There are several things that have led me to start doing foundation jumping and stride training for flyball on a regular basis.
1. I have a dog in training and I don't want to retrain her later.
2. I am retraining Pax, who doesn't have great natural striding for flyball and didn't get the best foundation.
3. I am co-teaching an Active Dog Foundation class and want to make sure my students get an excellent foundation.
have a lot of experience with using props to control my dogs stride and
jumping in flyball, but it's always been to fix a problem. And they
often launch the prop too. The problems started because I originally
didn't use any method to train striding or jumping. I just sent my dog
over the jumps and hoped for the best. With my border collies Indigo and
Goose, this worked just fine and they run well. Now I know that was
luck. Pax was a big wake-up call. I didn't worry about his jumping and
hoped he would sort it out with more experience and then I tried
(unsuccessfully) to fix his run. A striding problem turned into a box
turn problem and at his worst he loses 0.5 - 0.3 seconds.
1. Shaping a jump.
In flyball some people use gates or block dogs to get them over the
jumps. What is the dog learning? Not a whole lot. This is common
training in agility. You can start out with your dog on a leash and wait
for them to move toward the jump and keep click/treating each step
until they go over. Then try different angles and different heights.
Then add a collar restrain. Before adding more jumps, I like to see a
new dog going over one jump from various angles. This really helps dogs
that bail out on jumps. You may want to be careful about training this
too much. With a bad bobble on a fast team, a dog that takes the jumps
no matter what may be more likely to crash.
2. Jump Grids. I've
been adding jump training to our Active Dog Foundation class. The
purpose of this is to teach prop respect and to teach either shortening
or lengthening a stride. It really helps to study Susan Salo's method
before attempting to try grids. I learned her basic grids and then
adapted them for the needs of flyball, which is obviously very different
than agility. They can be used to teach 3 strides, to fix double
striding between jumps or any launching or prop respect problem. I have
used several different grids, but this basic one has been really helpful
for training Pax to stride properly between the jump and the box.
I set up a grid with jumps spaced 5 feet apart. I am not using speed
and not rewarding for launching two jumps. I have the jumps fairly high
to make it easier.
After tons of repetitions, he was reliably NOT launching and his jumping looked nice and smooth (rocking back and head down).
I made the jumps lower, used a starting point and added some speed. And
did many many more repetitions. I did this exercise almost everyday for
a few months.
Now I do THIS exercise almost everyday, which incorporates the exercise I do to improve turning
with the grids at full speed and one of the jumps flat on the ground. It's made a huge difference for him and it's how I exercise him some days.
Here I took similar jumps to the ones used in the grid and incorporated them into the flyball course.
3. Passing and Launching the Start line
I hate the passing exercise that uses a wide jump. This
teaches dogs to jump over the start line. We actually want them to run
through it. It's very useful to have something at your practice that can
be used as start/finish stanchions and get lots of practice running
through them. This can start with no jumps and just doing recalls
through the stanchions and then add two jumps and do a restrained recall
from the dogs starting point, over the two jumps and to their tug. You
can also add another set of stanchions at the end and use two dogs to
train both passing and running through the start line. I hope to get
video of this soon!