Thursday, October 10, 2013

Jumping for Flyball

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.

 I 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.

Foundation Exercises

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. 

First 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).

Next 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!


  1. Love this. Can't wait to get my home internet back so I can actually watch the videos.

  2. Excellent information. Thank you for this!

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