Lyra is becoming relatively fluent on her current skills, so it’s time to add something new to her repertoire. This week I introduced some basic jumping skills.
There are a thousand ways you can start this. My goals for the next couple of weeks are threefold. First, I want Lrya to understand that going through jump uprights is a really good idea, and can create a big reaction from me. Second, I want her to fight to locate and take a jump. Finally, I need to introduce some signals and rules, so she can also learn that jumping only works when I want it. it’s just as important for Lyra to learn when NOT to jump as it is to jump. This blog entry and video will address the first two goals
To start, I created a favorable situation to make it likely that Lyra would go through the uprights – I walked over the jump myself and “hovered” in the area around the jump. Each time she followed me over the jump or chose to jump while I walked nearby, we had a celebration. Note that I often allow her to carry the toy while she is jumping. I do this for a few reasons, but the primary one is to convince her that ownership of the toy is not the goal – interaction with me is what really matters. She clearly gets it.
When I was pretty sure she had a clue about what earned a celebration, I gently “threw” her away from the jump by her toy. If she came back to the jump and went over, I made a fuss over her. If she went around, nothing really happened. In my opinion, it is absolutely fine to praise and give energy to a dog who is failing – as long as they are trying. I find that it keeps them in the game a lot longer than if I go silent when they fail. Not only is silence potentially punishing for most young dogs, it’s also a bad habit to develop, since eventually silence must mean that you are correct (think: competition). If you are right we have a party. If you are wrong I will praise but withhold the package deal.
By her next lesson, I am no longer going over the jumps myself, and I add in a minor hand signal to indicate when and where I want her to jump. I also toned down the party; once she understands what I want then it’s no longer such a big deal if she does it. Parties are a function of effort – she needs to give more to get the same reaction. Keep the rate of challenge high but attainable.
In her fourth lesson, I added a second jump with a bar. She got it right away so this was not difficult. Then I practiced sending her back and forth between the two jumps. I ignore mistakes and set her up to try again.
Note that the angles of approach to my jumps are very sharp. I do this to force Lyra to break eye contact in order to jump. I want my dogs to look at the jump rather than me when they appraoch – it’s both safer and increases the chances that they will actively look for a jump if they don’t see it immediately.
Now that Lyra has these introductory jump skills as well as a basic go out, I can introduce directed jumping. I will begin that in her next lesson by miniaturizing the directed jumping exercise and teaching her right away that sometimes we jump and sometimes we don’t! I think most people wait too long to introduce the idea of NOT jumping, and this causes a lot of grief in directed jumping where the dog only jumps in one direction. The way I communicate this will be recorded for a future blog entry.
This video shows lessons two and four of jumping; over four days.