A few weeks ago I introduced Lyra to basic jumping skills. When she understood that finding a jump and taking it created a positive reaction from me, I introduced a minor hand signal to indicate which jump I wanted. I also began facing her to complete this concept, which sets us up for directed jumping. Now I want to work on teaching Lyra when NOT to jump; I do not want her to jump on the “go out”, and I do not want her to jump before I ask for a jump.
To begin, I “miniaturize” the directed jumping exercise. The jumps are approximately six feet apart, and her platform is placed another eight feet or so past the jumps. The actual angles from the go out spot to the jumps are a little easier than what she will see in the ring, but the jumps are obviously much closer together. Over the next week or two I will change the focus of the exercise to the directed jumping portion of the exercise; at that time I will make the angle to the jumps very steep but the go out portion will be simplified. Train one concept at a time.
Since Lyra has been doing the platform much longer than the jumps, the platform has a very great draw. As a result, when I miniaturize the directed jumping exercise, she is very likely to go past the jumps to her platform, rather than taking the jump on the way out. If she does take a jump, I simply circle around and send her back to her platform from a closer distance. The lesson here is to go past a jump – even if it very close – when you are sent on a go out. Remember, she should only take a jump if I signal a jump.
After she is going out through the center, I alternate between rewarding the go out portion, or having her take a jump. This begins the picture of directed jumping. Lyra is learning a few things here. First, don’t anticipate. If she leaves her platform early, I circle her around and send her right back out. Second, watch me carefully, since Lyra cannot know which jump I will ask for, if any (I might simply return to her on the platform or call her off altogether). Finally, she is learning that it is correct to jump when a jump is indicated, but not to jump without a specific cue. This type of training early on helps a dog with stimulus control, and prevents dogs that turn into offering machines rather than responsive partners.
In this video, you can see the “I’m just throwing behaviors rather than thinking” problem for the first 30 seconds or so. She’s not listening to me at all; she’s guessing, so I do not reward it. Starting at the 28 sec mark, you can see she realizes she needs to listen and think. The session goes much better after this point. At the 1:18 sec mark, she makes a clear choice to hold herself back and to listen. I reward her decision.
When Lrya can comfortably pass by the jumps when she is traveling twenty feet or more, I know she has a good understanding of what I am asking for.
At the three minute mark, I introduced a very basic version of the retrieve over high jump. The purpose of this is simply to further proof her understanding of when to jump and when to pass the jump. This is NOT how I teach the retrieve over high jump, but I cannot introduce that until Lyra has a proper active stay, which she does not have at this time. To get around this, I simply toss her dumbbell over the jump and then talk her through the entire exercise. After taking the dumbbell over the jump, I return to the directed jumping set up. As you can see, that makes her more likely to fail the directed jumping exercise – she takes a jump on the way out – good! It’s very hard to teach a dog what you want if they never make mistakes. This is the stage where I want her to make her mistakes; when I have control over the entire exercise, and the reward schedule is extremely high.