I noticed that since our winter break Java has started taking off a little earlier and landing closer after the bar, both on straight lines and for cik&cap. This raised a red flag and I’ve been wondering what caused her to jump this way. I already have one dog that takes off too early and would prefer not to have another one.
In the past I have been told that a certain exercise by Linda Mecklenburg encourages dogs to only focus on their landing spot, not take-off spot and thus could lead to taking off early when in fact the dog should add a stride before a jump. We have been doing that exercise all fall and Java continued jumping beautifully. Then after not doing the exercise for two months we got this. Huh?
This got me thinking: what DID we do? Not much, but we did do a little bit of One Mind Dogs-inspired fun in the living room. Specifically Forced Front Cross which involves slicing a jump, something that Java didn’t see much of before winter. Slicing a jump like that could look to her like “take off wherever, land near the jump wing”, and interestingly Ruby who takes off early is very good at slicing. Could this be a coincidence? Or a byproduct of lowering her jump height? Before winter she was jumping 40cm, now she’s jumping 25… Or a sign of feeling less confident now… Or a sign of bad handling on my part? So many things to consider.
But fear not, there are things we can try. Java didn’t show any inclination to early takeoff last year, so this isn’t an ingrained habit. For starters I plan to set up a basic Susan Salo grid to see what she does there. I have videos from last year so I will be able to compare what has changed. I could also run her over a speed circle configuration which she knows very well (tunnel – three jumps – tunnel) and see if that triggers the memory of how she used to jump. Except the ground is dry and hard right now and I don’t want her running and jumping at full speed on this… I hope that weekend will bring the promised rain and soften the soil.
Devorah Sperber recently mentioned on Canine Jumping Forum that she was practicing tight bouncing grids with dogs all winter as a way of keeping them fit and happy while they were snowed in (she has australian terriers so she was able to do this in her living room). As they started running agility again she noticed that their overall jumping improved – they started adding strides where appropriate and generally looked more comfortable judging the take off spot. So that’s one interesting option for correcting Java’s jumping. Then there’s the Chriss Ott exercise which I have done with Ruby. Another option is Susan Salo’s Set Point exercise. And just in case slicing the jumps had something to do with this – no more slicing until I see nice jumping on straight lines and wraps!
As with any other training problem I think the most important thing to remember is: