Why my Australian Terriers don’t run all the way down the A-Frame

AT-dismount_loading_concequences_why_need_to_leap

(above) The top row of photos are rotated 32.5 % so the A-Frame is horizontal.  The photo on the upper right is the same photo as the large photo below, just cropped and rotated.

I sort of already knew this but it really sunk in after watching the video footage of my dogs running over a full-height A-frame yesterday.   You can watch the video I grabbed the screen shots from on yesterday’s post.

border_collie_AT_jump_arc_comparison

(above) Compare Lil’s jumping arc over a bar and jumping off the A-frame.  Incidentally, the Border Collie has a similar arc when jumping in extension but that is entirely different topic.
border_collie_loading

(above) Here is an example of how well many Border Collies (and other breeds) can collect and load well at top speeds, which makes it possible for them to jump UP at a steeper angle than an Australian Terrier.  The typical BC structure allows dogs to change the angle of their trajectories dramatically when jumping bars (running on flat ground, then UP and OVER jump, then back to flat ground) and also when running over A-frames (flat ground, then UP and OVER the A-Frame, then back to flat ground).  Longer legs also play an important role when running down the A-frame because like walking sticks, longer legs help dogs hold themselves back against the forces of gravity and momentum far better than shorter legs do.

Running_A-Frame_and_structure_2_13_11

(above) You can read more about this photo in a post I wrote in September 2012. https://artanddogblog.wordpress.com/2012/09/14/running-a-frames-and-the-long-backed-dog/

I think its fairly common for agility folks to attribute all “performance issues” to “training issues” but the more I observe dogs run agility, the more I see that structure can solve many riddles re: “why dogs do what they do” vs. assuming all performance riddles are caused by inadequate training.   In the case of my particular dogs, once it became clear to me that their longer backs do not allow them to load very well, I was able to see that its more natural for ATs to jump in extension vs. in collection (if they are running fast).  I also recognized that there is a limit to how high an AT can jump in extension with ease.   But that is a different topic.

Back to the topic of this post….I had a big AH HA yesterday…. drum roll please….

The structure of an AT influences how they jump on and off A-Frames the same way it influences how they jump over bars.  ATs jumping arcs are naturally longer and flatter when jumping on and off the A-frame because they don’t load as deeply as longer-legged dogs.  Duh.  🙂   As a result, their first stride on the A-frame is going to be lower than a dog who is able to load deeper and their dismount is going to be higher to avoid face planting due to their jumping arcs being flatter.

If my dogs were willing to move very slowly down the A-Frame, they would be able to crawl down, slat by slat, or crouch super low and grip the rubber with their toenails to slow their descent.  But this would mean slowing down A LOT, which would be difficult for them to do  and boring as well (for all concerned) so I have accepted that my dogs need to leave the A-frame from higher up than many other dogs.. and that is OK…. within reason.  🙂

This AH HA doesn’t mean I’m giving up trying to influence what they do on the A-Frame.  I’m going to continue to try to decrease Jake’s speed on the approach slightly to soften his first stride on.   I’ll also be continuing to experiment with various verbal cues to see how Jake and Lil respond to them in order to encourage the safest performances possible for each dog.

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