Early takeoffs in dog jumping are often misunderstood. Without extensive experience working directly with a number of dogs that display early takeoffs, even the most seasoned professionals (both dog agility trainers and veterinarians) still do not recognize early takeoffs. They often assume early takeoffs are related to mechanical jumping skills (correctable with training) or health problems. However, early takeoffs are characterized by an early takeoff. The takeoff distance is increased, but the landing distance is decreased and the dog is usually on the descent phase of his jumping effort before he reaches the bar (see photo). The dog may inappropriately shorten his final stride or simply omit the stride in order to take off early and achieve a longer takeoff distance.
Dogs jumping in extension, with an increased takeoff and landing distance, with a jumping arc that is flat and mostly centered over the bar, are not taking off “early”. A longer takeoff distance is totally appropriate for the jumping effort and these dogs are not omitting the stride, which happens with an early takeoff. To the untrained eye, these dogs may look similar. However, the landing distance will be decreased in the dog with early takeoffs; not with the dog that’s jumping in extension. These dogs may not understand how to mechanically add a stride and jump with more collection, or they may not understand the cues to do so, or the handler is not communicating the need to do so, and so on. But, these dogs can and do respond to training and the jumping issues resolve. Dogs that display early takeoffs will not, and the jumping issues do not resolve.
Dogs jumping with physical pain will often add strides on the approach to a jump in order to decrease the takeoff distance and make the jumping effort easier. These dogs are not taking off “early”; in fact they are delaying takeoff in many cases. To the untrained eye, these dogs may look similar to dogs that stutter or “measure” the jumps (that take off early by inappropriately shorten the last stride in order to achieve a longer takeoff distance). However, the takeoff distance will be increased in the dog with early takeoffs; most often decreased in the dog with a physical problem. But, these dogs can and do respond to treatment for the physical problem and their jumping issues resolve. Dogs that display early takeoffs will not have a physical problem (unless it is secondary to the character of the dog’s jumping), and the jumping issues do not resolve.
For 2013 update on early takeoffs please click here
For more complete information on early takeoffs please check out the May 2010 article “What is Early Takeoff Syndrome?” By Linda Mecklenburg (pdf, reprinted with permission from Clean Run).
For the most current information on early takeoffs as of November 2011 please also read the following Update on Early Takeoffs by Linda Mecklenburg (pdf).
For information on early takeoffs and breeding as of December 2011 please also read the following Early Takeoffs: Breeding Concerns by Linda Mecklenburg (pdf).
Please check out these videos:
This video shows footage of a Sheltie owned by Marq Cheek that exhibits early takeoffs when jumping. This dog had a normal eye exam, but does have abnormalities detectable via retinoscopy, which were then treated with contact lenses. This particular dog thus does not have “classic ETS”, however the footage is very valuable because it
1) Shows the importance of having a thorough eye exam including retinoscopy
2) Clearly demonstrates that this dog has a VISION problem not a training problem.
This video shows footage of a Sheltie owned by Jean Lavalley that exhibits early takeoffs when jumping that got progressively worse over time. This dog had a normal eye exam and normal ERG. Several individuals related to her were also affected. This dog has “classic ETS”.
This video shows footage of a Border Collie owned by Rosanne DeMascio that exhibits that exhibits early takeoffs when jumping that got progressively worse over time. This dog had a normal eye exam. Several individuals related to her were also affected. This dog has “classic ETS”.
This whippet is Javelin owned by Penny Spencer from Melbourne, Australia. The dog always jumped abnormally. An eye exam was normal, but retinoscopy revealed farsightedness in both eyes.
This is Murphy owned by Tina in Denmark. He started out jumping very nicely and was winning events but suddenly developed jumping issues. He did suffer a tire crash which made him insecure and worsened the problems. He was examined and physical problems were ruled out. His eye exam was normal. Retinoscopy was not done. In addition to jumps, he would also misjudge stairs. Eventually he was retired from agility.
For more examples of early takeoffs click HERE