January 16, 2024

Episode 329: Early Take Off (ETO) – Part 1

In this episode (47:05)

In this episode, we delve into Early Take Off (ETO) in agility dogs with our guest, Jean Lavalley. We explore the complexities of ETO, its effect on dogs’ agility performance, and share personal experiences dealing with this challenge. Part 2 is available now!

You Will Learn

  • What Early Take Off (ETO) is and how it affects agility dogs.
  • The common signs and symptoms of ETO.
  • Handling adjustments for dogs with ETO.
  • How students and instructors should approach ETO.


I'm Jennifer. I'm Esteban. And I'm Sarah. And this is episode 329. Today's podcast is brought to you by hit aboard.com and the new Teeter TeachIt, an easy to use tool that controls the amount of tip on your teeter. So you can introduce motion to your dog in a gradual way. Go to hit aboard.com. For the new Teeter TeachIt and other training tools and toys,

use discount code BDA 10 to get 10% off your order. That's hit aboard.com. Today we are joined on the podcast by Jean LaValley. She's a very well-known competitor, but also a veterinarian in her day job. Welcome to the podcast, Jean. Thank you. And we asked Jean to join us today join because we wanted to do a podcast about early takeoff.

And this is something that Jean has personal experience with, with her dogs. I have personal experience with in, in my history as an instructor. I have a lot of experience with it, as does Jennifer and Estevan. And we wanted to do a podcast where we talk very candidly about early takeoff and it is something that for a lot of people is really hard to talk about and it can be misunderstood,

it can cause a lot of difficult emotions for handlers and maybe influence how they relate to their dogs. And so we wanted to really talk about our thoughts on that and how we think it affects the dog handler teams. So early takeoff is it, it used to be called for, for those of you who you know are surfing the internet and, and want to read more about it,

it used to be called ETS Early Takeoff Syndrome. That was years and years ago. And then it kind of went over and a name change and became more often referred to as ETO, early takeoff kind of dropping the syndrome. And it's something that we've seen for a long time in agility dogs. And it basically is exactly what it sounds like early takeoff.

The dogs take off early for a jump and, but the problem is that it can happen kind of regardless of training. So the dog, you know, continues to do it even as the handlers are trying to train their way out of this problem and it can result in knock bars. So a lot of times that is when people are become really aware of it,

where the bar comes down now the, the handler dog team is not qualifying anymore and now they're trying to figure out what's going on and they see that their dog is basically jumping early and landing on the bar. But, and, and this is where, you know, I come in as an instructor, but early takeoff can happen and in clean runs it can happen when all the bars stay up because the dog can take off early and if they jump high enough they can still clear the bar.

So we're gonna kind of get into what it looks like in a little bit. But I wanted to kind of move from that general discussion of like just the definition of ETO and to what causes it. And this is where I think things can get a little bit tricky because the most recent developments that we have in investigating ETO have pointed to vision issues. And I think that this is a really important point because it basically debunks the idea that a dog that is exhibiting ETO is doing it because of bad training or because the handler is doing something wrong and it becomes a little bit more like a,

a, a medical issue with the dog that is neither the handler's fault nor the dog's dog's fault. And so I really wanted to make that really, really clear in this podcast. So that's kind of high level. So let's take a step back and now I wanna talk a little bit about kind of our personal experiences. So Jean, I know that you have had dogs yourself with ETO,

so why don't you tell us a little bit about kind of your ex timeline and experience with that and kind of what you learned along the way about ETO. So I had a dog named seven who was followed my first really, really good world team dog, Taz. She was about four years younger than her. So I think she was born in 2002,

but this was before this, this ETO was very well understood or anything. And she just looked like she was gonna be a super super dog. But she, she would knock bars, she would over jump a lot and early on what she would do is just leave out strides and do big superwoman efforts that ironically enough made her times much faster. So she looked even more potential than one would've thought because she wasn't really sure where the jumps were.

So she just big jumped bigger, harder, longer, faster. But her choices were always to leave strides out. That's just who she was. And she was not related to any dogs I'd ever had before, but probably about the time she was two or three, she started having crashes. And I really just thought I had trained her badly. I thought I encouraged her too much to go fast and I didn't teach any respect for the bars.

And so I started being real hard on myself. I went to Linda Berg for private lessons very regularly for about a year. And in that year we basically made zero progress with making her any better. We did all kinds of things to learn how to manage her, but she didn't get any better. As a matter of fact, she got worse because each time she would have a bad crash,

she would lose confidence and then that would make other decisions difficult. And how long, about this time I got a related dog, how dumb of me had no idea that that this wasn't something I trained. And as that dog was coming up, she started showing signs and lo and behold, guess what? I did it again. So I ended up with three dogs,

all with the same one had the, one of the two younger ones had this grand sire that was the older one sire, but these dogs displayed the signs all completely differently. Cheer actually showed zero signs until she was about four years old. And hers started with a, a crash on a double jumping 18 inches on the world team. And she lost count confidence and she just gradually got a little bit worse,

but it never got really bad. And then Becky was somewhere in between spec, literally never hit bars. She, that dog, I don't know how she did it 'cause I don't think she could see very well, but she chose Setter stepping over, taking off longer, harder earlier. So seven always chose to leave out strides spec always chose to set her step and add in strides and that made her much more successful.

But it also made her slower and, and then cheer was somewhere in between. If she wasn't sure, she would add a stride and if she thought she could do it, she would jump big. So she coped very well and was on multiple world teams. So generally speaking, I guess just across the three dogs and they were all, you know,

cousins, whatever, ne nieces, nephews, sisters, all three of them handled it completely differently and it looked completely different. Like you wouldn't have just looked at one and seen the same problem before we knew more about what early takeoff was. So I went through a lot of, a lot of anxiety, sadness, you know, thinking my life was over in agility and,

and then I just sucked it up and said I'm just gonna support my dogs as best I can. And I actually probably any people who know me now, as you know, gene LaValley in agility know me through cheer who was an affected dog. And like I said, she was on many teams, a lot of success, but she definitely had a problem.

And the older she got, you know, the less she was able to compensate with power and everything. So, you know, the take home I guess for me is always to, if it happens, just do the best you can with the dog that you have and know that it doesn't mean that they can't do agility, it just might mean their agility looks different.

I think that's really interesting that you had the experience of having multiple dogs all, you know, one right after the other, all with the issue, but it presented differently for each of these dogs, right? So in my mind at least, I think of early takeoff issues as existing on a spectrum, right? So I think you have dogs that take off super early and they barely clear the bar.

You have dogs that take off somewhat early, right? But they, they will drop bars very often, right? So you have some dogs that drop bars all the time. Some dogs never drop, almost never drop bars. Some of those dogs, even up to the the biggest jump heights can make it to very big events and do very well be national champions,

compete at the agility world championship. We've all seen those dogs. And so you have this just great big variety out there all with early takeoff. So I did wanna talk a little bit more about like what does it look like? So if someone's listening to this podcast, like how do I know that my dog has it, is it important that I know that my dog has it?

Right? And so yes, I think early, early takeoff, right? So, okay, the, the dog is taking off early, but how, how often are they doing it? So if my dog does that once or twice and I, I don't even notice it in real time, but then I see it on video and you know, when I play it back I notice that it takes off early or it is pointed out to me.

So like does that count? Like where, where are you drawing the line? Because, and, and I'll, I'll, I'll refer this to Jean being the doctor, having the experience. I am sure that people come to you all the time and have been coming to you for the past, you know, 20 years about this. Does my dog have it?

How bad is the doc? So what are, what are some of the ways that you think about it? Do you kind of mentally think about it as this is mild, moderate, severe to me, the, the whether or not the dog is, is dropping bars is gonna have a heavy impact on, on how you advise a person, do I need to retire my dog?

Can I continue with sport? Yeah. What are your thoughts on that? A Absolutely, I think it is on a spectrum because as I just pointed out, I had three completely different dogs with different level successes. The, the way that I feel like you know for sure is there are multiple little trademarks or things that happen. One is every photo you get of your dog,

they're indecent. Every single photo they're indecent over the bar. They're never in, I mean a, a really nice jumping dog. Typically you can see them arcing over the bar on at least a good percentage of the jumps. But the severely affected ETO dogs, they're always in descent, every single jump. The other thing is straight approaches, like perpendicular approaches where they're coming straight in at a jump.

They are almost always worse because I believe because those jumps have less depth to them. So when, if a dog is coming at a sliced angle approach, there's a whole lot more things they can key on on the jump and it's a whole lot easier for them to see it visually. But when it's straight on, all they have is the bar just this straight on perpendicular approach bar.

And so with depth perception and things like that with people, you know, that is harder to see than things that have a natural depth. That is super, super duper interesting because you and I have never talked about this before and your observation made completely independently of my own, but that is exactly what I've discovered to the point where in helping some people who are working through the issue,

I, we will say in certain situations you may even want to change or shape the dog's path a little bit to approach it as a slice or to, even if you are the kind of early jumper that most consistently drops, the very first bar, you can set the dog up at an angle rather than straight on and then suddenly the dog is keeping up the bar at a much higher percent.

Sometimes dogs will do better on these premier and international courses because the majority of jump approaches are on a slice. Whereas when they're running novice courses, it tends to be especially 15, 20 years ago. Right? Very straight on. And then these dogs would just be pounding these bars. You know, we had a dog in our training group, this is years ago,

getting ready for some big event, bunch of border colleagues and as a border colleague was an early jumper, but on the slices the dog would be okay, right? The dog could keep the bar up and and look like fairly normal, right? Or be normal, but straight on the dogs really, really struggle. So that is such an interesting observation and I,

I think it's something that people can take notice of. Like there're gonna be people who hear this and and think, wait, you're right. My dog is only pounding these bars on the straight approaches and they're doing okay on the slices. That's why I wasn't sure if they had early takeoff or not. Right. Also, also backside are easy too, right?

Yeah, exactly. Yeah, yeah. They know exactly where the jump is because they went around it. Yeah. So they know where it's, they don't have to see it. They felt it. They know. Yeah. Yeah. Another, another sign many of these dogs leap into tunnels in, in a very odd, most dogs stride into tunnels.

A lot of early takeoff dogs just sort of leap into them. And I don't know why that is. Something about not knowing where the edge of it is or what, right? But, and then other something I think that we see even more commonly is that they get on the contact obstacles very, very low. Yeah. And that can also lead to very di much difficulty in training running contacts because it changes the way I know for myself,

seven and spec never succeeded in having a running A frame no matter what I did because I could not get them to get on the frame high enough or added good enough angle to have a natural striding frame cheer was able to do it, but she was less affected than the other two. I don't know if it makes as much of a difference with a running dogwalk because running dog walks are so much more like,

it's so much more of a trained skill. I think the so many of us teach running a-frames almost just with the consistent writing. Just always do it this way. And it's hard to do that if they're getting on low. And I'll, and jump in right here real quick as well, just to add to that point. Everything that you guys are saying,

I'm a hundred percent agreeing with, but the running A frame one is huge, both from the instructor standpoint but also clever, who was one of my more famous dogs who had ETO spent her entire career struggling with a running a-frame and she really should have been like the perfect size and the perfect striding for it. But exactly as Jean said, what would happen is she would get on low and she would load on low and then because she would load on low,

it just affected the striding all the way across the top. So it's over the years of learning what I have, both from the instructor and as a person who has had dogs with ETO, there are certain things I can see early on and, and the plaguing of the running A frame is always one that gets me in and early detector, like in classes is how dogs load onto contacts and the paw table because the paw table is one of the obstacles that we teach,

like in level one, you know, we, before we even do jumping, we don't even teach jumping in level one, but we do the table and how they judge getting on the table. Yeah. And the tires is another kind of trigger. So there's these little things that you can start to look for and identify like what is early takeoff from a issue of,

you know, kind of what we're talking about today, something that's not training versus a dog has one jump in which they took off early. So I'm always very careful when I teach and I, you know, a dog will hit a bar and it just happened today actually. There's, the person was like, why did the dog hit the bar? And I was like,

oh, he just took off too early. And she was like, does he have ETO? And I was like, no, no, no. Right. Sorry. Right. He took off early on that jump. It was not the same as ETO in the sense of, you know, chronically and consistently on jumps and other obstacles in their training.

That's A really great point. Like you cannot look like, I don't care how bad of an early takeoff it is, you cannot say a dog has early takeoff from one jump. Absolutely. Because any dog can misjudge any dog can make a mistake. And especially younger dogs, you know, may not have figured everything out yet. So I'll just kind of give my descriptions of,

of what I see here and, and I think that like, what I'm always looking at is I'm looking at the jumping arc and where it peaks and I want it to peak pretty near the bar. It doesn't have to be exactly on 'cause then it's like, well is do, do you want them to peak when their front feet are or when the middle of them are or when their back feet are.

But if it peaks a foot two feet before the bar where they are clearly on the way down as they go over the bar, like that's what I'm gonna call an early takeoff. And then so that, I mean that's just like the basics. I'm looking at the jumping arc and seeing where the peak of the jumping arc period, end of story. But when a dog does do that consistently,

there are couple of other, you know, very telltale signs that will often creep up that are basically comp, compensating, what's the word? Compensatory, compensatory, compensatory responses on the dog's part. And so the two that I think are, are most common, or I guess the, the three results of early takeoff that I think are the most common that I,

that it really like stand out to me, one is crashing. Right? That's the worst, right? They just, they peak and they land on the bar. So when you see that, that's a pretty extreme ETO. And if it happens, you know, more than just one silly mistake on the dog's part. If it happens with any regularity,

like that's pretty extreme. But the other two compensating things that I see is one, and, and Jen Jean talked about both of these in, in her story, but I wanted to kind of flush them out a bit. One is over jumping. That's what my dog Denver would do. So we just, and by over jumping, they're jumping higher than they need to.

Because if you think about it, if they're peaking before the bar and they're on their way down as they like go over the bar, right? If they're peaking several feet before the bar, right? And then they're on their way down. Then for my dog who is a 16 inch dog, if he's gonna clear a 16 inch jump, his peak had to be 22, 24.

Right? I have pictures of him and he's flat in terms of his body. He's per, he's like parallel to the ground in his body. So he is at the top of his jumping arc. He's well before the jump and you can see the jump standard and you can see that he's hitting 24 inches, right? He's at 24 inches in the air.

A 16 inch dog a, you know, a very small dog, 24 inches. So that as he's coming down, he's clearing 16 inches and keeping the bar up. So that's like one compensating thing that you'll see. And it's interesting just as a side effect, because assuming that there's wear and tear every time your dog correct takes a jump, your dog isn't really jumping 16 inches for most of their career.

They're jumping four, they're Jumping 20 or 24, Right? They're spending more time in the air, which could affect their times and yeah, it's a lot of wear and tear on the dog. And then the other thing that I saw that my dog also did later, and so a lot of times this, I think of this as a result of all of the other things is another thing that Jean mentioned,

which is the stuttering. And so that is like, yeah, a very telltale sign when the dog takes lots of little strides before the jump. They're basically like, I don't know where that jump is. Should I take off here? Wait, no, here, wait, no here, okay, I'm just gonna take off here. And so there'd be all these and his head would get lower and lower and lower as he stuttered and then tried to pop over the jump.

And that was kind of like the lowering Of the head, like really to me is like pathognomonic, like when I'm looking at a video. Right, exactly. I see hunkering down. Yeah. When you see stuttering, when you see over jumping. But especially like to me stuttering is like one step away from crashing. And that was the point that I retired my dog.

So, you know, I feel like we're gonna give, give, I think He was about, he was about Eight eight. So you know, we're gonna give kind of some, we're gonna give both sides of I guess the result here, which, you know, it like, you can continue competing and training. You also might choose not to.

And that's another reason that I want you to this podcast, is to really kind of normalize all experiences and, and take away the how, the guilt that we feel as handlers either because we couldn't get them through this or because, you know, like, well maybe I should, you know, maybe I shouldn't be so focused on getting a cue, you know.

But for I think a, some, some set of handlers, like it's not always fun to show up and watch your dog do that and then have a crashed bar be the only thing that that keeps you from, you know, queuing and it's not very helpful for the dogs either. Right. Right. Can I jump in again? Yeah, there's a couple of things that we mentioned also,

but like the sliced approaches and stuff. I've seen multiple dogs come up with a coping mechanism of essentially putting themselves at a sliced angle every single time. So literally going into the jump on always on the same side. They always seem to pick one side or the other. They get in really close to the stanchion and then they jump the jump diagonally, right?

We've got, we've got one here locally that is so severe and I feel bad for her because the woman loves running the dog. The woman loves the dog. But it's such a struggle and it, it just pains me to see what the dog is, how smart the dog is and what they've done so that they don't knock the bars. Right. I knew another little,

she that always put himself about six inches from the right stanchion no matter what, no matter which side the handler was on, no matter which side. Because he had figured out a way to cue on the stanchion and he never knocked bars that dog never knocked bars. But every course was a whole, whole lot of extra steps, right? So along with the head ducking some dogs also,

I know this, this is gonna throw a little kink in it, but some dogs also do a weird hitch with a rear leg. Almost like if you think of a person who has a stuttering problem, how they have sometimes funny head twitches or blinking that goes with their stuttering. That has nothing to do with the stuttering, but it becomes part of the process.

My personal dogs who are all related when they were stuttering would do a funny weird step with their right rear leg, always the same leg. So you couldn't see that unless you were looking at slow motion. And one of those dogs almost ended up getting surgery for a knee that was not broken. Oh My gosh. So, because it looked like an injury,

Right? But, But it was all in my mind, a part of their mental processing of the fact that they couldn't see or they couldn't perceive what they were doing and so they were overthinking it. Right. And then they were doing that little stutter. So I do know of two dogs that literally patella surgery was recommended and their patellas were fine. Wow.

Yeah. 'cause It looked like that. Yeah. Yeah. And I think different dogs are going to respond differently. So I think this is really important for people to understand too, as they try to figure out what to do going forward. Like, 'cause they have a clear objective and it's to get over the bar, right? So they're gonna do whatever they can,

right, right. Depending on their confirmation. We've all seen dogs, for example, that when they're taking a jump, they twist, they literally physically twist their body to the side. Right. To get their Rear rear feet to the side Yeah. Swing 'em up if They're rear rear foot knockers. Absolutely. But, but I guess what what I was going for actually was more about the personality and the,

the mental side of this for the dogs. And, and I think it goes for dogs and handlers, and I think we have to really be conscious of both. So on the dog side, I think there are some dogs who can take off early all day long, and it does not bother them. They, they compensate, they jump high. They're,

it, it, it's, it's not a problem per se. Their times Wouldn't Necessarily their times necessarily be Too different if they were jumping it with the perfect Right. And they're, they're perfectly happy. Right? And there are, there are dogs where they're going to knock more bars than if they weren't jumping early. But they don't crash them, they just kind of tick them on the way down and the still the dog is happy,

right? And so you take that dog and then you have to pair it with the handler, right? And there are some handlers that are just, that are going to be okay going out and competing with a dog like that. And as an instructor, when I talk to people, I'm always wanting to, the biggest thing that I wanna do is set expectations.

I wanna say, okay, like we see this, we see your dog jumping early, it's the reason for the majority of your bars, and it's not likely to get better. It might get worse. It's not your fault and it's not your dog's fault. Now what do we do? And I feel like as handlers, we have to be really honest with ourselves about can I go out and compete with that caveat,

right? That I could, you know, do everything perfectly and not get the results that I want. Right? Can I do that and not be frustrated with myself and not be frustrated with my dog? And if you can, then I'm like, great, go for it. But you have to be honest with yourself because I think a lot of people will may go out and they,

they think it's okay, but you know, the more in cues that a road they get, the more frustrated they get and it's not good for them and it's not good for their dog. And they would honestly be better off doing maybe a different sport with that dog, maybe putting their focus in on their next dog or something like that. And I know it's not something that anybody wants to hear,

but I feel like it's the most honest answer that I can give to somebody. And, and again, one of the reasons for this podcast is that I, I really wanted to be like, upfront about, about this issue because so many people are a little bit afraid to, to have that conversation, to, to take that stance that you might not want to compete with this dog anymore.

But, Okay, well I'm, well, so then let's, let's get into it, right? So let's say you're listening to this and you're like, okay, look, my dog dog kicks off early. It's definitely one of these dogs that you're talking about. I have a lot of shared experiences here with you people on the podcast. So how do I know,

like, what are the conditions in which I retire the dog? What are the conditions in which, you know, I, I, I don't, so let's talk a little bit about that. What does everybody think about? So do I continue or do I quit? All right, so I think leading right from that is, is the one last thing that I wanted to say about like,

seeing how it affects the dog. So I kind of started with the dog is happy and the dog is, you know, they're compensating. Maybe they're dropping bars, but they're, you know, they're doing okay. But there is, you also have to look at, there's some number of dogs where because of the ETO, it is going to affect them quite a bit.

Their confidence is gonna suffer, their enjoyment of the sport is going to suffer. And I think a lot of times like that stuttering, I think that stuttering a lot of times comes later because it is a direct response to like, almost in their head, they're like, ah, I never get these jumps right, and I don't know what to do,

you know, so when the dog starts to look mentally like they are struggling, they're avoidant. So some dogs will literally just, they'll go right up. Like they're gonna take the jump and then just pop around. They're like, Nope, not happening, not doing it. And so I think that that is another response from the dog. And again,

we can't blame the dog for that. It's, there's a very good reason for it. Number one, the ETO isn't their fault. And number two, if you kept getting something wrong over and over, you might not like it too. So I think to answer your question about like, well, you know, what do we do about it? Do we retire,

do we not? I think if you start to see kind of a lot of those negative responses from the dog where it does look like they're really struggling and they're not enjoying themselves anymore, I think that that is a, a pretty good sign for maybe that dog is ready to not have to deal with this issue anymore. Well, let me ask Jane.

So you've had the three dogs, like how, how did you, for your own, your own personal dogs, like make that call? So I, well, the first dog, I made a lot of mistakes. I, I went through a phase of correcting her for bars because I had no idea that it wasn't her, right. She threw that back in my face one day.

She knocked a bar, ran into a tunnel and wouldn't come out in a trial in public. I was devastated. I was like, clearly I had, I had stressed her to the point, and this dog loved agility and I had stressed her to the point that she was scared to try. And at that moment, you know, that was kind of like the epiphany in me.

You can't correct her for something. She, she's trying, she's doing the best she can. She can never be corrected. And so I moved that dog to Preferred, was my first approach. She moved to Preferred and she was about four years old. And actually she had a lot of fun at Preferred, and the crashes were not dangerous. She knocked bars,

but we, even locally, we had something called a Puppy seven Q and that meant that she did the entire course with one knocked bar. So the crowd literally would go wild if seven had a clean, an almost clean run. Because because it was so rare, she would usually knock two or three, two or three bars. Again, not crashing,

but this is even at preferred height. But it was, you know, so, so many bars that they named the Puppy seven Q, which was the Cubans one bar, which I, that was a pretty good coping mechanism for me. And actually it became a coping mechanism for a lot of other people in our area who had docs with the problem.

So I think Preferred is a first answer. Give 'em, give 'em the confidence, let 'em, you know, let 'em experience the joy of it. Spec was the one who was just a much smarter doc. She was more sensible. She, I think she was just as severely affected as seven as far as whatever the vision issue is. And,

but she just had better coping. She just made smarter decisions and she figured things out really, really fast. So much so that she almost never knocked bars. And if she knocked a bar, let's say I was training her, if she knocked a bar instantly, I threw a ball, her ball, her ball, she got her ball because it was already so demotivating to her to knock the bar.

She was trying so hard not to knock the bar that if I didn't do something to kind of break that tension off of her, then she would start stuttering really, really bad. And, and that dog competed until she was eight years old at regular and very successful. She had some national placements and things. She was a very good dog. She hurt herself,

hurt her back at eight and she was out for several weeks and or several months actually. And when I returned to competition, I returned in preferred at the preferred height with her thinking that it was just to let her recover her confidence and build back up. But it was like I had my two-year-old dog back and I couldn't put her back up. I couldn't put her back up to 12.

She was so happy at eight and running so fast. And while I felt a little bit of guilt about running her in preferred at eight years old, it was a hundred percent the right decision for her. She actually won the AKC Preferred Nationals at eight inches, which I felt some guilt about, but because she was younger, younger than a lot of the dogs competing,

but it was where she belonged and cheer actually did okay at championship height until she was about, I don't know, nine, I guess before she started having problems. But it really does depend on the dog, the mental, how much, how much of a thinking dog they are versus a do I feel like doing dogs don't handle ETO as well as thinking dogs because they have more crashes,

more bad experiences, they don't understand that they can do, they can potentially make coping mechanisms. I have lost track of what you asked me. Did I answer it? I think you did. I think you did. No, a absolutely. I think, I think it's so great for you to share your story, your personal experiences, because I think that is the first thing that a lot of people do.

It's the advice that a lot of instructors give, especially when you're very early on. So I think that's something else that we need to talk about. You're very early on in ETO, so we've talked about how it kind of exists on a spectrum, right? There's a lot of different presentations of it. And the other thing is dogs will, I,

I, I guess for lack of a better word, I'm gonna say deteriorate, they will worsen at different rates. So I've seen dogs with ETO where they have it, it causes some issues and of course they'll have it their whole life, but it really doesn't get too much worse, right? And it's like fairly manageable and you can even see some improvement with some things.

What we're gonna talk about that in just a few minutes, but you see other dogs and they're doing okay, they have it, you get the occasional knock bars and a year later they're looking at, they're, they're looking at retiring at age three, four, you know, because they are just really struggling. So you have rapid and dramatic deterioration. And so I think that's something else that people need to keep in mind,

what we call the prognosis. If you think of it as a disease state, the prognosis is gonna be highly variable from dog to dog, right? Yeah. And you were talking about young dogs, because that's something that I do wanna touch on too. So we watch a lot of video as bad dog agility instructors because we do all of our training online.

So we are watching video after video, after video of, you know, hundreds of handlers. And so when I'm watching a video and I see an early takeoff, if I see one and maybe even two, and they're not the really bad ones where they're like, you know, really exaggerated, I might point it out and I, I'll basically say,

this is something I wanna keep an eye on. It's like when the dentist is like, you don't have a cavity, but there's a spot that we're gonna keep an eye on, right? It's like, it's something that I'm gonna keep an eye on. And the first question I'm gonna ask is, how old is your dog? And what is their experience?

If it's a young dog without very much experience, I am much more willing to say, to, to think, okay, this may just be a young dog figuring things out. This dog needs a little bit more experience, they need a little bit more training. They would absolutely benefit from some actual jump training. But I'm not gonna jump right on ETO for an inexperienced dog because I don't feel like if the dog doesn't have enough experience and training,

then I don't think that you can really tell the difference between chronic ETO and a dog that is still learning the sport. Right? But if I see, you know, multiple videos with multiple early takeoffs from the same dog, like the, the more often it happens, the more that I'm going to call that ETO. Yeah. I mean, if you have concern about your dog possibly having it,

you need to get it to someone. And that someone's probably gonna be a, an experienced in instructor, right? Who can look at your video. And I think video's gonna be a little be better than live, but with very obvious cases, you know, obviously they're gonna, they're gonna be able to see it there and give you that kind of diagnosis.

But you mentioned the video and we're talking about, you know, thousands of dogs over the last 10 years and, and tens of thousands of jumps. But I'm going to run through an algorithm that I, a mental algorithm that I have, and it's based largely on what everything that Gene just said, what Gene said, you know, I I I start with what you said,

which is like I, I'm checking the takeoff point. I market for the person so they can see how much, how much pain time they're getting and how much of the, the jump is happening before the obstacle and, and how they're barely eking it over. And there's almost none of the dog's airtime happening after the obstacle. But then I will also do a check on everything else.

I check the, the approach to every contact, right? And I will point out if it, if there's a pattern there that's consistent with a, what a lot of ETO dogs do, including the table, I will look at the extending obstacles. So pe people who get analysis from me know that I'm always talking about the extending obstacles. What do they look like over the tire,

the panel, the double, and the triple. Because there's a lot of dogs who will jump fairly normally over even straight on, but they have some early takeoff issues, but they only manifest over these extending obstacles in certain situations. Right? And so I run through this kind of check Go ahead Jean. I was just gonna say, I think it shows up first in spreads for almost all dogs.

Like Yes. It's like that, that's where they usually tend to make the, the first mistakes. Yeah, that is a great, yeah, that is exactly right. That's a great point. And from there, now you tell them, okay, well I see some evidence of early, early takeoff. Of course, everybody freaks out a little bit,

right? A lot of people do. And the next thing that you have to tell 'em is, I don't know where this is gonna go. This may be as bad as it ever gets. And in this video, your dog didn't drop any bars at all, right? They took off early for every, every the double, the triple the tire,

you know, maybe even the table looks a little funny, but no drop bars and, and you're telling me that they're not a bar knocker, they rarely drop bars. This, this might be as bad as it ever gets, right? So we just don't know what the course of ETO is going to be in any one dog. I I I,

I haven't seen anything that I can reliably predict just based on an initial series of videos, Jen. So one thing I wanna add on that I think for the four of us here is probably somewhat assumed, but it hasn't been mentioned. So those that are listening that maybe are, are newer to understanding it, but we didn't talk about breed, right?

I was gonna mention that. Yeah. One of those things that I'm gonna look at, in addition to all of the things that you mentioned, if I'm evaluating a dog, if I'm deciding, okay, is it training or is it ETO, you know, what can we do about it? Is I'm, I'm gonna look at breed. The other thing that I'm gonna look at is potentially,

or ask, potentially depending on how well I know the person is the, the pedigree. And I know these are somewhat controversial things, but there does tend to just be trends of higher rates of ETO in certain breeds and in certain lines now there's, you know, there's not been any studies that can conclusively say it is genetic or how it's passed from dog to dog.

But in the case of Jean, you know, she mentioned all three dogs that she had are related. Right? And I think maybe what was mentioned, I don't know if it or or skipped and not mentioned is they were all shees. I don't know if that was was brought up or if it was is assumed. But as a sheti person, myself,

as a person who breeds Shelties, Jean is a sheti person. She is years of breeding shees. We know that is something in our sport and we, or in our breed and we know that it's in other breeds. So if there are certain breeds that if I'm looking at a video, I'm probably going to be a little bit quicker to think that there is an issue.

Yeah. Based on my experience. So in all of the things that you mentioned are what we're gonna look at on a video in terms of the agility aspect, but there's, there's some other clues there in terms of the genetic component component and the breed. Well let's, let's name names. So you've mentioned Shelties. I think everybody's also pretty aware that Border collie often will exhibit this.

The other one that I see is turfs. Turfs. I was just gonna say turfs. All right. So lots of turfs. To me those are the big three. Are there any other breeds where you're like Soft coated wheat and terriers? I Say soft coated wheats, Norwich Terriers. Okay. Almost all, almost all Norwich Terriers have it. Yeah,

there's a probably a high percentage of peer ships actually. Mm, Yeah. Yes, I would agree with that. And I can think of some breeds that I've like never seen ETO in a breed. So I mean there are some breeds that I'd be very surprised to see it, you know, but in Shel it is, it is such a thing.

And I, I think you see it maybe a little bit higher rate in some of the less popular breeds because the breeding pool is smaller, right? So like, while I think yes, there's a decent number of border collies with it relative to the percentages of border collies doing agility, right? I dunno that they actually think it's that high, right?

But when you look at she's, and I know she's are relatively popular, but as a person who breeds them performance shelties, we really have a pretty small like pool of shelties to breed from. So kind of once you get it in a a line, it is kind of sometimes hard to get rid of. And I think that's where some of the less popular breeds,

like the peer ships or the soft coated wheat and terriers, it's like once you get it in there, it's harder to get rid of versus maybe a, a breed with more options like a golden or you know, something papillon's maybe that you would have more options for. Right. Yeah. I can't, I can't recall ever seeing ETO in a golden,

can you, I can't think of one off the top of my head. Most of them I have. You have, It's more rare they, they have bar knocking issues and I can't tell if it's like a super mild form or a variant of ETO. Right. Or it's due to structure Any retrievers. Yeah. Yeah. I can't think of any retrievers.

Right, right. Well, I was just gonna say, I work with a ton of wines and Dobermans and I cannot tell you a single wine or doberman that I've seen with ETO. Yeah. And I work with a fair lot. Wilders are beautiful jumpers. Yeah. Right. Yeah. Some I wonder if the vision with bird, bird, bird,

Oh, right, that's right. Like is like maybe, I mean, those doors are very, I mean, they're hunting and they're, they're obviously their noses are important, but they also do a lot of marking and vision that Yeah, that's a really great point. There's a, I'm gonna link to it in the show notes, but Clean Run,

put together a, a focus issue where basically all the articles in the entire issue were all about ETO. And in 20 17, 20 17, Jean has an article in there as well. And I'm gonna put a link to that because it, it has a lot of, a little bit more of the nitty gritty detail about ETO that, that we've kind of glossed over.

But I think that for anybody who wants to look further into it, for anybody who's been told that they have ETO and they find this podcast, like, I think it's a very, very good reference.

Thank You for Listening!

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