September 4, 2013

When do Agility Dogs Peak?

The topic for this Dog Agility Blogger Action Day is aging, and we are focusing on the natural trajectory of a dog’s speed over a career. We selected several fast, consistent, notable golden retrievers from the past and present and plotted their yards-per-second (YPS) in jumpers with weaves (JWW) over time.

  • Susie (Jane Simmons-Moake) – MACH14 PACH Flashpaws Runaround Sue MXS5 MJB6 MXP4 MXPB MJP4 MJPB PAX MXF MFS TQX
  • Holly (Jane Simmons-Moake) – OTCH MACH11 Flashpaws Hollywood Hotshot UDX2 MXG3 MJG4
  • Kelsey (Maggie Downey) – NAC MACH14 Flashpaws Kooki Lil Charmer UD MXB4 MJG4 MXP2 MJP2
  • Cutter (Lois Williams) – MACH15 Flashpaws Cut Me Loose ! MXC4 MJS5 MXF MFB TQX
  • Beamer (Jane Bronson) – MACH12 Fast-Traks Laser Flash MXS4 MJB5 MXF MFS TQX T2B
Click image to view a larger, interactive chart where you can click on the legend to highlight a particular dog.

It appears that speed increases with experience, reaches a plateau that indicates the “prime time” of the dog’s career, and gradually declines (probably reflecting age-related physical changes). Of note, for these dogs, the plateau begins around age 5-6, and begins to decline around age 9.

1. Kelsey and Holly ran in an earlier era of dog agility, and no data was available for their early career runs.
2. Only runs from excellent/masters JWW were included, mostly from 20″, but there are a few 24″ and 26″ runs included.
3. Beamer is still actively competing in regular classes.

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  • Whew! I have several more years for improvement. We have only been competing for a year and he is already 4.5 years. But where we live trials are few and far between unless you want (and can afford) to travel.

    • The number of trials is going to have as much to do with a dog’s speed as age. He may be 4.5, but if you have fewer trials, he’s doing less running and jumping. Either way – you have plenty of time ahead of you!

  • I did this for my Malinois, Terry, who is now 8. He was 3 at the time of his first Excellent JWW runs. The line is almost exactly flat (y=0.0065x + 5.67). There are 69 data points over the five years but I showed him much more than that — we are go big or crash ‘n’ burn.
    Thanks for the data and the idea. I think keeping track of this data will go quite a ways towards determining when a dog is getting ready to retire.

  • Interesting! I have two Borders trialing right now, 5 and 6 years old. My 5 year old has been training and trialing longer, and has definitely gotten faster with more experience. I really feel like we are a team out there on the courses, which came with time.

  • This would be a super interesting study to do with a large sample … Across different breeds, sizes, venues even … You could get all kinds of data in there!

  • Interesting. I have my Golden Retriever’s YPS stats in 6 month increments covering more than 539 Qs in Ex B JWW. Bang’s first 6 years were spent earning CH and SH. Her first Ex JWW runs were in Dec. 2006 at 6.5 years of age. In 2007 we were running JWW at an average of 4.36 YPS. She peaked at 4.79 YPS average in July-Dec 2009 at age 9 and maintained within .09 YPS until I moved her to Preferred in June 2011 as she approached her 11th birthday. Her Q-rate and YPS has decreased over the last two years, but she still loves to run agility at age 13. Not the same degree of speed, but a very similar pattern of increase with experience, plateau, then decline.

    • Yes, we sampled a few small/medium dogs and their curves are flatter, but we need a much larger sample size to be more confident that there’s variation based on height.

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