Silvia Trkman uses shaping and back chaining to train tight turns (Cik & Cap). She starts by shaping tight turns around an object. Once the dog has learned how to turn tightly around an object, she starts adding speed and distance. I think it is brilliant to add speed and distance before introducing even a bar on the ground because as the dog runs faster and faster around various objects, it is learning how to bend and control its body while turning, building strength and flexibility even before a bar on the ground is introduced. I also think it is brilliant to integrate Cik & Cap into sequences early on to help the dog generalize the behaviors.
By the time Silvia adds a bar on the ground, the dog has already learned how to approach a turn running both fast and in collection, how to turn tightly with full independence and with speed, and how to power out of the turn, so adding the bar is simply back chaining one more behavior: adjusting striding over the bar.
By the time she starts raising the bar, the dog can just focus on the one new challenge that is being presented: how to jump over higher and higher bars. Silvia’s method of waiting to increase the height of the jumps until after the dog has mastered everything else makes perfect “back chaining” sense to me.
Since this post was inspired by a question asked by fellow agility enthusiast in response to my post on “powering out of tight turns,” I included it below. The question forced me to really think about why I believe Cik & Cap will help Lil become a better jumper when running fast.
Question: Laura, Lance, and Vito says:
I followed your link to your blog on Silvia’s facebook and have really enjoyed reading it! My corgi also has jumping issues (stutter steps a lot, flings back end out) and I look forward to seeing how you progress with your terrier. I love Silvia’s philosophy and training methods but I guess I’m confused as to how it could help with jumping issues? although I totally get how it would get awesome power out of the tight turns!
My Answer: I am hoping Lil’s jumping will improve as a side benefit of training Cik & Cap. My thinking is that powering out of tight turns AND fast running over bars on the ground, will help Lil learn how to easily stride over bars on the ground when she is running fast, which then will translate into easy, extended jumping over straight jumps when I gradually raise the jumps back to Lil’s jump height of 8″.
This is based on what I think fast and efficient jumpers do when jumping over widely spaced, straight jumps. They take long strides approaching the jump and then power over the jumps, landing well beyond the jumps and continue to drive forward with long strides (vs. running and jumping in collection). I think if Lil learns to really power out of tight turns that it will transfer to powering out after straight jumps too and the only way a dog can do that is by landing well beyond the jump, which means jumping long and low.
I think Silvia’s focus on speed in foundation training will be good for Lil is because Lil’s jumping can be affected by a lack of confidence, being distracted by my movement, or not liking to knock bars. For example, if she misjudges the distance and hits a jump bar hard, she will then over-jump, butt flip, jump early, or add a little step before jumping for the rest of the course to to avoid hitting another bar. So I’m hoping that by giving her a lot of experience running fast over bars on the ground, which will include her hitting a bar now and then, that it will help her be OK when she occasionally knocks a bar on course.
Structure also comes into play because Australian Terriers (and Corgis) are such powerful dogs, I think they can develop all sorts of inefficient ways to get over jumps (without hitting bars) so I am trying to do whatever I can to help Lil find a comfortable and efficient way to jump when running fast.
Plus I have done a ton of Susan Salo’s and Chris Zink’s jump grids in the past and Lil is still able to do them with ease, so at this point I don’t think doing more jump grids (where we are dictating the dog’s stride length) will help her learn how to jump well when running fast. I think the thing Lil needs to learn is how to jump while taking long strides (vs. running and jumping in collection), and so I’m hoping that by giving her a ton of experience running fast over bars on the ground through a variety of sequences, that she will eventually be able to do the same thing over 8″ jumps.
ps- I think structure also plays a role in jumping style, so I’m not expecting Lil to skim over jumps like a lot of Border Collies do. Given the structure of Australian Terriers (long-backed and heavy-boned), I believe they need to jump a little higher in order to clear bars with ease, when running and jumping in full extension. But they don’t need to butt flip or fling themselves extremely high over jumps to avoid hitting bars either, if they have enough forward momentum to land far enough away from the jump to easily clear it with their back legs, which also make is easy for them continue to power out with the first stride after the jump.
Of course, I would be wrong about all of this!