Clean Run - November 2017 - 58

Breeding
Concerns

Regarding Early Takeoffs
in Jumping Dogs
Linda Mecklenburg DVM

Early takeoffs (ETOs) are the result of
vision impairment. Risk factors for the
vision problems associated with ETOs
are presumed to be hereditary (see
my article, "ETOs: It's Not Just Border
Collies," on page 30).
Many years ago, I believed early takeoffs in dog jumping were training,
structure, or physical issues just like
everyone else. Dogs that were examined by veterinarians were all found to
have "normal" vision, so those seemed
like the only plausible explanations. As
time went on, however, I worked with
so many dogs with this problem that
I started to make observations which
could not be the result of training or
physical pain. I suspected that vision
was the cause, regardless of what the
veterinarians said. A veterinarian myself, I knew that vision testing in dogs
was not as sophisticated as it was in
humans. I also began to notice that
many of the affected dogs were related, and the jumping problems were
more prevalent in certain breeds, or
within family lines of some breeds.
What really got my attention were
three different Border Collie bitches,
each owned and trained by a different experienced and highly successful
handler. I personally worked with each
of these bitches when their respective
handlers requested consultations regarding their dogs' jumping problems.
When training did not improve the
58

ETOs, each bitch was ultimately retired
from agility and subsequently bred.
Time passed. Two or three years later,
I realized that some of the dogs I was
now consulting on for ETOs were puppies produced by these bitches. This
confirmed what I already suspected,
but could not prove: ETOs were more
than just a training or physical problem, and in fact they were occurring
with higher frequency in dogs that
were related.
Any trainer working with just a few dogs
with ETOs would not be aware of the
patterns, or the relationships between
the dogs, nor would a veterinarian. I
started to share my observations and
compare notes with other agility instructors who worked with many, many
dogs with ETOs. We were in different
parts of the country, but we were making similar observations and drawing
similar conclusions.
The causes of ETOs in jumping dogs
have always existed, but the sport of
agility and the ever-increasing difficulty of the jumping tasks we ask of the
dogs has simply brought the problems
to our attention. Dog activities such as
being a household pet, or competing
in conformation, obedience, or fieldwork, don't place the same visual demands on the dog as agility. Although
some older obedience books, such as
Beyond Basic Dog Training published
in 1986, do describe stutter stepping1

and there have been reports of dogs
having difficulty retrieving in field trials, which may be caused by vision
problems similar to ETOs2. However,
usually unless the dog is jumping,
vision problems will go unnoticed except by the more observant owners.
Since the sport of agility began, the
incidence of ETOs in jumping appears
to be increasing. Perhaps this can be
explained because we are more educated about ETOs and recognizing the
problem for what it is, but breeding
practices may have also inadvertently
contributed to this. Years ago, most
dogs competing in agility were originally bred for a purpose other than
agility. With the advent of agility, some
breeders started to specialize, selecting for traits felt to be desirable for
performance events such as "drive."
This led to lines in some breeds that
enjoyed a high degree of success in
agility. Of course this created a high
demand for puppies from those lines.
However, some of these same lines
may also have had a higher incidence
of dogs having ETOs when jumping.
Back then, ETOs were believed to be
related to training, thus having jumping problems develop in puppies did
not raise concern for breeders like epilepsy, CHD, or other problems might.
Until my article "What is Early Takeoff
Syndrome?" was published in Clean
Run in 2010, most people (including
Clean Run | November 17



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Clean Run - November 2017

Contents
Clean Run - November 2017 - Cover1
Clean Run - November 2017 - Cover2
Clean Run - November 2017 - Contents
Clean Run - November 2017 - 4
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Clean Run - November 2017 - 6
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