Collected Jumping

I’ve studied the pre-cue Front Cross for a number of years now. That’s the bit where the handler strikes a back-facing posture towards the dog while the dog makes his approach to the turning jump. A couple years ago it was positively epidemic in this part of the world…

And I had the constant observation that it had a terribly low success rate; and is as often as not used on dogs that have no need of it whatever. You’re probably wondering just what I mean by a “low success rate”. To me this is obvious. The handler is going through some pains to give the dog early information and to tell the dog that a turn is impending and the direction of the turn. It’s an obvious matter as to whether the dog understood the pre-cue.

My students have given me an ample laboratory to study this sans movement. And so I have a growing repository of data. Here’s what I’ve found.

  • A relatively small percentage of dogs understand the back-facing posture intuitively and will take the pre-cue of information.
  • The pre-cue might be taught to the dog

Early in my boy Kory’s training I’ve concentrated to a great extent on giving him permission to work at a distance. He will never be what you’d call a Velcro dog; that’s for sure. If there’s a downside to this training approach it is that he’s always looking forward and seeking out what’s next. So if I were to want him to wrap a jump into a tight turn (picture a Front Cross here) his turning radius will be way too big and unmanageable and frankly a terrible grind on him physically.

I find myself wanting him to understand the pre-cue Front Cross both for the efficiency of the turn and to save him from trauma on his front end. If he truly understands the cue to turn he will understand collected jumping.

Training Steps

1. I begin with a free-shaping game in which all I want him to do is bump my hand with his nose. The command I’m using is Close. And, I’m using it like a relative directional offering the nearest hand to him.

The hand is tight against my leg by facing back to him in a flat palm.

2. I move the game to the hoops.

First I remind him of his obstacle focus and send him through three hoops from a mostly stationary position.

And then I turn back for the pre-cue. The command sequence is “Hoop, Close!” I give both directives before he gets to the hoop. The expectation is that he will turn neat and tidy between me and the hoop as shown in the drawing.

3. I move the game to the jumps.

Again, I set the pattern for obstacle focus and send him on ahead of me into the tunnel. Naturally I’m getting work on the 2o2o bottom performance while I’m on the layered side of jump #2.

Finally I face back from the landing side of jump #2 for the pre-cue. The command sequence is “Jump, Close!” I give both directives before he gets to the jump. The expectation is that he will turn neat and tidy between me and the jump as shown in the drawing.


I actually worked Kory today through all three steps as described above. He was about 50% in understanding the pre-cue. And just so you appreciate that statistic he was at 0% yesterday… before I did any of the foundation work.

I have enough information now to be fairly sure than in about two weeks he’ll understand the cue up in the 95 to 97 percentile range which is plenty acceptable to me.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

Who was the actor who played the part depicted in this drawing?

The first correct answer, posted as a reply to this blog post, wins a free copy of the April Jokers Notebook.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: Check out my latest publication the Jokers Notebook ~ Dog Agility Distance Training Plan – April 2010 available on the Country Dream Web Store: . Readers of my web log get a discount: Enter “special04” in the box for the discount code. And that will take $5.00 off the price of the order.

7 Responses to “Collected Jumping”

  1. katie Says:

    brandon lee?

  2. Carole Says:

    Tim Robbins.

  3. zootdoggydog Says:

    have you been reading about ETS? Do you think it’s real or that it’s just a term for dogs who, like some horses, either lack understanding of jumping, or are fearful jumpers, or who don’t care if they hit stuff.

    • budhouston Says:

      To tell you the truth, it’s not about the dog not knowing how to jump. It’s really about whether he comes wrapping over the jump into a turn or fires through the jump in anticipation of working on. A dog who knows he’s getting ready to turn (understanding the information he’s been given in the precue) will get himself on the right lead and gingerly come over the jump into the turn. A dog who is firing ahead… will storm through the jump with so much inertia that it will be impossible to turn him in a neat and tidy manner… and that is just a question of physics in the same way that a cars braking distance can be calculated based on the speed it was going when the brakes were applied.

      You should explain to use what ETS means and site your reference!

      Bud Houston

  4. zootdoggydog Says:

    Early Takeoff Syndrome is a term coined by Linda Mecklenberg. Here’s a link back to her blog on the topic:
    My issue is that I suspect it IS a training or structural issue, and I just can’t see taking dogs out of the gene pool over this, until it’s known that it IS a genetic issue. I rode horses as a kid, and there were some horses who were bad jumpers…they were just bad, or didn’t care, and were not good at the task. It could be that with these dogs and/or that they don’t do well with any stress level at all, and are stressed via agility. I just can’t see this as a genetic issue yet, but that’s me.

    • budhouston Says:

      We’re talking apples and oranges here.

      My post did not focus on or allude to the problem jumper at all. And I think for the purposes of the discussion… I’m talking about anything but the dog with a jumping problem, whether structural or genetic.

      My post is about giving a dog pre-cue advice to an impending turn which should cause the dog to jump very differently that he might when continuing in a straight line. The real question of the pre-cue… is whether the dog intuitively understand the cue or must be taught what it means.


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