RE: a recent post on CleanRun’s yahoo group: A friend and I are both using Rachel Sanders’ running A-frame method to train our dogs. I have a medium-sized BC and am following the method as close to the video as I can.
My friend, though, has a dachshund/rat terrier(?) mix, and she isn’t entirely comfortable with how her long-backed dog looks doing a two-hit a-frame. Basically, when doing two hits, the dog is hitting too high in the yellow and comes down hard on her landing. It just doesn’t look like it would be good for her shoulders/back long-term. Any guidance would be appreciated!
MY REPLY: Some dogs natural striding take them nicely into the contact zone with very little training but not my long-backed Australian Terriers. I believe the long-backed dog’s structure plays a significant role in how they are able to perform a running A-Frame. While I am not addressing the question about 2 vs. 3 strides, I thought your friend would be interested in what I have learned about running A-Frames and long-backed dogs. 🙂
I trained my 3-year-old, Australian Terrier (AT) a running A-Frame using another method but I believe what I learned applies to any method. Once I raised the A-frame above 5′, my dog’s descent started to look off-balance. I believe the structure of a long-backed dog comes into play is a significant way when the A-Frame is raised above 5′. My particular dog’s striding started to change at about 4′ 8″ but it still looked safe and like she was in control during the descent on 5′ A-Frames.
Here is what I think is going on: Australian Terriers’ shorter legs and muscular builds make it difficult for them to maintain control when running down steeper A-Frames due to powerful forces of gravity and momentum, which build during the descent. Their shorter legs don’t offer the same “breaking power” as longer legs (like Border Collies have) which extend further forward during the descent (see images below). I liken a dog having longer legs when running down an A-Frame to a person having walking sticks when running down a steep hill. I believe that last “leaping stride” is not due to poor training, but rather it’s a reaction to the powerful forces of gravity and momentum that have built up by the time an AT takes a third necessary stride down.
I think it takes an incredible amount of intention and strength for ATs to hold themselves back against gravity and momentum when they drive hard over an A-Frame like my dog does. I have compared photos of BCs and my dog descending an A-Frame and my dog’s overall body position, shoulder angle, forward reach, and tucking under of back legs looks similar. The big difference is that my dog’s legs are significantly shorter so her nose extends beyond her front feet. I can see why she looks off-balance when running fast down a steeper A-Frame.
Once I realized how different running over a 5′ and 5’6″ A-Frame was for my dog, I stopped training on both 5’6″ and 5′ A-Frames, and my dog is now taking 3 nice strides down the A-Frame and her 3rd stride lands well inside the contact zone of 5′ high A-Frames. I believe this is due to consistency of the angle, that she now knows exactly how hard to drive over the A-Frame running fast but in control. Her A-Frame now looks safe and natural vs. WHOOOOOAA! This is what prompted me to stop training both heights and to stop running 5’6″ A-Frames in USDAA.
On a side note, the USDAA board will be discussing lowering the A-Frame for mini Performance dogs in early 2013. Reducing the height of the A-Frame to 5′ for mini Performance dogs would mean that they would have the same benefit as the big Performance dogs re: the A-Frame being lower than it would be if they were running Championship. So if you support the idea that mini dogs should be afforded the same lower A-frame in Performance as the big dogs currently enjoy, please drop Ken an email: firstname.lastname@example.org