really love that animal-human bond,” she says. “I discovered training for agility requires you to become incredibly close to that animal.”


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Videos of agility dogs: Health, competitions, training, and a dog that follows his own path