I write this blog with trepidation.
Each sport comes with it’s own culture; beliefs, expectations and norms vary tremendously by sport. What is common knowledge in one sport is frowned upon in a different sport.
Ideas about jumping are no different. Some people believe jumping should start early and others wait until the dog is mature. Some people believe jumps should be raised slowly and gradually, rarely practicing at full height. Others believe that jumps should be raised quickly and dogs should be maintained at trial height.
Some trainers don’t teach jumping at all; they simply show a jump to the dog and hope for the best.
I won’t go into my entire philosophy about this; that would create consternation and much room for debate and argument and I’m not up for that. But….Lyra is almost a year old, and I’ll do a birthday video of her training. Many of you will notice that she is jumping. Indeed, not just jumping, but jumping significant heights and distances. So before I create angst, let me fill you in on a few things that I believe. This works for me; you should do what works for you.
I teach jumping at a relatively young age. Age varies by dog; I introduce jumps when the dog shows good body control. In Lyra’s case, she reached this point at about ten months of age, so that is about when we started jumping. I am not obsessed by growth plates or muscle development; I look at the individual dog and what they do on a daily basis. Because my dogs live a fairly unrestricted life, I have plenty of opportunity to gauge their level of coordination and to make decisions based on that information.
If an adult dog will be expected to do significant jumps, then I introduce them early in a dog’s career while their bodies are very flexible and it’s easy for them to take on physical challenges. Not so different from young athletes; you don’t teach a 20 year old how to do a handstand; you teach a five year old.
My experience is that controlled jumps (where the dog is sent to a single jump in a straight line) rarely cause injury. I’ve never had a dog injured in this fashion regardless of the height. The exception is the palisade used in ringsport (a vertical wall); I have had dogs injure themselves on this particular piece of equipment on a few occasions, so I am leery of it. I am not sure when I will introduce Lyra to a palisade.
This video shows Lyra learning the high jump. The jump is set at 32″; she is seeing this height for the first time. I have been raising the jumps about 4″ a week for a few weeks. At this point I’ll keep her at 32″ for another month and then I’ll take her up to full height (39″) by about 14 months of age, unless I see something in her style that concerns me. By 16 months or so she’ll be doing a full height jump with a dumbbell. For AKC she’ll jump 24″, for schutzhund 39″ with a dumbbell, and for ringsport up to 44″.
Lyra is set very close to the jump. Indeed, she is so close that she has no room to run at all. Contrary to what you might expect, placing her very close to the jump makes her likely to succeed. She can gauge the height accurately, and she is forced to use her rear to push up and over the jump. This will build muscle development and confidence. As the jump increases in height, I will give her one or two strides; no more. Distance creates speed, and speed over high jumps spells problems. The only place I allow for speed in jumping is in the AKC retrieve and in directed jumping, but in both cases the jumps are low enough that it is not a concern for a young and athletic dog. I have been very happy with what I have seen teaching jumping in this manner.
When moving to a new height, Lyra often hits the jump one time. I have never seen her hit the jump more than once, and she is not concerned about it. If she were a more fragile dog, I might have to introduce this in a different manner.
Lyra practices her higher jumps a few days a week; not more than five or so times in a session.
Lyra is also learning the broad jump (long jump for ringsport). In AKC she will jump 48″. In ringsport the shortest distance is 9 feet, so that is our current target.
In this second video, Lyra is jumping about six feet. She jumps straight and goes out to a target. The bar jump helps her to recognize the boards as a jump. In this video you’ll see her land on the long jump for the first time, but she learns from the experience and her next jump is better. Soon I will move the bar to the end of the jump and she will learn to use it to guage the distance of the jump. I will not increase the distance of this jump until she consistently looks straight ahead when she is sent.
Now that Lyra can jump, she has been started on all of the exercises that she will need to in the future.