Lil’s Excellent JWW run at AKC Trial, Albany Obedience Club, July 1, 2012

Unfortunately I didn’t get video tapes of Lil’s other 2 runs, but she ran beautifully all day long and it was very HOT (90+ degrees), HUMID, and SUNNY.  JWW wasn’t as fast as she normally runs, but I was pleased considering it was the last run of a long, hot day.

She came in 10 seconds under SCT  in EXC JWW and 28 seconds under SCT in EXC STD!

Things are really starting to fall into place!

I couldn’t resist any longer and set up Silvia Trkman’s Lesson 5 sequence this morning. The video includes every repetition and a lot of mistakes, plus some late verbal cues (one was so late, I think Lil had already taking the jump when I said WRAP… big OOPS on my part) but I was SO happy with Lil’s energy and speed that I just kept going.

An extension jump after a tunnel is a difficult jumping scenario for Lil so the fact that she jumped #7 so beautifully once and pretty well some other times made my day!

I don’t think you can see how YAHOO Lil was in the video, which I think caused some early knocked bars, but she seemed to figure things out without losing her YAHOO-ness or speed. I feel like everything is starting to fall into place and that Lil’s confidence and jumping skills have improved enough that she can now jump while running super fast!!! I am not sure the angle of the camera accurately conveys her ground speed but she was really running! :)

Lil’s jumping is getting better and better!

I finally got to practice the Week 4 sequence for the first time yesterday, but when I got to the training facility, it was raining so I had to set it up indoors with limited video positions but I think it was good enough to get the general idea of things. I threw in some extra straight jumping, since that is what we’ve been mostly working on, and I also rewarded mostly after straight jumps (vs. wraps) for the same reason.

I thought Lil jumped the back sides of jumps better when I said AROUND vs. WRAP. ps–AROUND is the word I’ve been using since Lil was a puppy so I think I’ll continue to use that word for the back-side of jumps.

It stopped raining so we moved outdoors and finished the session with some extension jumping. Lil’s speed and confidence over straight jumps feels so much better than when we started Silvia’s on-line class.

I started with 8′, one-stride spacing then tried 16′ spacing and I thought Lil managed it pretty well. She still tends to launch a bit over the first jump but I think that is slowly improving too (and she didn’t even do it every time today).

This was the first full session of jumping we’ve done in a while and I don’t intend to do more than one session like this per week but Lil seemed totally fine throughout the session and is currently racing around the house, so I don’t think I overdid it.

I am hoping the improvement I wrote about is visible on the video vs. only existing in my mind due to wishful thinking.


LoLaBu’s avatar

LoLaBu on May 3, 2012 at 12:24

Yes, her jumping sure looks great now! Really fast and smooth, with no real launches!

And really nice wraps too! I don’t think she wraps better with around though, I just think your body language was better than as you were moving towards 7 sooner. First time, you’re not telling her at all where you are going next and then do that sudden front cross when she is in the air what of course makes her knock the bar. Compare my position and direction of the feet when Le is going to 6 – that’s my secret of being fast :) If I wait until the dog is in the air to start circling my feet, all bars come down because of lack of information on where to go next – and I end way behind…

Anyway, we’ll get to “around” in the next lesson, but around doesn’t necessarily mean collection, so you certainly still need a collection word on 6. In some situations, I’ll say both, around + cik/cap, but I wouldn’t say around at all at 6 because the dog is already on the right side of the jump, so they need collection info much more as “push out and jump toward me” info.

More valuable feeback from Silvia

For the record, I do NOT think Lil has ETS (Early Take-Off Syndrome).  The reason I am focusing so much attention on Lil and jumping is because all dogs occasionally misjudge the distance or height of a jump and knock a bar.  Some dogs don’t seem to care, but I know with my dogs, if they knock a bar, they both tend to “try harder” not to knock additional bars.

There are many ways dogs can “try harder” not to knock bars.   They can over-jump, fling themselves over jumps, flip their rears up in an exaggerated way, tuck their back legs in tightly vs. extend them, drop their heads and shoulders before jumping, slow down, or any combination of the above.  Because Australian Terriers are such powerful little dogs,  I think it is fairly easy for them to jump inefficiently and if repeated enough times, an inefficient style of jumping can become habitual.

Here is my most recent post on Silvia’s Agility Foundation Class Site:

Dev: We had a typical practice session on Sunday, and included a lot of A-Frames, since I normally only have access to the one in my studio. Lil’s A-Frame striding was not consistent, but she mostly hit well within the contact zone (a couple near the line, which I didn’t like very much but definitely in). The A-Frame was set at 56″ which was 3″ higher than it was the last session at the studio.

The other reason I included footage from this practice session is to show how Lil is jumping.  I’m wondering if perhaps I should take a break from straight extension grids and just focus on cip&cap. Or perhaps change the spacing of the straight grids to force a little more collection?

Based on the practice session, Lil’s jumping was on my mind so I watched a few of her USDAA runs from a year ago where she had some faster and slower runs. I think overall Lil takes better set up steps when she is running slower (taking shorter strides vs. longer full-out running strides).

At this point I don’t know which style of running and jumping I should be encouraging?  Do I set up jump grids to encourage shorter strides and prettier jumping? But if I do that, will Lil lose speed?…. Speed is way more fun for me and I assume for Lil too????

Or do you think it will be a trade off with a dog built like Lil… that she will either run fast and jump early or run slower and jump prettier/better? 99% of the time, when she jumps early, it looks like it is easy enough for her to do.

I have been doing single cip&cap at 8″ recently, as seen at the end of the video.

Silvia: Cool, the AF looks nice and smooth – always in is good enough.  Jackpot the lower hits and keep going for higher ones. I would stay on this height for some more sessions. Cik&cap look good with the mat too, so I would keep working like that. Extension grids would be good too if you could find a distance that gives you good take off, but I wouldn’t go for slow and nice take off no. It’s normal she jumps later when going slowly, but she needs to measure the distance right even when coming with more speed. – Maybe she will learn that with speedy approaches to cik&cap, so yes, maybe focus on that for now, giving her a really speedy approach. Maybe she will still jump too early in extension, but yes, I guess I would take that over less speed…

A bump in the “Loop and Wrap” road

Below are recent posts and videos I uploaded to ST’s Agility Foundation on-line classroom about some issues Lil had this past week with the progression of  “Loop and Wrap.”   Silvia’s response is at the bottom.

I condensed the following video as much as possible but I wanted to show how high the failure rate has been. It was even a bit higher but I edited out some reps that were the same as others.

Lil tends to be very specific re: shaped skills so I’m wondering if she is confused about the criteria re: Loop and Wrap due to weeks spent with bars on the ground. I wonder if she thinks Loop & Wrap do not involve jumping?

The first session on the video below is Lil’s first Week 2 style multi-wrap session. I think it did not go well partially due to my holding a toy and Lil focusing on me vs. the bar. But I don’t think that was the only issue. Lil lacked her usual “pizazz.” The failure rate was so high, I went back to single loops and wraps.

Then I experimented with different set-ups to see how they would affect Lil’s performance. The thing I liked most about the last session on the video is that Lil looked like her usual happy self. As you will notice, Lil often takes off further away from the jump than the “ideal.” I question whether this is a training issue or just the way she jumps due to her structure. My other AT also jumps early. I am open to the possibility it is a training issue since they are both my dogs :) .

ps–I didn’t mention the obvious.. that Lil is having a much harder time wrapping right vs. looping left.

Below is a 1:56 minute video showing a comparison between my two Australian Terriers jumping. I started training Loop & Wrap with both dogs in mid February. Jake, my 6-year-old, tends to turn much wider than Lil when he runs courses.

I thought doing a few modified Loop & Wrap sessions over a higher bar might help Lil focus more on the bar when I lower it again.

Below is 1:36 minute video of another experiment….. using foot targeting to encourage Lil to land further away from the jump with her feet facing the correct direction. I was hoping that it would encourage her to take nicer set-up steps.

Lil’s first session doing the Week 2 sequence. ODDLY, I thought Lil’s wraps looked better than her loops due to nicer set-up steps overall. GO FIGURE! :) Strange coincidence? or did one of the experiments actually have an effect?

LoLaBu’s avatarLoLaBu

It was a good idea to try different things – try to review it in slow motion then, see what gives you best take off and then just go with that. Normally, the problem goes away with more height – but I would pay extra attention to it with Lil as it’s true that this type of dogs have tendency to jump too early. You can also try to use a wing-jump as a wing makes an approach a bit easier. You can also try it with higher bars and see what you get there. A target and screen could help too yes.

Silvia’s Response to Lil’s first sequence session: Cool, looks good! In time with your verbal and arm cues, nice speed and yes, very nice wraps, but not so good loops, so time to spend some time on those!  And yes, try lower hands. High arms are good for sending, but when using a pre-cue hand for a tight turn, it’s better to keep it low and close – especially with small dogs!

I will be focusing my attention on the following elements when my dogs practice “Loop and Wrap” in the coming weeks and months:

1) the set-up step– how close it is to the bar and if the set up step is perpendicular to the jump vs. setting-up the dog to slice away from the turn.

2) the direction of the dog’s head when taking off for the jump.

3) the direction of the front feet upon landing after the jump, which should be facing the direction of the turn.

4) how far from the jump the dog lands.

Obviously the first performance affects the next performance and so on. If the set-up is perpendicular to the jump, then the dog can turn its head when taking off. Since the body follows the head, the dog should land with front feet facing into the turn. And if the set-up step is reasonably close to the bar (vs. early take-off) the dog should land a nice distance from the bar.

Taking Silvia’s advice, I will see what it looks like over higher bars.  I’ll also switch to only using wing jumps for now and I’ll add the screen barrier on the landing side of the jump sometimes as a reminder to land a bit further from the bar. I will also be watching videos in slo-mo to confirm my “real time” observations.

Lil’s progress with LOOP and WRAP and independent weave poles

Yesterday I shoveled out an area of snow in our backyard. It  is actually a layer of  ice on top of very dense, slushy snow.  The grassy area around the jump is slightly larger than 4 feet in diameter and the “runway” is about 3 feet wide.  The bar was set to 4 inches and I reversed the wing jump so the supports are not so close to the bar. I also varied the angle of the jump so Lil’s approach was easier at the beginning of the session.  After watching the video, I think my saying YES, when Lil was jumping, was distracting for her at times.  But I think it would be great for her to be able to stay focused on her job while I’m being my overly enthusiastic self.  I’ll be keeping my eye on it to see how it is working out….

Silvia’s Response: Looks good! Great distance already! I don’t think it was your yes that was making her knock, I saw it before your yes if she will clear it or not. She clears it nicely when she goes all the way to the base and wraps it, but sometimes takes off too early and just crashes into a jump, like at 0:52. Try to recognize this style in time to not say yes to those tries and not reward them. Also, try to find a pattern in when this happens – easier to fix it if you know why it happens…

My follow-up post: Silvia’s feedback is great news to me because I can see how training “Loop and Wrap” will give Lil many opportunities to develop an efficient and consistent pattern for approaching jumps. Plus it will give me many opportunities to see if I can pin point the specific scenarios that cause Lil to take off early.

My first thought is that early take offs happen when Lil is rushing and fails to take a set-up step before the jump. When she does set herself up well, she jumps the bar straight (vs. slicing it away from the turn) which makes it possible for her to continue with a tight wrap after landing. I’m not sure a long-backed dog like an Australian Terrier will be able to bend as tightly around a jump like a lot of Border Collies do, but as long as Lil takes a nice set up step and jumps the bar straight vs. slicing away from the turn, I think she will be able to clear the bar and power out of the turn.

The next time we practice “Loop and Wrap,” I plan to position the video camera perpendicular to the jump so I can see the angle of Lil’s set-up step and the direction her feet are facing when she lands so that I can mark and reward “better than average” performances.


LoLaBu’s avatar

LoLaBu on March 6, 2012 at 18:38

Exactly. Not every dog can wrap the jump as BCs or Kelpies can, BUT they can all learn a lot on appropriate take off and can find a different way to meet the criteria. La is also not nearly as flexible as my BCs, but she can turn really tight by adding an extra stride to get a good approach and then throws her hips in one direction to land on the right line.

Moving along…

Today was the first day Lil practiced Loop and Wrap with 2 widely spaced jumps (25-30′), with one additional straight jump between them.  Lil seemed to have more obstacle focus after I added the straight jump in the middle.  I think the vast distance between the two jumps was too much for her to grasp.  I will try it again in 5-7 days and see how she does with it.

I was very pleased with her energy and speed since she has never been 100% confident in this particular facility.  Not sure if it is the dirt or a scent but she has a great work ethic so even if she is not 100% confident, she gives it her all.

I added a soundtrack of “Jovial Jasper” performed by a friend’s percussion band, Nexus.   There was too much ambient noise….happy dogs eager for their turns plus my high-pitched GO GO GO when Lil was weaving.  I really should do something about that (my voice… not the happy dogs!)

Silvia’s Response: What a great commitment! But yes, maybe try a normal figure 8 first and then add the middle jump. Nice weaves too, just make those entries and challenges more&more extreme gradually.

Silvia Trkman’s long-distance Agility Foundations class begins

Agility Foundations began February 27, 2012 and will run for 15 weeks with new lessons added every 2-3 weeks.  The way it works is that Silvia posts a lesson and participants upload videos in order to get feedback.   In some ways it is better than being in a traditional workshop because we can work on things over time and get feedback as we progress.  Silvia has been responding to videos and questions within a few hours and I’ve already picked up some great training tips by watching other participants’ videos and reading Silvia’s comments about them.

The purpose of uploading videos is to present an accurate representation of whats going on so I am not editing out “failed attempts.”  Below is my first video upload with a description:

Lil’s first session doing cik & cap over a 4″ bar. Until now, we’ve been using a 2″ stride regulator.  I noticed on the video that I was sometimes setting up Lil so she had to jump over the wing support AND the bar when wrapping to the right. That didn’t work so well.. and caused her to hit a few bars. Next time I will start a little more forward so she doesn’t have to also hop over the support on the ground… unless this is something you think she needs to learn how to do?

RE: Weave poles:  My changing directions was way too distracting for Lil when you will see on the video. I am thinking that I should start by just slightly turning my shoulders while standing stationary at various locations along the poles for our next session, and gradually add more turning, and later adding movement????

Silvia’s response: Cool, getting there! Slowly add more distance to cik&cap and try leaving earlier&earlier. And yes, use an angle that doesn’t make her jump the jump support! The weaves are going well, but yes, slowly add more&more extreme entries and more&more extreme distractions. I think a “soft” distraction you did at 2:16 was a very good start, so I would continue like that and only make it more extreme through several sessions. Running hard and turning around was too much for now, but you could try sudden stops, gentle turns and similar to slowly prepare her for everything.

More on “Cik and Cap” and jump training

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!

Dev says:

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! :)

Powering out of tight turns, running fast and jumping in extension

We are now a few days into Silvia Trkman’s Cik & Cap method for training tight turns and powering out of turns.  But since Lil has been having trouble jumping well when running fast on straight aways, I wanted to add that element early on, thinking it will be good for her to practice running fast over a bar on the ground before gradually raising all the bars back to full height. The other element I am adding early on is me running with Lil, since my movement can be distracting and cause her to jump inefficiently.

So yesterday I set up a pair of wings and a pair of cones (since that is all I have at my house right now), with a Manners Minder about 15 feet beyond the 2nd jump.  My focus was on Lil powering out of 180 degree turns, running fast and jumping in extension over the second bar.  Adding that 2nd jump on the straight-away created the exact jumping scenario Lil has been having trouble with lately.

After watching the first few reps (unfortunately I didn’t have my video camera out yet), it became clear that Lil was bouncing over the bars vs. driving or just striding over them.

The first video clip shows how Lil often takes an extra step before jumps on straight aways, which diminishes her speed.  But you can also see at the November trial that she sometimes over-jumps, which can diminish speed by transferring forward momentum to upward momentum, not that I felt her slowing down at that trial.  But I could definitely feel something wasn’t quite right at the December trial.  I just couldn’t put my finger on what it was.  The final video clip is of a CPE trial from one year ago.  You can see that Lil’s striding is not even on straight jumps and that she often takes off a bit early.  I wouldn’t go so far to call it ETS (early jumping syndrome) but it is not the most efficient way to jump.  ps–I am open to the possibility that Lil (and Jake) will always have a tendency to take-off a bit early when jumping.  And I am OK with that as long as it doesn’t involve dramatic studder stepping or crouching before jumping.

I can think of two reasons I don’t want Lil to over jump.  The first is because it slows her down and it is much more fun to run agility at maximum speed.  The second, and more important reason, is that what goes up must come down.  Bouncing vs. driving makes for harder landings. The other thing that causes a dog to land hard is when the dog doesn’t know a tight turn is coming well before it approaches a jump.   I believe this is the most important aspect of training Cik & Cap.

Over the past few days, I have been thinking about how I have been using the verbal cues Left and Right in a general way, adding specificity to them through movement, body language or following the words Left or Right with “Lil, Lil, Lil” which means wrap tight and come back towards me.  But I am now thinking it would be better to have different words for wrapping left and right so that my dogs know well in advance how tight a turn they will need to take.  My practice partner came up with two good verbal cues: Loop and Wrap, which I just might be able to remember since Loop starts with an L and Wrap phonetically starts with an R.

Today I am looking forward to doing a short session focusing on speed, tight turns and powering out of 360 degrees and multiple turns around cones and wings with the bar at 2″ using a ball vs. the Manner’s Minder.

These sessions are so much fun!

A Fresh Start

I love fresh starts! There is nothing more exhilarating than letting go of the past and starting with a clean slate.  I’ve been feeling that way in my studio about my new series of work.  And I can now say I’m feeling that way about Lil and jumping too.

I  bought Silvia Trkman’s “Cik & Cap” DVD over the weekend and watched it uninterrupted from beginning to end.  The objective appears to be training tight turns and maximum speed coming out of the turns.

When I trained Lil to run around various objects when she was a puppy, I did not focus at all on speed coming out of turns.  Recently, I have noticed that Lil sometimes stalls out when jumping and wrapping tightly back towards me.  I thought I needed to train her to NOT turn so tightly, but after watching Silvia’s DVD, I now think the hole in Lil’s training is that I have never trained her to power-out of tight turns.  This insight alone was worth the $60 I paid for that video.

Over the past few days, I’ve been doing a couple of short sessions a day with my dogs turning tightly around a cone and powering out of the turns.  Since both dogs already know how to spin fast in both directions, they had no problem staying tight when turning.  But I felt my mechanics weren’t quite right in terms of how, when, and where I tossed the ball, so I watched parts of the DVD again, this time focusing on Silvia’s movement vs. her dogs’ movement.

My goal is not to try to replicate Silvia’s movements, but rather to modify my own movements in a way that gives the clearest message to my dogs.  While watching the DVD the second time, I noticed that Silvia often, but not always, uses an “early arm” to cue her dogs to turn in a certain direction (“early arm” is a term used to describe when a handler changing arms before they actually change sides, so the dog knows a turn and side change are coming).  I’ve gone back and forth about which arm to use for various cues and for the past couple of years, I have not been using an early arm to pre-cue turns or a change of side.  Of course, after watching Silvia’s video, I feel compelled to re-think that again (SIGH) along with the thought that if I start using an early arm to pre-cue turns, then to be consistent, I’ll also need to switch the arm I am currently using to indicate a change of lead is coming (which some people call “switch”).  Darn.  I thought I had this all figured out.  I am going to think a lot more about it before I change what I’m doing to make sure I really think it is worth while, since my dogs would need to relearn my “arm language.”

The other thing I noticed was that Silvia uses a great toy.  It functions as both a ball and a tug toy.  It is a “Hol-ee Roller,” which is an open-mesh rubber sphere that rolls when you throw it and stretches then you tug with it.  So it turns out that you can have it all, at least when it comes to dog toys!

I ordered a 5 inch  “JW Pet Company Hol-ee Roller Dog Toy” on for $6.53.  I hope it is not too big for my dogs.  The smallest sized Hol-ee Rollers looked like the rubber mesh would be too thick to stretch well enough for maximum tugging fun. I think Silvia uses a 6.5″ ball with her Border Collie.

On the topic of playing fetch vs. tugging, some agility people have strong opinions about why they think tugging is much better for motivation and relationship building than playing fetch.  Here is why I think playing fetch is great for motivation and relationship building.  As far as motivation goes, a ball that is thrown low to the ground will keep on rolling so the dog needs to run super fast to overtake the speed of the ball in order to grab it.  Compare that to a tug toy that is thrown and just plops down on the ground.  Dogs are smart enough to know it is not necessary to out-run the tug toy, since they know it will stop on its own.  Of course, some dogs naturally love to tug so much that they race ahead to get the toy in order to bring it back to play tug.  It took me a while to build enough value for tugging for my dogs to really get into playing tug, but based on my experience with my particular dogs, which happen to be terriers, they run super fast when chasing any moving object like a chipmunk, each other, or me, so getting them to run really fast in pursuit of a moving ball was effortless.  As far as relationship building and playing fetch,  I am fairly certain my dogs know that the ball is not throwing itself :).

So in keeping with Silvia’s thinking of agility as just another game, once I knew my dogs loved to chase balls, added a tight turn around a cone before throwing the ball was all I needed to do to encourage maximum speed out of the turns.

One more note about playing fetch with a ball. Jake plays fetch in a conventional way.  But with Lil, I have always used two balls so that she doesn’t stop in front of me with the ball.  She races around me, dropping the ball she has while I throw a second ball (like the way a lot of competitive disc dogs play with multiple Frisbees).  This way the fun and action never stop. The other game I mix in is to sometimes ask her to drop the ball, mid-way back to me.  And when she does, I throw the other ball, low to the ground, in her direction.  She gets very intense, crouches low, and gets very spiral eyed waiting for me to throw the second ball. I use this game to test her state of arousal and reflexes at trials, especially after she has been napping. She has to be very alert to catch a fast-moving ball that I am throwing directly at her.  This crazy game seems to reboot her brain if she is sluggish.  As fun as these games are, using two balls is not ideal for rewarding  tight turn around a cone, because it takes so long to go through the two ball routine, so I am hoping to transition Lil to chasing the Hol-ee Roller and fetching it in the traditional way, so I don’t have to change the current way we play with two balls.

So what does any of this have to do with helping Lil learn how to jump well when running fast?  In my opinion, everything!  This morning I transitioned to wrapping around two cones with a bar on the ground in between them and Lil looked great.  She had more drive with this set up than she did with a single cone.  I plan to switch back and forth between cones, wings, and jump standards in the coming weeks and to gradually increase the height of the bars when I feel Lil is ready.  I also plan to start integrating tight turns and powering out of them in sequences during agility practice (with bars on the ground to start).

I believe the main benefit for my small dogs will not be the tightness of their turns, but  rather that they are learning how to power-out of turns.  I think this will translate into better jumping in all situations because if they learn to power-out after all jumps, that should translate into a flat, extended arc over straight jumps, causing them to land further away from the jumps, which in turn will eliminate the need to over-jump, butt flip or jump early to make sure they clear the bar.

Of course, I know I could be entirely wrong about this.  But we are all having fun with these new games.  Time will tell if it ends up helping Lil learn to jump well when running fast.