Yesterday morning I did a search on my computer looking for a photograph to add to a post on jumping. I found a photo but the search also uncovered a slew of emails I had sent to my closest agility friends about jumping. I hadn’t realized that I have been thinking about Lil and jumping for an entire year!
Here is a brief history. When we got Lil as a puppy, I wanted to do everything I could to help her become a confident and efficient jumper. I did Susan Salo’s puppy foundation drills and progressed to jump grids when Lil was old enough to jump. When Lil began trialing, she ran and jumped nicely. But when her speed and drive started kicking in last summer, her jumping became a little inconsistent. I first noticed it at a USDAA trial in May 2011. Sometimes when Lil was running fast, she was not able to adjust her stride lengths to jump well over widely spaced jumps and she even knocked a few bars, which is unusual for her. See example at about 3 minutes into the video.
I suppose I agree with Bobby Robson’s statement that “Practice Makes Permanent” and believe the less often Lil practices inefficient jumping in the present, the less often she will jump inefficiently in the future.
Below are some of the emails I wrote to my friends on the topic of Lil and jumping over the past year. Unless you happen to be obsessed with jumping, don’t bother reading further.
February 13, 2011: Copied from a clean run post about Corgis: “Also, something to consider – I know, you want to teach your dog to jump well. At roughly eighteen months – about time to start showing – Corgis start maturing from their sausage stage and dropping a chest. Center of gravity shifts – all of a sudden dogs that have know how to handle their bodies start dropping bars – so you will go through a second stage of brushing up jumping between eighteen and about 30″
April 20, 2011: I didn’t do any jump training when I started doing agility with Jake (I didn’t even know it existed when we got him as an adult dog). I eventually did Susan Salo jump grids with both dogs and then did Chris Zink’s version of jump grids for 3 months last summer. But both seemed to focus on collection. So this past 24 hours I’ve been wondering if I should be integrating some high-speed, straight-away jump training (with stride regulators) so my dogs get a lot of experience running and jumping in extension + with me racing along (away from course work).
I think my current handling error that affects Lil’s jumping is that I sometimes get all rushy and end up racing too far ahead, so she has to rush to catch up and is thus focusing too much on me vs. the jumps. She rarely knocks a bar and overall I think Lil is doing well jumping. I’m always just looking ahead for the next thing I can do to improve our game.
Jake has always had a hover-craft style of jumping (very cute and it may be structural– he has more bounce to all of his movement compared to Lil) but he seems to enjoy jumping 8″ (I didn’t like the way he looked jumping 12”).
I love to think about all of this stuff and I sincerely appreciate hearing your thoughts! Devorah
May 25, 2011: I don’t do jump grids anymore. I did for 3 months last summer (Chris Zink recommended doing her grids daily for 3 months and to do no other jumping– so no other agility training for 3 months). That was VERY boring but my practice partner and I both did it. UGH! It really improved her dog’s jumping and Lil and Jake’s too, but I have not been doing any lately and I’m wondering if Lil has forgotten or if her muscles just don’t know how to do that style of jumping at a greater speed and with me running hard. I love the added energy but perhaps I need to go back to jump drills at this speed. I also did Linda Mecklenburg’s foundation jump work (I think that makes a lot of sense). Hell, I don’t know what I’m doing and maybe my practice partner is right when she said (after watching Lil’s videos from last weekend) she saw nothing to worry about…just green dog stuff. And she thinks most terriers jump early and that it is ok and to not get caught up thinking about ETS (Early Takeoff Syndrome).
November 27, 2011: Your initial instincts were right in not telling me about Linda Mecklenburg’s new jumping insights… I don’t see the point in me even thinking about it since this is my hobby and Jake and Lil are my pet dogs, not my professional agility dogs. Plus agility is way too much fun to get bogged down doing Susan Salo jump grids which are so boring to me, I can’t imagine wanting to do them at this point.
January 23, 2012: Now that I have decent footing at my studio again, I set up 3 straight jumps with random spacing that both Jake and Lil took one nice stride in between. I didn’t do many reps, maybe five reps per dog but one time Lil misjudged and knocked a bar. The AH HAH for me was because she still got rewarded by running to a target that had a high value treat on it, her next attempt was very good. She jumped well and did not over jump, butt flip or lower her shoulders and fling herself.
I think Stacey Purdy’s method of stopping and resetting knocked bars and then repeating that jump (and rewarding it) might not be a good thing to do with my dogs, who really don’t like to knock bars. I think knocking a bar is negative reinforcement in and of itself without me stopping the fun on top of it. So I wonder if me stopping, resetting bars and redoing the jump has been causing Lil to then over-compensate or to try harder/ over-jump to make sure she doesn’t hit the bar again. I’m stopping doing that…not that I think Lil is a great jumper at this point….but I can live with occasional knocked bars. Perhaps it is an Aussie thing to go through a weird jumping phase at three… Jake was a terrible jumper at three years old.
February 1, 2012: I posted the following FB message I sent to Silvia Trkman.
Hi Silvia, I took a workshop with you in NH a couple of years ago with my 2 Australian Terriers and loved it. I took detailed notes and continue to follow your suggestions. I love your fun attitude and approach to training and fun is always the #1 thing I focus on with my dogs! As a result, both of my dogs are fast and enthusiastic! I hope it is OK to ask a question about Lil’s increased drive and speed (Lil turned 3 years old today). She is very enthusiastic (and talented) in freestyle and agility. She moved up to Masters in USDAA very quickly. Her drive and speed continue to increase and it seems to me that she doesn’t know how to manage jumping well when she runs REALLY fast, especially on long straight-a ways. I feel like she has lost confidence about jumping and so I was thinking about taking a break from jumping and just running Lil through wings without bars when we practice agility for a while. And then starting up again with low bars and gradually bringing them back up to her jump height. Is that a good or bad idea? Any suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated. All the best, Devorah Sperber (Jake and Lil)
Silvia’s Response (a few hours later):
Happy to hear Lil is doing so well!!! Sounds like a good plan to run her without bars some and then slowly adding height to let her learn how to jump at her new speed, it’s definitely harder when running real fast! But I’m sure she will master that too!
FINAL NOTE: I hope Silvia’s response helps me put an end to thinking about what I should do about Lil and Jumping! SIGH