Cathy Slot Jumping Weekend

Finally my notes are ready. Apologies in advance for the mixed fonts in this post. Can I just say that the Blogger Post editing sucks. And I don’t do HTML.

A few weeks ago now I attended and worked Cypher at a jumping weekend conducted by Cathy Slot from Queensland. Cathy has had the honour now of working with Susan Salo’s methodology a number of times now including a whole week in Canada with Susan Salo herself in 2006. She emphasised she was sharing, to the best of her ability and recollection, what she had learnt from working with Susan and also through working with handlers and dogs on the East Coast. Cathy regularly reiterated through out the whole weekend that she was by no means an expert in jumping she never the less felt that Susan’s training methods had helped a large number of dogs who struggled with jumping and even dogs who needed to make their style more efficient and tidier. Cathy said that she was happy to share as much as she could, given that Susan Salo had indicated she wouldn’t be able to come to Australia to teach everyone herself.She also referred everyone to Susan’s articles in Clean Run (US) magazine. The following notes and images were transcribed from my scribbles at the three day weekend. If you are working from these notes, please remember that there isn’t a “set recipe” for all dogs. I must say it required a quite radical change in my usual methodology towards teaching jumping. I have been of the belief that keeping grids low for too long will results in dogs’ becoming lazy over jumps especially if when toes are clicking against bars or bars are being dropped that we do not mark it in some way. I’m all for getting them jumping at competition height asap so that there is less repetition on heights they will not see in trials and less chance for bar touching/knocking. The following weekend meant a rather big change in that approach however it is the first time keeping grids low has made sense to me. I can see that there is very good rationale behind it. I am using the following grids with all three of my dogs – only one of which has a bar knocking problem, the other two are needing improvement on their general style and ability to scope and take off points. Cathy did mention that once the dog is jumping full height, Susan will continue get them to jump a variety of heights, including during sequencing/exercises, usually including higher than their competition jump height.

  • Jumping Grids are a lifelong training skill

Every time your dog jumps there are multiple components to that skill/behaviour performance.
It’s like a question with multiple parts and if one part is wrong then the whole question is wrong.
The components of Jumping:

  • Path
  • Distance
  • Appropriate Judgement of Take Off Point
  • Weight transfer
  • Angle of Elevation
  • Height

Dog needs to be able to SCOPE which equals reading ahead and adjusting their stride. We want dogs to anticipate the job ahead.

The Dog’s job is to have a focused mind and be physically able/skilled.

Susan Salo’s Theory is that as handlers we interfere with the dog’s process.

Dogs naturally want to carry 75% of their body weight on their front, in front of their shoulder line.

The efficient dog often seems to be slower in appearance when being watched but in reality is quicker.

Agility equals a hugely complex problem solving exercise.

In weaving we don’t want the ‘pitter patter’ effect but we do want to see them driving into the weaves and maintaining their rhythm. The reason why Susan Salo uses jump grids is so she can control the environment and teach the dog rhythm.

Good jumping sounds soft and rhythmic. We need to listen more carefully to our dog’s jumping style. We do not want to see the dog pulling on shoulders or being inverted over a jump.

A lot of grids will be bounce work. The grids are designed for the dog to be successful not to catch the dog out.

  • PROOFING

We are not to do these exercises to death. We do not have to perfect #1 before going onto #2 etc. Susan Salo is changing everything all the time otherwise the dog learns a habit.
There are only two scenarios in all the grid exercises where you have the heights of grids at full height.

Jump humps are for 6 month old puppies. See image.

We need to think about the bars we use for proofing and make sure we use a huge variety of colours, sizes and looks.

With regards to speed the speed will come once the dog gets understanding.

Distance Exercise – Most important because every time the dog does it the picture has changed. IE a jump has changed distance in relation to the jumps prior or after it.

On Bend Work it’s important to note that the dog’s weight is inequable in distribution. The longer the stride the harder it is for weight transfer.

Susan Salo: You cannot have a dog who is perfect across the whole realm of jumping components.

Puppies & Jump Humps – Designed to help with:

  • Spatial Awareness
  • Path
  • Extend and Collect
  • Look Ahead and Read

The Dog always determines how fast you move on.

Plus independent performance of the jumping skills is what also determines progress.

Susan Salo: The dog should do what’s in front of it unless I tell him otherwise.

When doing grid work a lure or toy is used. High drive to a toy is very beneficial however food on a target plate can also be used.

When watching the dog jump we are looking for:

  • Ease of Motion
  • Fluidity
  • Smooth movement between obstacles

Dropped Bars are a matter of Cause and Effect

The cause is often outside of the dog’s power. Therefore both Susan and Cathy believe that punishing dropped bars is inappropriate and unfair.

Every hour of agility training that you do you should be putting in two hours of conditioning work.

Susan Salo: Prior to commencing bend work get a dressmaker tape measure and measure the width/circumference of your dog’s thigh muscles on both sides. If your training is more on one side than the other then you will notice a difference in the thigh measurements from one side to the other.

Most important repetition is the one you do the very first time because that reflects the dog’s natural way of jumping and ability to read the “puzzle” set.

Dog should use minimal effort to get over bar ie just enough to get the job done.

In Foundation Work:

For an unbalanced dog – give the dog the easy side, then hard side and finish with the easy side. Always finish with the easy side for the dog.

Perch Work – the weight should be on the front. Add a jump hump to each side of the perch so the dog has to step sideways with hind feet over the jump hump.

Ladder Work – Looking for trotting and rewarding low.

Tugging – Shouldn’t do it from side to side or up and down. Tugging should be back away from you in a straight line.

If a dog is knocking the same bar in a grid then you need to make the jump before or two jumps before look different visually.

BE CAREFUL OF NOT OVERFACING DOGS.

When Proofing only change one thing at a time:

Walking

Running

Sending

Coming in from behind

Throwing of the toy

We need to constantly ask ourselves Are our expectations too high for the dog?

Sit position is recommended at the start line however not with crunched shoulder position. The angle of the shoulders in the sit should be open and not closed via the dog crouching or going ‘vulture’ like.

Susal Salo: In her opinion the dog sees each jump as a specific jump they don’t generalise well.

Bar type and stripes affect the value of the jump to the dog.

Colours & Shape – Yellows and pale greens fade into the background.

Susan Salo: Some days it may not be what you think is successful as long as the dog is still trying you are successful.

  • SET POINT – this is the place at which the dog organises their body to leave the ground. The head should be low and the back soft and relaxed.
  • REPETITIONS – The Set Point Exercise can be done up to three times a week.
  • Whenever you do BEND grids should always start and finish with STRAIGHT lines

We always start off with the SET POINT exercise because there is no speed. It presents the correct take off point to the dog.


HURDLES

  • With Wings
  • Without Wings
  • Round Bar
  • Square Bar
  • Flowerpots at Wing
  • Flowerpots Under Hurdle
  • Something flapping
  • Panel Jumps
  • Tyre
  • Double Spread as a straight oxer
  • Triple spread as a rising spread

NEVER DO THE GRIDS NEXT TO A FENCE. Why? Because then the dog is not choosing and we don’t see it’s natural style.

Susan Salo: Does not like shaping the tyre. Trains hurdle first.

When the dog jumps two bars at once in the grids: lower grid then go in and reward between the two jumps in question.

PROGRESSIVE GRID Measures: 1 jump hump plus 5 jumps at 5, 6, 7 and 8 feet apart. IE Each grid is longer than the one before.

If dog puts an extra stride in then you should compress the jumps.

Cypher was not reliant on my movement as to whether he got his rear end under him well.

When training the Broad Jump put the bar at the beginning of the boards.

MOVING GRID – (helps dogs judge distance) 4 bars plus jump hump
Jump hump then 3 ft to first hurdle, then 6ft to 2nd hurdle, 6ft to 3rd hurdle then 15 ft to 4th hurdle. 6 Repetitions.

Rep #1 – Start as above
Rep #2 – Move last hurdle out half a foot
Rep #3 – Move last hurdle out another half foot
Rep #4 – Move last hurdle out another half foot
Rep #5 – Move last hurdle out another half foot
Rep #6 – Finish with the same as Rep #1

The amount of distance to move out or in on each repetition is determined by the dog. It does not have to be a minimum amount, the main thing is that it moves every time.

Once dog is understanding the above grid and is bounce jumping then can start with the 4th hurdle at 16 ft, 17ft, 18ft and so on. Should be able to move out to 21 feet for medium/large dogs after much practice. The last jump bar only can be moved up to full height. All other bars should stay low no more than 300 and can be lowered if necessary. If dog is surprised by placement of the last bar (or perhaps you want to check if they really intended doing what they did, eg after a bounce to 15 feet, instead of one stride) then do not move that bar out to see if they repeat the same performance. If so, it was intentional, if not it probably did catch them by surprise.

For small dogs the measurements are 2ft from jump hump then 4, 4 and 9 feet.

If dogs are two striding between 3rd and 4th bar then still move out at least one inch and
lower the jumps.

Reward effort EVEN IF dog puts two strides in or jumps two bars at once. Up to 21 feet is average for a Border Collie. 23 feet expected for average large dog.

The last bar can also become a tyre, flowerpot jump or spread.
Always be assessing the mental attitude of your dog.

When do you do what grids?

BALANCE GRID – Standard maintenance is just before a competition and once after the competition. For a high maintenance dog – then 3 times a week. Once a week is sufficient for a dog with no jumping issues. Once a fortnight do the SET POINT exercises.

Maintenance should happen before working in seminars and you should do the balance grids after these and competitions.

Bend Work should be done once a month for standard maintenance.

Basic Bend Work once a fortnight.

TURNS – Most dogs can power in or power out of a turn but cannot do both.

Susan Salo: The average speed dog can beat the superior speed dog many times over if it can use what it has and knows how to bend.

SLICE: What dogs do when taking jumps at angles. Susan Salo works the tyre into the slice.

GRIDWORK SUMMARY

Start with – Straight Grids then go onto Bend Grids and then Slice Grids

Always Finish with Straight Grids.

SET POINT EXERCISE. See images.



There are two options for where the handler can stand. Option A: In line with the toy or lure but at least 2 to 3 meters away parallel. Option B: In line with the dog but at least 2 to 3 meters away parallel. Handler needs to be out of the picture as much as possible. Handler may take one step forward.

Cypher needs to work on feet not moving when I go back and reward with food on the start line.

Dogs front two feet should be as close to jump hump as possible. Dog does not have to be perfect but you want the dog to be making eye contact with the lure/toy.

If the dog just launches and doesn’t put a stride in over jump hump and he does that twice in a row then move jump hump back away from jump in 3 inch increments. Also reward in the gap between the hump and the hurdle.

When doing this exercise do not alternate between lead out and send. Pick one option and repeat a few times on both sides. Then do the one you didn’t start with. This exercise starts with bar low and works up to normal height.

If the dog is not rounding nicely over the bar and is pulling with shoulders change the look. See picture below. Start with one piece of long PVC coming down one side. If still not happy then add the second piece on the other side.


For Puppies

Start with both pieces of long PVC forming a V from each upright and use a jump hump on the ground instead of a bar.

Don’t Forget: For all SET POINT exercises change the look of the bar/uprights (whole picture) in order to PROOF.

BALANCE GRID

5 Jumps plus 1 Jump Hump

For Medium/Large dogs

Jump Hump – 3 ft – Bar 1 – 6ft- Bar 2 – 6ft – Bar 3 – 6ft – Bar 4 – 6ft – Bar 5.

This is the Basic Standard Grid.

Always place Lure or Toy 2 stride lengths from the last bar.

Things to Look For:

  • Is dog landing in centre between two bars?
  • Does dog gets it’s back end underneath them?
  • What does the dog’s jumping sound like? Loud or feather like
  • What si the dog’s head and rear end doing?

Cypher’s style/form changed when I sent him as opposed to when I did a lead out.

BALANCE GRID VARIATION

Have 3 bars low and 2 of the bars high. (Still never at full height)

Bar 1 – Low (Medium large dogs 200)

Bar 2 – High (Medium large dogs 300/400)

Bar 3 – Low (Medium large dogs 200)

Bar 4 – High (Medium large dogs 300/400)

Bar 5 – Low (Medium large dogs 200)

Still 4ft apart for Small Dogs and 6 ft apart for medium/large.

Ultimate aim: To remove Bar 3 in order to one stride between 2 and 4.

PRIMARY BEND GRID


Exercise 1. 8 Repetitions.

Rep 1 – 3 have dog bend round one side three times. Keep the dog on a circle path with the placement of lure/toy.

Rep 4,5 6 have dog bend round the other side three times. Again keep the dog on a cicle path with the placement of lure/toy. Handler always positioned on the inside. May take a step forward if dog cutting inside of uprights.

Rep 7 and 8 – One in each direction

Cypher good at bending left, bending right more awkward.

Don’t forget should always do the STRAIGHT BALANCE grid before and after BEND and SLICE work.

Exercise 2

See Image

This exercise can be worked as a figure 8.

SLICING

See image.

This exercise teaches the dog to slice jumps (ie take them at acute angles)

To make slice angle more acute move jump humps out sideways. Three reps on one side then three reps on the other side.

The middle bar can be moved up to full height.

With slices it is important to work both equally.

Basic Grids can be turned into slicing grids. Exchange the bar in the slice exercise for a tyre and for a spread.

PROOF SLICES LIKE ANYTHING ELSE.

BEND WORK IS NOT PRACTICED ENOUGH – REMEMBER TO TRY AND KEEP HANDS AND BODY OUT OF THE PICTURE.

Troubleshooting:

For dogs that jump with heads high and gazelle like do the SETPOINT exercise that is set up for puppies except instead of jump hump as a bar you use solid panels. The two pieces of PVC are also V set on the landing side of the jump (the BACK of the jump). Jump hump is 3 ft away from jump panels.

Dogs with Early take off: MOVING GRIDS.

HALF CIRCLE WORK – A progression from Bend Grids.

See Image.


AIM: Want the dog giving 3 performances irrespective of where the handler is.

Rep #1 Dog does Bar 1, 2 and 3 (Toy placed on ground between 3 and 4)

Rep #2 Dog does Bar 3, 2 and 1.

Rep #3 Dog does Bar 1,2,3,4 and 5.

Rep #4 Dog does Bar 5,4,3,2 and 1.

Problems: Change things in the following order if not successful:

1) Lower the heights first

2) Break it down into segments second

3) Bring Arc in or out thirdly

Make sure you return to a balance grid variable heights after this work.

DOUBLE OXER GRID

See image:

  • AIMS: Trying to get the dog to have rhythm
  • Cathy noted our dogs have good toy drive
  • If you do run down the lane then you automatically increase drive and length of stride and you’ll never know if he actually understands/scopes/judges well

Progression: Not testing to see if the dog bounces each jump. If the dog is not bouncing then bring the heights down THEN bring in the last two.

Testing to see if dog judges that it needs more effort for each bar.

WHY WE USE A TOY. It decreases the impact of the handler.

Susan Salo: A dog can take anything up to 12 months to develop a good jumping style. Earlier for scoping skills to develop.

SCOPING: The dog’s ability to read and adjust stride over a number of variable distances and jump heights. This only starts to happen after a dog is completing the BALANCE GRIDS very well.

Six Meter apart jump lanes can be used for handling practice.


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Self Criticism Vs Critical Reflection

Just back from first session with Cathy Slot from Queensland who is over in Perth conducting a jumping workshop based on Susan Salo’s teachings. She has worked with Susan a couple of times now, including 7 days last year in Canada, lucky girl! Anyway this will only be brief as we are back early tomorrow morning for the practical side of things. I was just struck by an observation I had made about something she was talking about. It was regarding how we probably underestimate the power of watching our dogs and others run in trials as a tool for improving our own training in terms of how our dogs jump. It made me realise there is a difference between self criticism and critical reflection. Maybe it’s my edu-speak jargon coming back to haunt me, having been a teacher for seven years now but the word ‘reflection’ to me implies something you do in order to fix things or make them better or to try and improve. I’m not sure about other handlers but quite often I come off a course in trials in full on self criticism mode, able to articulate stridently to all around me (whether they are even remotely interested or not) exactly how I managed to stuff up that run and what a complete doofus I was in not seeing something early enough and what a pity it was because it was all going *so* well up until that point. I hardly ever (in fact never) take the time to watch any videos of my runs, or think about what happened or what I saw taking place in a reflective mode that is constructive rather than negative or completely destructive. Oh sure I go home and write down what happened in each of our runs, what bar dropped and where or what other errors happened. I have the acronym HE in my trial record keeping. It stands for Handler Error. Sadly it has a depressingly regular appearance. But I digress. All I’m trying to say here is that I really need to start applying more critical reflection and less self criticism to my runs. I know Agility is simply a fun sport we play with our dogs and I have managed to get much better over the years at not holding onto those self criticisms for too long. I know there are those out there who would insist such reflection is probably over thinking things but I am of the firm belief that if we don’t try to improve or make things better or become more skilled at what it is we enjoy doing then really, what’s the point? I’m sure people can appreciate that this self improvement can and should happen on many different levels depending on the persons’ perspective. Whether it’s a brand new agility person who simply wants to achieve attention from their dog as they are walking up to a start line or a world champ level who wants to shave those extra milliseconds off their run by tightening up a particular behaviour performance. It is all relative as they say. So I’m looking forward to this weekend with a view to becoming a more critically reflective agility handler/trainer. Jumping seems like a great place to start as no matter what venue you run in or even what event you do (with the exception of tunnellers I guess) there are always going to be jumps, and they are a whole puzzle by themselves that need to be solved before you can broach the whole agility course problem.

Training

Here’s a couple of courses I’ve come up with in the last week or so.
With the one above I was aiming for challenges in obstacle discrimination (Tunnel/Dogwalk), difficult angle broad jump, and also wanting to work Raven’s weakness in collecting, rounding over a jump whilst I’m doing a front cross very close to an upright (obstacles 12, 13 and 14 of the white numbers). The AFrame OR the weavers should be used depending on which obstacle you most need to work on. There was an issues with whether or not you could get a front cross in between 5 and 6 of the white numbers which depended entirely on how much you had to baby sit the difficult tunnel entry. If you couldn’t get there and then had to rear cross at 6,7 or 8 you had to take care to keep driving towards 8 otherwise the dog turned in on you. The angle for 10 to 11 (white numbers) was also tricky and with my guys I was having to indicate 11 *before* they took off for 10. There was also a debate about whether you did a front cross after 15 to get the line to the broad or you just did a pivot turn almost with shoulder pull and then a turn back into the dog’s line to get them straight over the broad. We think the latter option was quickest.
Set up this jumping course last night. My aims were to work extension into collection (The minimum distance of 4 meters between the following; 3 & 4, 7 & 8, 12 & 13), also to try and work on improving my ‘steady’ command for when I want her to jump collected *even* if I am driving forward. That one I worked on number 8. There was a difficulty changing the angle of the dog’s jump over 9 in order for the dog to be able to take 10 and not 2. I ended up having to give Raven a very firm ‘Back” verbal to get this one. There was little choice with the home run 16 through 20. I could not handle it with me being on the inside at all I had to stick to the outside and have her take those jumps on my left. It was a good training session.

Greg Derrett Chapter 5…The Conclusion

So this is the final chapter in my Greg Derrett Seminar series. It will finish off the Friday night seminar that concluded with Weaving and weave training and go into a run down of what we did at the final seminar on Saturday morning. The weave poles had been set up as usual. First let me post a picture or two of what our weave poles look like.

They are all made of flexible light weight pvc piping and are either stick in the ground individual poles or as in the second picture with the Border Collie they are slipped onto a metal base that is secured to the ground via tent pegs. As you can see they do bend quite substantially. So Greg had us set up twelve of our weave poles and then just asked those with the working spots to run their dogs through calling out after each one whether they single strided the whole way, double footed them or had inconsistent style (ie they flicked between both ways of doing them). The majority of the dogs had an inconsistent stride pattern. Greg said that he strives to get a consistent pattern with his weaving, he doesn’t mind which stride pattern the dog chooses to do more comfortably (however he said the single stride pattern was known to be the quickest) however he does work to make sure the dog consistently sticks to that pattern whatever it ends up doing. Greg trains his weaves using weave-a-matics and V poles and they will be the last piece of equipment that he trains a dog to do. So he explained the structure and design of the weave-a-matics for the benefit of our equipment makes in the audience, I kind of got the picture of what they should look like but I leave it up to the engineering types to make a set. Hopefully our club will have a set in the not too distance future. So Greg has the weave-a-matics out at home and when he first puts a dog on them they are of course lying nearly flat on the ground. See pictures below for examples that I got off the net.

So anyway as you can see the weaves are on a slant and they can slant all the way down to the ground (or they should be able to put it that way). He simply starts off getting the dog to run through them with him running along side with food or a toy on either side, with another person holding as he goes up the other end with toy and gets the dog to release and run through the poles to him. At this time he watches very carefully to ensure the dog is using even striding patterned footwork through all the poles. As soon as he can he brings the poles up by a couple of inches each time, always reinforcing highly and watching to ensure the stride pattern remains consistent, The second the dog starts to do something different with its footwork he lowers it back down an inch and does more repetitions at the lower position before trying to raise it up again. Greg did say that the aim was to get those poles into an upright position as soon as possible. When queried on head positions in weave poles Greg acknowledged that lower head carriage is always going to be faster than head held high (however he also stated that there are some dogs who are still very competitive despite their head position being higher than others). He didn’t have too many suggestions for how you could change this or even if you should try, again weaves being one of those obstacles where you simply should work with what the dog is physically capable of giving you and aim to make of that the best you possibly can. One suggestion was to use very, very short weave poles (ie half the height of the dog) so that the dog has to duck its head down to actually weave the poles. Greg wasn’t too sure how effective this works as he has only seen it done once and it appeared to work for that dog at that session he saw. He also noted that the type of weave poles we used meant that the dogs did not have to weave as much because he observed many dogs just pushing them out of the way because of the flex in them. This in turn caused some fast dogs to get hung up in the poles because they hit them so fast. His advice? Train on solid poles only, that way the dogs get used to not being able to push through them using their bodies as solid poles have no give in them. That way they actually weave with their whole bodies and learn not to touch the weave poles at all or rather just brush by them lightly. He has a drill to train his entries shown in the below diagram;

He got us to show how well our dogs were proofed on weaving by having us run halfway up parallel and then stop whilst they kept weaving. We then veered off to the left about 10 meters as our dogs had to finish the poles. He also go us to run with our dogs halfway up and then quickly flick around and run backwards on the same line as our dogs continued in the weaves, there were a few more I think that I can’t quite recall (didn’t get to write them down as was running Raven). He got us to send our dogs into the poles at a 90 degree angle over a jump, he then got us to run with our dogs doing the same thing. Then the final challenge was the 90 degree entry from over a jump with us rear crossing very closely. That one caught Raven out! I rear cross on her weavers often however never at that angle I must admit.That concludes his talk on weaving, the most important to points is to get fluency on the stride pattern and to bring those poles up as soon as you can. Then once you have that start proofing them!
Moving on to Saturday’s workshop, this again was done with Novice/Excellent level dogs and was the final workshop for the weekend. Jumping was first up on the agenda. First thing Greg did was set up a 4 jump grid that meant the dogs touched the ground twice between each jump. He wanted to have a look at the style of jumping on the dogs. There were one or two who needed work on judging their take off points but by and large he was generally satisfied that our dogs were good jumpers and had a nice style. He brought us back to the whiteboard. First thing he told us is that he is not in anyway a full expert on jumping and that everything he knows about it was gleaned from other more knowledgeable sources than himself. However he did say one thing he has always taught before starting any jumping is hind end awareness and weight shifting. This is where teaching your dog to go backwards and other basic tricks where they have to use their back feet is obviously one way of raising their awareness. He uses tugging as part of his method for teaching the dog to shift its weight back. He does many of the Susan Salo exercises as well as jump chute work but those things have never been a major part of any of his training although he has used them for many students who dogs with jumping issues. Greg believe that the double box work has helped to teach his dogs many of their jumping style skills and that by working double box regularly from the moment they are old enough to start jump training actually gets them well trained in jumping technique. He quickly drew up on the board some of the Susan Salo exercises which involve having bars on low to start with and placing them in a ‘W’shape using four bars with a bar at the bottom, so everything is very close together. There was also the use of a ‘V’ shape running from the uprights on one bar jump to help teach take off points. All these exercises I have seen and done before when one of our club members came back from a Greg Derrett/Susan Garrett Seminar in Queensland a few years ago. If anyone would like me to post the diagrams let me know and I’ll do so. Greg maintains that dogs (particularly Border Collie shaped/type dogs) jump better at the higher heights than the lower. He believes that Border Collies especially need to have the higher jumps to encourage that rounding of the jumping arc as they are so prone to jumping flat naturally. He said if he was competing here (where most BCs are in the 500 height class) he would be competing in the 600 height class. This was food for thought for quite a number of handlers.

Of course we brought the issue up of the bars being knocked what does he do? Greg ignores them. For two main reasons 1) He never wants that dog to slow down for any reason, it’s all about speed and if he starts trying to correct knocked bars this dog may start to slow down 2) He doesn’t believe you can ever really clearly, consistently punish for dropped bars. Out of the whole weekend or four days of seminars this is where I had the biggest difference of opinion with Greg. I knew it was a difference of opinion and knew if I said anything we’d probably just end up wasting a lot of time debating something that he is never going to change his mind on and I was never going to change my mind on. I must admit it was hard for me to fathom never ever letting a dog know that knocking a bar is *not* what I want. I should be clear here, when Greg says ‘punish’ for knocked bars I know that he would consider what I do to be a punishment. I stop running, I tell Raven to lie down (usually about three times), and I replace the bar and leave the course in a trial situation. In training I’ll stop running, tell her to lie down, replace the bar. Sometimes I will start again, sometimes I will continue on and sometimes I will leave and miss our turn. If I don’t do this and start ignoring her knocking bars she will start knocking bars more and more. Greg would probably say this isn’t working since she still drops bars. Yes she does, but she is dropping bars a hell of a lot *less* than she used to! I think to truly understand the importance of teaching your very fast, high drive, completely intense BC, to respect bars and not to touch them you have to actually own and handle a dog who really couldn’t care less if bars stay up or not (and yes I know this attitude was cultivated by when I started jumping her at around 12 months I didn’t take *any* notice of bars dropping). There are not many dogs like this, most of the ones I have seen or trained or instructed have a more careful jumping style or they just don’t have that flat out speed or they just don’t like the feel of hitting the bar. I don’t agree with any kind of negative punishment of knocked bars (ie electrifying bars, fishing line, threatening with dropped bars etc) however I do believe in the removal of the reward (for Raven it is getting to do the course or getting her treats if we are doing single bar work) if a bar is dropped, and I do believe in letting the dog think about why the fun stopped. Yes I know bars drop 9 times out of 10 due to handler error, and the majority of handlers and dogs will ignore their bars dropped in trials and training because the dog does not have a jumping issue. I will ignore most of Cypher’s dropped bars because I know he doesn’t have the same attitude and that he is a fairly clean jumper most of the time plus I need his speed up a bit more. However when you have a dog who purely knocks bars because she is just rushing her jumping too much (and this is only discerned after much soul searching) then you need to do something about it. I know I will never have Raven’s bar issue cured, there has been too many massive gaps in her foundation jump work (as in there wasn’t any…think I just went “Cool she goes fast and can jump over a bar….let’s trial!”) and her pure obsession with going as fast as she possibly can which often means leaving *no* room between her and the bar but I know I can make it better and that is what I work on. Now when we trial, more often that not I will see her try really hard (as in she will work hard to put that extra stride in to round her arc etc) to keep bars up and that is all I ask of her. Sure bars still come down and we still leave the ring but it is certainly not as often as it used to be. So coming back to Greg and his jump training philosophy I agreed with all the drills he recommended as I already do many of them. His approach to what to do with bars dropping will indeed work for most dogs, however having owned such a chronic bar issue dog from here on in I will never disregard a knocked bar. I will always stop what we are doing and put the bar up, no matter which dog I own or train in the future. I won’t have to say anything to them, they won’t have to lie down or anything I’ll just stop, pick up the bar and replace it and the game continues. This is not punishment in my book; it’s just letting the dog know that bar knocking has a consequence, if just for a few seconds.

Moving on….Greg then set up some great jumping drills that he works on at home. Unfortunately when I asked his permission to write all this up on the blog he asked me to leave out the drills from Saturday morning as they are quite new and they will indeed be on his next DVD due out soon apparently. So if you want to know what they are you may have to catch up with me at training one night when I set it up to work on or when I’m travelling around Australia to trial! Or it may be quicker to just wait for the DVD!

We then set up a jumping course that was brought to the seminar by an auditor and we discussed what way we would handle it if we were following Greg’s system for handling. It came back to the decision making again and this is something that makes perfect logical sense when it is broken down into tiny steps however to put it all together and apply to a full size course is another matter. Again we returned to the points system when looking at how to handle something. 1)Where are you going to? 2) What is the distance to the next obstacle? And 3) Where are you coming from? So when looking at a handling choice, such as in the two diagrams below (starting at #4):

There are decisions to be made about which way to take the dog over #5 and over #6. You can see the dog’s path shown by a red line in one diagram and a blue line in the other. We would have to consider where are coming from in terms of #4 to #5. If you ran it with your dog on your right the quickest line without any deviation for the dog would be for the dog to turn left over #5. So that is 1 point for left. We then look at the distance, clearly the shortest distance for the dog to take from #4 to #5 would be for the dog to be heading over #4 closest to the right upright and then wrap around to the right over #5. So that is 1 point for right. So then you go to your last handling consideration and that is looking at where you are going to according to where the last obstacle on the course is (not just where the next obstacle is). You can clearly see that the blue line from #6 to #7 places the dog on the best possible line for the run home, with that in mind looking at the decision you need to make about which way to turn the dog on #5 (remember we are at 1 point for left and 1 point for right so far) having the dog wrap LEFT around the #5 upright with you front crossing close to the upright so your dog is on your left as you head to #6 where you can do another tight front cross on the upright to wrap your dog to the right of #6 then adds 1 point to the wrapping your dog to the LEFT over #5 in the decision making. This makes it 1 point for turning your dog right based on distance but based on where you are coming from and where you are going to you get 2 points for wrapping your dog to the left. This then makes the decision about what to do over #6 no longer a decision. See diagram below with dog’s path in black.

Now this is just two obstacles on a very short sequence where we need to make a decision about which way to turn the dog. Greg’s points system is a logical way of working out the solution. It is something that I will try and use every course I walk from now on. Unfortunately it is still at the conscious steps phase for most of us, that is; we all need to literally step it through with each question and we don’t always get a clear cut answer straight away, or put it this way we don’t *see* the clear cut answer straight away. It can take us quite a while to work it through on something fairly simple like the above examples. We need to get far more proficient and natural at recognising very quickly the best path for the dog to take. As Greg said, he’s been playing this game since he was 12 years old so by now this sort of course decision making is as natural as breathing to him. The rest of us shall just have to work damn hard to get there! Another added advantage of using this system is you quickly identify what skills you need to train for or improve on. Sometimes handlers do not take the glaringly obvious quicker more efficient line for the simple reason of they don’t feel confident enough in their skills to ask this of the dog, they know their dog is not so good at it or they know they themselves are not so good at something (270s, pull throughs, rear crosses, front crosses, post turns, serpentine handling, lead out pivots etc etc) and so they end up taking a longer route, which may of course allow them to go clear, gain a qualification card and even move up a class. I have certainly been guilty of this when trying to gain titles (yet I do note what skills we need to work on and I never settle for baby sitter handling!). So this is one of the drawbacks of not using the win out system in our agility, it does allow handlers to move up even if they don’t have some of those skills at even a very primary level (ie barely proficient). This will in turn lead to some mediocre performing dogs attaining the top levels, it is inevitable. At the end of the day I don’t really have a problem with this as I know Australia will always have those handlers who will strive for perfection in every skill they need for agility and as long there are those I think the ‘must go clear’ system works very well for us.

I have one more additional diagram to include that after reading back through my GD posts I realised I have omitted in my Chapter 3 on front cross drills. I included this diagram here;

What I left out was another diagram that showed the next step up from this one. Initially we were all worried about cracked kneecaps and injured dogs when Greg first put this up.

As you can see the handler really has to move it from the #6 obstacle to well past #8 in order to pull this off. How well it was done depended on how much you had to babysit your dog over #7. However I am glad to report that there were no collisions , perhaps a few near misses but in the end just about everyone achieved it without too much trouble. Our biggest issues was that we were thinking about getting to #8 before ensuring our dogs had committed to #7. It was a very fine line to judge!

So that is the conclusion of this series on Greg Derrett’s training seminars. There was an enormous amount to take in and I certainly will be going back to these notes time and again no doubt, for many of my training needs. It will be fascinating to see his next DVD and I look forward to his long term project one day; that of taking his young pup Detox all the way from 8 weeks old to what he hopes, will be a future World Champion. Any questions, suggestions, comments or feedback greatly appreciated, it may be a long time now till our next presenter!