The A-Frame is a Jumping Obstacle… for some dogs

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I put together a composite that seems to support the notion that the A-frame is a jumping obstacle…. for some dogs at least.

It also answers the question: “Why do my dogs hit the A-frame so low?”

Answer: “They are not hitting the A-frame low. They are hitting it at the peak of their natural jumping arc.”

(top row) Jumping ON the A-frame, (2nd and 3rd rows) Jumping a 9" bar with 2 images rotated to match the A-frame angle, (4th row) Jumping OFF the A-frame-- images rotated so the down ramp is horizontal

(top row) Jumping ON the A-frame, (2nd and 3rd rows) Jumping a 9″ bar with 2 images rotated to match the A-frame angle, (4th row) Jumping OFF the A-frame– images rotated so the down ramp is horizontal

Lil is already jumping the equivalent of a 14 or 16 inch bar in order to hit the A-frame as high as she is hitting it, so I don’t think I can do much if anything that will significantly increase the height of her first hit.   But I believe I can soften the hit by training Lil (and Jake) to collect and power down a little before jumping onto the A-Frame.

(above) video that I grabbed screen saves from to create the composite image of Lil running over an A-Frame at the top of this post

I have a plan and have done a few preliminary sessions and I have say it looks very  promising.

Follow up on EGC workshop and handling the path vs. the obstacles

I had so much fun, I forgot to video tape some runs at the EGC workshop as I had planned.  So all I have is a description.  What a great group of people and dogs.  It was so much fun to watch everyone run and to run my own dogs… and we all had some good some when I sent Lil out AROUND a barrel and instead of going around the barrel she raced out another 20 feet and ran through a yellow tunnel… 3 times in a row.  HA HA HA.   Apparently she did not recognize Lynn’s larger red and white barrels as being something to go AROUND.   Jake, on the other hand, saw the barrel as something to go AROUND and ran around it… the wrong way but WHO CARES!  🙂

We had  a very diverse group of dogs: 1 Border Collie, 1 Aussie Shep, 1 Pug,  1 Border Terrier, 1 Golden Retrieve, 2 Australian Terriers (mine), and 3 Mixed Breed dogs.  It was really fun to see dogs taking advantage of opportunities to let loose and RUN while also meeting the challenges Lynn presented us with.

Lynn saved the best for last… Extreme Hoopers.  Looking at the set up, you’d  think it would be extremely difficult but dogs seem to GET it without any formal training. Below is a video of Amanda Nelson running Extreme Hoopers since I can’t possibly describe this game with words.  🙂

Yesterday showed us all how great EGC obstacles can be for pointing out flaws in our handling.  This is because well-trained, experienced dogs will cut handlers quite a bit of slack if they KNOW the obstacles.  So by using new obstacles,  handlers had to be very clear in “showing the path” or their dogs did not seek out the new/ unfamiliar obstacles.

The two most popular 🙂 handling flaws were sending a dog towards an obstacle with an arm flick followed by a drop of that arm, and ceasing forward motion once the dog was out in front of the handler.   These techniques tend to work OK most of the time with experienced dogs and familiar obstacles but it was great to see how sensitive ALL the dogs were to what the handler was doing (or not doing).. .even when the handler was directly behind the dog.

I’ve been working on breaking both of those habits as part of the goal I set for myself in terms of handling which is: To speak to my dogs in the language they understand best …..MOTION and to use verbals as a secondary form of support.

The concept of handling “the path” vs. “the obstacles” can sound strange to people who are unfamiliar with the terminology… but I think this concept lies at the core of every handling system out there, and works equally well on every style of agility course yet it is often lacking in terms of actual handling.  I think we’ve all seen handlers doing all the right moves but if they are not also supporting their dogs’ path, their dogs lack fluidity, drop a bar or two, pull off an obstacle,  or run slower.  I find it so interesting  that the inventors of the most popular “systems” in the USA are great at supporting the path with their personal handling.  Perhaps this is something that needs to be learned from the “inside out,” or maybe it is just too difficult to communicate through videos and books in a way that people are able to implement it, or maybe it is because people cannot SEE how other people are or are not supporting the path until they know what they are looking for.

I think a great way to train your eye to SEE handling better is to watch videos.. but instead of focusing on the handler, focus on the dog and watch the video a couple of times.  Make a note of every time the dog looks at a WC obstacle, knocks a bar, adds an extra stride, or head checks.  Then go back and watch the handler in the moments leading up to each bobble.  I find this method of watching videos to be very enlightening in terms of SEEING what is really happening, including how well the handler is supporting her dog’s path.

On a final note, for the past year I’ve been focusing on letting my dogs know it is OK and even  GREAT for them to race ahead of me when I send them to GO ON.  Yesterday Jake and Lil definitely “won the race” every time I sent them ahead, while I continued to support their paths with motion even if I was just walking.

Awesome hike this morning!

For the first time in months, I took both dogs for a hike in the woods early this morning.  I had been avoiding the woods due to so many ticks earlier in the summer but yesterday, I ran into a “tree guy” and he had not seen ANY ticks lately so I figured I should take advantage of the timing as I’m sure the ticks will be back in full swing any day now.  I don’t know if it was the crisp fall air, or the fact that my dogs have not been for a hike in the woods for a few months, but they had such a blast, racing full speed ahead and back to me, again and again.  It was truly magical to see them so alive and happy!

I kept Jake on a long line, but Lil continues to have such a great recall, even with a bunch chipmunks chirping their heads off :),  that she got to run off leash.  I made a concerted effort to run as fast as I could whenever Lil was running ahead, so Jake was able to run with quite a bit of freedom and speed but I definitely could not keep up with Lil.  🙂  I don’t think I’ve ever seen Lil run as fast as she ran today, and I was stunned to see how effortless her jumping looked over various-sized logs, gulleys, and other natural “agility” obstacles.  Since I didn’t have a camera with me on the hike, I inserted a series of photos of Lil jumping at camp last week.

I cannot imagine a better way to start off a beautiful, crisp, fall day!  It was totally exhilarating for all three of us!  Now, I’m hunkering down to work for the next few days in order to meet a pressing deadline.

Lil’s running dog walk at NADAC trial last weekend

I couldn’t be more pleased with how good Lil’s running dog walk is looking!  Just one high hit (but still in the contact zone) and many very nice low hits.  She clearly understands the criteria. YEY!

I’ll be posting some of her runs in a day or two.  She ran fast and confidently all three days  and earned 4 new titles and 13 Qs!

Great progress with extension jumping!

For the past four months, I’ve been focusing most of my attention on Jake and Lil’s  jumping.   I have seen very good progress in the backyard so I felt it was time for the ultimate test… a NADAC trial.   NADAC is a great venue for testing jumping skills because the courses are fast and the jumps are spaced at a whopping 21′ which is five full strides between every jump for my dogs.  It has been a long time since I have gone to a NADAC trial, so I had forgotten how much fun they are for dogs and people.  We all had such a great time, I’m going to another NADAC trial this coming weekend!

Jake has always dropped his head and shoulders before jumping, but his jumping at this trial looked comfortable for him and his striding between jumps looked nice and even.  BTW, my sweetie-pie Jake has come a long ways in terms of staying in the game.  I was very proud of him!   I didn’t get a video of his Open Tunnelers run but he Q-ed it and he can get very WHOO HOO running Tunnelers, especially first thing in the morning.

OK. This was NOT my best handing on either video! 🙂  NADAC courses are so different from USDAA courses, that it took me most of the day to get my timing down and to stop calling Lil into handler focus when I didn’t need to….most apparent in Tunnelers.

Lil and Jake both felt very confident when jumping!   The person video taping zoomed in a lot for their jumpers runs, but you can get the general idea of how fast they were running and how well they were jumping!   All in all, there were just a few earlier-than-ideal take offs throughout the day and no dramatic launches by either dog! Oh and Lil got 4 of 4 Qs and 4 blue ribbons,  Jake got 2 or 4 Qs and 2 red ribbons and I wasn’t really trying to Q.

A couple of days before the trial, it occurred to me that I should run my dogs over a few 21′ spaced jumps since that is much wider than what we usually practice. This video is just of Lil, but Jake managed the spacing very easily too.

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! :)

Yet another reason to love Silvia Trkman….like anyone needs one!

My recent post for Silvia’s Agility Foundations class:  Here is a short video of Lil’s current serpentines plus a few reps jumping over angled jumps. We have not practiced serps for a long time due to focusing on straight jumping and cip&cap.

Lil will normally seek out and take serpentine jumps with very little support from me. I wonder if the reason she ran past some jumps was because I was not in my usual position (which is typically further ahead).  It felt good to feel rushed by Lil’s increased speed and drive over the jumps.  I definitely felt more comfortable when I took more of a head start and was a bit further ahead of Lil.  I’m not sure any of this is visible due to the camera angle though.

Lil’s speed has picked up considerably since starting this course and as a result I am having so much fun running with her….not that it wasn’t fun before! It’s just more fun now!

Now I just need to be disciplined enough to do very little jump training between now and next weekend since we have another trial. Jumping has become so much fun its like eating ice cream… hard to stop until the bowl is empty! But I want Lil’s “jumping bowl” to be over-flowing for the trial!

LoLaBu’s avatarLoLaBu

That sure was fast! Great job! She is really flying, so… – who cares about a couple of missed jumps :) You do want to be ahead for a serpentine yes and you can help some with the arm too, you just don’t want to do any extreme turning as you want to keep 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.

Lil takes a ride on her new “magic carpet”

This is Lil’s second day running on her new “magic carpet.”  It is different from a typical magic carpet in that the “magic” of this carpet is that it encourages Lil to run more and fly less!  ps–Silvia recommended I switch from a board to a carpet to get rid of the bounce Lil was taking onto the board sometimes.   This detail is important to me because Lil currently leaps onto the A-Frame sometimes and hits it harder than she would if she just strides onto it.

The carpet seems to be working beautifully!  I am also finding it easier to see what Lil is doing on a 12′ carpet vs. an 8′ board.  It’s also easier to “see” when I focus on just one aspect of Lil’ performance: running vs. bouncing.

I am surprised that Lil  only takes 3 strides across a 12′ carpet.   I would have expected 4 strides but I’ve seen several Australian Terrier do lure coursing and they all seem to run this way when running full-out.

My questions to Silvia were: Do you think I am “calling” the leaps accurately? After watching the playback, I wonder if some of the reps that I called “perfect” had slightly elongated strides on or off the carpet. Or is it OK when Lil takes a longer stride on or off the carpet?  And when should I be throwing the ball? I sometimes threw it after she was already running and sometimes before…

LoLaBu’s avatar


Not so easy to decide with this style of running yes… But I pretty much agree with your comments, just that last one doesn’t look all that good to me. My favorite try was 1:34. Ideally, she runs with equal strides the whole time. You need to throw a toy early enough that she sees it well in front when nearing the carpet.

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!