Developing Jumping Skills for Awesome Agility Dogs (DJS)
By Linda Mecklenburg
Explanation of Stages
All of the exercises in DJS have a purpose in teaching the dog mechanically how to JUMP. They are not intended to teach the dog handling or obstacle focus. Some people do the one jump work and seem to think the job is over because they think the rest of the book is about handling. This is perception is not correct. Here is a brief explanation of the intent behind each stage:
1) Offering the jump at a standstill
***builds desire/understanding to jump *clean* (builds confidence at the same time)
***awareness of *legs* and body in space
***how to jump using rear end and power up, use back, jump w/round form
***how to lift vertically (“rock back”) and tuck front end (note this is important because if dogs only learn to jump forward, not up, they will plow through jumps on their forehands, or not be able to turn afterward, very important for nonBC breeds that may be heavier in the front such as corgis, labs, rotties, etc).
2) Offering from more distance, variable angles, still no speed
***build awareness of how to gauge takeoff spot
***from a walk/trot, dog learns how to put rear legs together and jump up with balance and power
3) Offering with handler/reward on takeoff side
***dog learns it okay to jump moving away from handler
***dog learns how to use collection/turn/return to takeoff side
4) Offering with handler walking
***dogs learns that offering “just because its there” (the jump) does not get reward, following motion does. ***Dog learns to cope with handler motion
NOTE: Stage 1 never stops…the progression through the book is supposed to maintain the dog’s desire to jump clean and his ability to do so mechanically by gradually increasing the difficulty of the jumping efforts. Too many handlers do one jump work and then start sequencing. This is just not what its all about. Every step has a purpose.
Dog under command
1) FS (forward send) over 1 jump, return to handler’s side
***dog learns collection and turn going away from handler from sit stay…no speed, but his location dictates his striding choices.
2) FS over 1 jump, return to handler’s side then repeat over another jump, gradually phase out stop.
***Dog learns collection and turn going away from handler from sit stay and progresses to doing so with a true forward send (dog is moving when cued to jump). Eventually progresses to two jumps in a row where lead in jump which dictates the striding between the jumps and forces the dog to plan his striding between the jumps ahead
***dog learns to decide striding/takeoff on the move for collection/turn
3) Recalls to heel
***dog learns collection/turn when handler is facing dog on landing side
***variable distances of dog setup from jump and handler location on landing side teach dog to gauge striding/jumping arc on approach from a sit stay, eventually with speed out of tunnel where dog must gauge striding/takeoff/jumping arc, then eventually with speed over a lead-in jump which dictates the striding between the jumps and forces the dog to plan his striding between the jumps ahead
***variable angles of approach/handler presentation introduce dog to different types of jumping skills need for those recalls
4) Jump–> tunnel drills (and tunnel–> jump)
***dog learns to jump in extension
***dog learns to jump in extension, with takeoff at speed
***dog learns to change leads over the bar
5) Two jump drills not mentioned above
***dog learns to jump in extension with lead in jump which dictates the striding between the jumps and forces the dog to plan his striding between the jumps ahead
***dog learns to jump with forward motion added
6) Two jump/tunnel drills
***dog learns to jump with forward motion, begin to sequence
***dog learns to jump in extension out of tunnel, and jump in extension and with lead in jump which dictates the striding between the jumps
***dog learns to combine skills i.e. jump in extension followed by collection, has to make decisions about striding/takeoff/jumping arc with handler standing still and moving
***dog learns to think about jumps and handler at same time
My background comes from teaching horses to jump. I was employed by a top equestrian who taught horses to jump loose without rider influence in a round pen/oval chute. The horses were allowed to jump low obstacles (one, then two, or more) from a walk and trot progressing to cantering over jumps, allowing them to figure out their takeoff points on their own without influence (distances varied). Their first experiences with a rider were over low obstacles at the walk or trot…often their first jump was a little “X” from a trot, sometimes with a groundbar (or cavaletti) on the approach, where the horse had to figure out how balance himself and takeoff with two rear legs together out of the trot (where the legs move together on a diagonal). This was done on the move, not from a standstill in front of the jump. The horses that were bound for the “hunter” ring had more focus on form and style vs. function (in competition they would be jumping lower jumps from fairly constant gait, on straight-aways or off gentle curves, ideally with similar takeoff distances and jumping arcs, the rider making striding adjustments for them, little collection needed); those that were bound for the “jumper” ring got more focus on function (using higher jumps with slow speed) i.e. how to lift vertically, using rear end and tucking front end, how to jump in collection and extension, from variable takeoff spots, etc (in competition they would be jumping higher jumps on more curvy courses with variable distances requiring more athleticism, transitions from collection to extension, from variable takeoff distances and with different jumping arcs required).
I have followed this equestrian model. The offering stage of DJS is very much based on this (I was unable to figure out a good way to totally eliminate outside influence so I had the handler remain in a neutral location). The dog learns to jump with two rear legs from a standstill, then how to balance and take off with two rear legs together out of a walk or trot. The dog learns to find his own takeoff point from slower speeds, with various angles, then with more speed. Then the handler is introduced and the dog repeats these skills under command, with handler support but still little influence (i.e. handler body language cues do not conflict with what the trained cues ask him to do). Then once again speed is added, the dog has to make more decisions about takeoff, learn to alter his striding between obstacles in order to achieve extension and collection, etc. Finally, handler motion (the most influential aspect of the handler) is added and the dog learns he can do those skills when the handler is in motion. The goal of DJS is to produce good “jumpers”, not “hunters” (nor steeplechasers!).
Skipping a step or two (or three) is not intended. Many people seem to think they only have to do the offering and/or recall to heel material…. Without the other progressions, including the forward send work where the dog is learns to collect when he’s moving away (as well as when he’s coming toward) from the handler, and the addition of motion to the process, the job is not done. Note that I intentionally never mention specific distances between jumps in DJS…. that’s because I’m expecting (hoping) that those will change day to day as people progress through the book, which will further the dog’s understanding of how to link jumps together and adjust his striding accordingly. In my experience he learns more from thinking it through on his own and from the variability (preferred if my intention is to produce good “jumpers”).
I hope this gives a little better understanding of my jumping program.