Winged Jumps ~ the First Distance Challenge

I begin with winged jumps on day one of Beginner training. While there are venues that don’t even use wings I aspire for my students to be able to play capably in the international-style venues. The wing is a decorative and distinctive embellishment to the jump that adds to spectator appeal and a sense of grand design.

Wings also add visual acuity to the hurdle itself. They make the jump stand out distinctively to draw the dog’s focus and seldom will fade into the jumble of background clutter. And, if you think about it, if the wings are of various and glorious colors, they’ll create a distinction for the handler to sort out order and direction as he conducts himself and his dog through even the most complex sequence.

But there is no question about it, the wing is the very first distance challenge to be faced by dog and handler.

The wing of a jump represents an obstacle to movement to the novice handler who feels compelled constantly to have his fingers around the dog’s nose ring. Indeed, with the very novice dog, this is very nearly true.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Why would the dog go on when the handler has come to a complete stop? There’s the rub. This leads handlers to silly habits like tossing a bit of tasty food treat over the bar of the jump to entice the dog to jump the bar. What the dog trainer should sort out, however, is that the dog’s not really jumping in a biddable fashion or even learning anything truly about his job. He’s just taking the shortest route to get the food treat.

What we do in our Beginner classes is make the introduction to the jump at a bit of an angle. The dog follows the handler’s lead which is extended out to his side. As the handler moves forward to the landing side of the jump the wing passes under the handlers arm. The wing will “pry” the dog apart from the handler making performance of the jump the only way for the dog to attend the handler’s movement.

We can also approach the jump using the opposite wing to pry between the handler and the dog. It’s really the same concept. We should practice the mirror image of both presentations.

What I’d really like for any student of mine to understand are the basic principles of the “Laws of a Dog in Motion”. A dog tends to work in a path parallel to the handler’s path. The dog turns when the handler turns.

So, if the handler squares up for a winged jump and makes the approach so that he has to step aside to avoid running into the wing, the signal he is really giving the dog is to do precisely what he (the handler) did… avoid the jump.

We should subject the “pry apart” system of introducing the winged jump to the dog to the rational litmus of the dog trainer. Does the dog really understand his job? Or are we just brushing the dog off on the jump because it’s in the way? I would suspect that the latter is mostly true. However, the handler has an opportunity when using the “pry” to actually reward the dog for his effort which is a far sight more effective than luring the dog forward with a kibble toss.

It is profoundly ironic that about the last obstacle for which the dog learns performance focus is the jump even though it is the most omnipresent of all the obstacles. You can observe the phenomenon again and again at a certain stage in a dog’s training where he might veer aside from any sane or logical path to plant his butt on the downside of a contact obstacle, or jump up on a table, or dive into a tunnel. This is mainly because the dog has a high reward association with those obstacles and underscores fundamentally that the dog’s trainer (often the same culprit as the handler) has given almost no behavioral / performance conditioning for the jump itself.

An early attendance to the details requires that the dog’s trainer engage in a simple program of incrementally progressive sending to the jump; attended with timely markers and the lavishing of reward whether it is a bit of food or a game with a toy.

This illustration shows the handler making a very modest pitch (about 8′ to 10′) out to a jump whilst himself striking a rational path alongside the wing of the jump rather than straight at it.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

In the Movie The Two Towers Merry and Pippin were ensnared by Old Man Willow. They were freed by command of the Ent Treebeard. But in Tolkein’s book they were freed by another. Who freed Merry and Pippin from Old Man Willow?

First correct answer, posted as a reply to this blog post, wins a free copy of the June Jokers Notebook.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: BudHouston@hughes.net. Check out my latest publication the Jokers Notebook ~ Dog Agility Distance Training Plan – June 2010 available on the Country Dream Web Store: http://countrydream.wordpress.com/web-store/ . Readers of my web log get a discount: Enter “special05” in the box for the discount code. And that will take $5.00 off the price of the order.

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One Response to “Winged Jumps ~ the First Distance Challenge”

  1. mark & ebby Says:

    Tom Bombadil

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