Check out the dives beginning at 4:35 and 6:36 and notice how very deliberate, yet unusual each diver’s “pre-striding” looks. I think it is reasonable to assume these world-class divers were trained to stride towards the end of the platform in very specific ways to help them launch with consistency and power.
Now watch the following slo-mo video and notice how very deliberate, yet unusual my dog Jake’s “pre-striding” looks. I can’t be sure if jump training played a role or if Jake figured this out on his own but it looks to me like his pre-jump head bobs may be a way of physically preparing to jump– a canine version of what those two divers did before launching off the platform. The video also shows a couple of early take-offs due to him leaving out that final stride after the head bob (a break in his pre-striding pattern).
I think this might shed light on the mystery of why some dogs drop their heads the stride before taking-off when jumping? ps–I’m not referring to dogs who crouch low and then jump from that position but rather to dogs who do a little pre-jump head bob like my dog Jake.
A note about the two crashes. While they are difficult to watch, I think both crashes were caused by the same underlying issue… that Jake needs time to perform his “pre-striding” pattern in order to jump 8″ bars with relative ease. RE: the first crash, he was going to run around that jump but at the last-minute decided to jump it and as a result of this “change of plans,” he could not perform his usual pre-striding pattern, which may have caused his “failure to launch.” A couple of people who saw the first crash from a different angle thought it looked like Jake’s rear legs slipped out from under him when he tried to take-off for that jump which could be another explanation for that crash.
In the second crash, it looks to me like it was caused by a combination of a difficult set up spot and the “sling shot start.” If you pause the video during that crash, you can see that he took-off early and then realized mid-air that the jump was too far away, so he aborted that initial jump but he was unable to regroup fast enough to jump that first bar so he sort of just barreled through it.
Based on my personal observations of Jake’s jumping style and his response to jump training (this trial took place after months of playing HGR jumping games which helped Jake learn HOW to run fast and jump in extension), my personal conclusion is that Jake’s unorthodox jumping style is likely caused by a structural issue, an orthopedic issue, or a combination of both which make jumping more challenging for him. I also think his unusual pre-striding pattern helps him prepare for jumping like the two divers’ pre-striding” patterns helps them prepare for jumping off the platform.
Because of those two crashes at that trial, I took Jake for an orthopedic evaluation by a specialist who sees a lot of agility dogs. X-rays and a physical examination of his joints while under anesthesia showed that his knees and hips were fine but that he had minor arthritis in his lower back, which the vet said is typical to find in agility dogs at 7 years old. I don’t know what, if anything caused Jake’s rear legs to slip out from under him. Regardless, after that trial I dropped Jake’s jump height to 4″.
Here are a few connections I see between platform diving and agility-style jumping:
1) They both involve intentional striding in order to hit a specific take-off spot. In this regard, platform diving is easier than agility jumping because the diver always starts at the same stationary set point. Whereas agility dogs need to jump 18-20 times in a row with many variables like spacing, angles, and types of jumps.
2) They both involve unnatural activities. Granted, most humans are capable of running and then jumping off the end of a platform into water and most dogs are capable of running and then jumping over random logs in the woods. I think most people would agree that not every human being could learn how to do what those divers did, even with advanced training. Yet I find it so strange that many agility people think every dog should be able to jump 18-20 jumps (set up in random configurations and at heights determined by human beings) as well as every other dog, and if a dog struggles with jumping, then there must be something must be wrong with the dog.
3) Structure plays a role. I think it is safe to say regardless of training, not every person will become a gifted diver and not every dog will become a gifted jumper. If you take into consideration the wide range of canine structures, I don’t understand why anyone would think all dogs should be able to jump agility-style jumps with the same level of ease.
I believe some people and some dogs are built particularly well for particular sports. My sister Nancy is a perfect example of a person built well for a particular sport. She started running competitively at the age of 50. She quickly rose through the ranks and at the age of 53, she is competing at a world-class level and winning BIG races!
I can say with 100% certainty that I am not built to be a world-class runner. Even if I trained as hard as my sister trains, which is highly unlikely 🙂 I would never be able to compete at that level. That doesn’t mean I can’t run, but rather that I’m just not built to be a great runner like my sister Nancy is.
Moving on to the topic of dogs and agility-style jumping…. I think most people would agree that Australian Terriers’ longer backs are not ideal for the type of repetitive jumping found on agility courses. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be great agility dogs. Both of my Australian Terriers appear to have a total blast running agility and at the end of day, isn’t that what truly matters? Well… coming home with a bunch of ribbons is also kind of fun! 🙂