Investigation into Dog Measuring
The following is the Terms of Reference issued to the Dog Measuring sub-committee:
Establishment of and Terms of Reference for Sub Committee on Dog
At the 2007 AFA AGM the members passed a Resolution “That the AFA form a Sub
Committee to investigate methods of dog measuring and determination of
corresponding jump height in order to determine best practice with respect to varying canine conformation as opposed to current methodology which only considers height measurement.”
The Resolution included the following Terms of Reference:
Sub Committee to:
- Investigate various methods of dog measurement with a view to determining
best practice in setting corresponding jump heights to result in fair and
equitable competition conditions for all dogs, regardless of conformation.
- Methods to be considered must be reliable, reproducible and simple to
- Consider the implications (if any) upon existing AFA/NAFA rule licensing
arrangements if a new method were to be introduced.
- Conduct sample measurements of all methods under review.
- Report findings back to the membership and AFA Committee for consideration.
In discussion at the AGM there was discussion that the review should also take into account the issue of how to ensure a common and uniform practice in implementing any measuring system.
Various Methods of Dog Measuring
It is widely accepted that a uniform method of dog measuring is that of taking measurements at the dog’s withers. This form of measurement is not only the type used currently by the AFA but also that is used in both confirmation and agility. This method was adopted by most dog organizations as a carry over from the dog clubs and confirmation ring, most dog sports as we know them today started at the dog club level before evolving into their own separate organizations.
Since the inception of a new Flyball organization in the USA a new form of measurement has been developed where the dogs ulna is measured rather than its withers. This is a radical change from what almost all dog clubs and people had been used to. This form of measurement and resulting scale that was used was allegedly developed in conjunction with an orthopedic vet. The result they were looking for was a better way of measuring to alleviate stress on dog and handler and a jump height that would allow dogs to compete longer and show less signs of distress or risk of injury throughout the competition days.
In relation to our sport of Flyball we felt that these are the 2 forms of measurement that had to be investigated.
Reliability, Reproducibility & Ease of Use
This form of measurement has a large degree of variation in the execution, that can have a direct impact on the height the dog is measured. Dog’s can be taught to stand with its
shoulders down to give artificially low measurements; equipment differences can cause inaccurate results. On the day that the dog is measured and depending on the surface used when measuring it can be nervous and stand tall, lean away and arch it’s back slightly which
would result in an artificially tall measurement being recorded. The point I am making is that there is a number of factors that go into this form of measurement, each of these is a place where inaccuracies can creep into the results. In a case that I know of a dog has been measured by 4 different judges each of which gets a different result with a variation of up to 1”. One judge has measured this dog twice and got a difference of ?” in his own measurements. This variation caused the dog to fall between 2 heights and that is where the problem lies. A difference of 1” is a lot but on the other hand it is also fairly common to have a variance due to the multitude of factors that can affect the results. The other factor is that there is no uniform design of device that is currently used to perform this measurement. With a uniform device we can eliminate at least one of the variables in the measurement process but due to the number of joints in a dog that are being spanned in this process there is still a factor of error that can occur. Also we can never eliminate how a dog is presented for measurement; there can always be some form of outside influence to artificially alter the dog’s measurement.
This form of measurement is quick to perform; it has less stress on the dogs as no device is being brought down over the dogs back/ head and is reproducible by multiple judges. Once trained this measurement technique is easy to perform and is free from outside influences that could affect the results. No matter how the dog is presented for measurement there is no way for it to shorten or lengthen its bone to give an artificially high or low reading. As long as the device is placed correctly along the ulna and the judges are trained correctly this method is repeatable and reliable. As all judges would be using the same device there would be no concerns over equipment having an adverse effect on the process. Also with this measurement there are no joints being spanned and therefore little to no area for inaccuracies to occur.
No matter what method is agreed on to use there will always be dogs that fall into the cusp of 2 heights but by limiting the variables we can limit the occurrences of this.
Overall as a sub-committee we agreed that the ulna measurement system is a more reliable, reproducible and easier to use system of measurement.
The proceeding pages look at the rest of the aspects as outlined in our terms of reference.
Fair and Equitable Competition
With our current form of measurement there is large discrepancy when looking at how much percentage of the dogs’ height is being jumped. For dogs who naturally measure at the top of the scale of 7” jump height they would measure 11.9”, as a percentage of their height they are
jumping roughly 59%. For dogs who naturally measure at the top of the scale of 14” jumps they would measure 18.9”, as a percentage of their height they are jumping roughly 74%. When you take dogs at the lower end of the scale 7” heights dogs would jump 64% and 14” height dogs would jump 78% of their respective height. Asking the larger dogs to jump a higher percentage of their height puts untoward stress on there back and joints.
Taking the above percentages into account how can it be said that what we are currently doing is either fair or equitable in regards to setting the jump heights for the competing dogs? If anything it is discriminatory towards medium/ large dogs. Yes, there are dogs that are either above or below these heights but since a maximum and minimum height has to be established then we have to take these as our benchmarks. All of the above sizes are based on dog’s
height at the withers but as I stated above this form of measurement is filled with inaccuracies. If we were to adopt the ulna measurement we would then have to define a scale that would according to our terms of reference provide fair and equitable competition.
As mentioned earlier a study was done by U-FLI in conjunction with an orthopedic vet when they approached this question of setting jump heights; unfortunately I have not been able to secure a copy of any reports that were produced to back this up. I have the following statement from the U-Fli secretary Annette Tindal about this process:
The measuring methodology was developed by our founding owners along
with the consult of a veterinary orthopedic surgeon. The measuring method relies on the measurement the long bone in the foreleg. The U-FLI measuring method was designed to create equity in that dogs with larger, thicker bodies and short legs are no longer penalized for their conformation. Jumping is a function of leg, not body. For instance we do not believe a corgi should have to jump 12 inches (or more) when their legs are very short. We firmly believe this to be a safety issue and feel that the U-FLI measuring method nicely addresses this issue.
The measuring method is less stressful than other measuring methods for both dogs and owners. The owner simply holds the dog in his/her arms (or on the floor if they choose) and the judge measures the leg. The shortest
measurement occurs with the dog's humorous and pastern perpendicular to the floor and the radius and ulna parallel to the floor. The measuring device cradles the ulna and measures the distance between the pisiform bone (feel for the bony protrusion near the dewclaw) and the tip of the elbow. The entire process takes no more than 30 seconds.
The U-FLI device is probably more scientific that the wicket measuring
method, which is steeped in tradition (a carryover from the kennel clubs) and to my knowledge no science. The U-FLI measuring device and methodology is patent pending and at this point is only being supplied to U-FLI trained judges for use at U-FLI sanctioned events. Please feel free to read through the U-FLI Rulebook (www.u-fli.com), Section 6 for additional information regarding measuring at U-FLI events.
Using the percentages stated above if we were to leave the 7” dogs with their status we would need a sliding scale to determine jumps heights rather than the 1” increments that we currently
use. We could use a percentage method of their respective height at the withers. Now as previously mentioned we feel that the ulna measurement process is better suited to our needs in flyball to find a reproducible, reliable and accurate form of measurement. Through investigation I have found that a scale as outlined below for the measurement of the ulna produces very similar results as that of a percentage method at the withers. For this study I used a percentage of 63% of the withers measurement, if we were to allow all dogs to jump at the lowest percentage we should be using a percentage of 59% but using 63% and relating it to the Ulna measurement no dog would lose its status of jump height:
Elbow to Accessory Carpal Bone Measurement Jump Height
Up to 4.5” 7”
Over 4.5” up to 5” 8”
Over 5” up to 5.5” 9”
Over 5.5” up to 6” 10”
Over 6” up to 6.5” 11”
Over 6.5” up to 7” 12”
Over 7” up to 7.5” 13”
Over 7.5” 14”
Yes, this would see a change in jump height for a majority of dogs competing in the sport today. The only dogs that would definitely not be affected would be the ones that are currently jumping 7” already. It has been debated that a lowering of jump heights would exclude height dogs from being valuable and makes the game too easy. From observations there are few teams that have 7” height dogs and that would mean that almost all teams would benefit from this, as current 8”-10” height dogs would in most cases measure a slightly smaller jump
height. I believe that height dogs will not lose their place it would just change our perspective of what the definition of a height dog is. Even in the USA there are very few teams that still don’t run with some form of height dog regardless of the organization they are in. As to the
aspect of fair and equitable competition, any changes made in the jump heights would not affect the teams or the AFA’s ability to have fair and equitable competition as this is achieved already through the creation of divisions at competitions. The creation of divisions is what makes flyball available to everybody regardless of your dogs’ conformation, athletic ability or
speed; competition is equally as fierce in the lower division at any tournament I have attended, sometimes even more competitive than in the higher divisions. Lower division teams are usually more competitive as they are continually striving to improve and better their performance and they have a goal of moving up to higher divisions. As long as everybody is using a uniform scale then the playing field is level. All that we must try to achieve is a form of determining that scale that is reliable, reproducible, and free from inaccuracies and allows for safe, long term enjoyment of the sport for all concerned.
Even using a ludicrous example of doing away with jump heights all together and making all dogs jump 8” competition would still be fair and equitable competition because of the existing
rule of creating divisions at competitions.
It has been discussed that in agility dogs jump higher jumps without undue stress on their body, but let’s consider the differences in the sports. If we were to use an example from the human world Flyball is the equivalent of sprint hurdles where the focus is on sprint speed in a straight line over obstacles that are close together (training in such a way to stay flat and low over the hurdles to maximize speed), whereas agility is like running an assault course where you are striving for a fast time over obstacles set at different distances and angles to each other. Ask yourself this: What do you think would happen if dogs were to approach agility courses with the same speed as they do a flyball course? Or If the obstacles in agility were positioned at the same interval as in flyball. Even the AKC and UKC have lowered their jump heights on dogs competing in Obedience Trials as they realized that it is not how high the dog can jump, but how the dog performs the exercise and as a factor of safety.
My interpretation of the sport of Flyball is a sport where a dog is trained to go over four hurdles, retrieve a ball from a spring loaded box and return over the four hurdles with the ball. It is this group of activities that is being tested in the sport not how high the dog can jump while performing them.
In an e-mail from my former team captain in the USA she states:
At first what was difficult about U-FLI for me, was the fact that I had a height dog and I realized that changing the jump heights completely changed the
strategy of the game. However, I've come to realize that in the end it really does even out the divisions so that like dogs are racing like dogs. We used to always mix up our teams with fast and slow and would end up with a medium fast team. In U-FLI I think you end up with dogs racing in the divisions they belong.
Now I’m not suggesting that we adopt the U-Fli measuring and scale completely as it is not
our objective to alter our current max and min jump heights of 7” & 14”.
It is my recommendation that we adopt a method of measuring from the ulna and a scale to determine jump heights as outlined in the table above. This would ease the stress on the dogs during the measuring process and allow the dogs a longer life in the sport, also there would be less likelihood of injury that could occur by jumping at the higher percentages of their withers height.