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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Jump Solution

Kirby and I have been taking agility classes for appx 2 years now. I think. Anyways, jumping has not been one of Kirby's strong points. Well, he can jump just dandy if it's strait up into the air or to catch a Frisbee. When that is the case, it's like Kirby was born on springs for legs. But 12" agility jumps?  90% of the time, he just blows them off.

I'm not laying all of the blame on Kirby though. I'll take half of it, becausemy handling skills are nowhere near perfect. My positioning probably made him think he didn't need to take that jump.  But once my handling improved, the jumping did not.

Our agility instructor, Rick, put his thinking cap on. He pulled me aside and gave us some homework. I have a few agility jumps at home. I was to start with one. Set up Kirby as usual. Instead of treats though, he told me to keep a tennis ball in hand. After Kirby was released and I was certain that he was committed to taking the jump, I would mark it 'YES!" and throw the ball. 

This worked almost immediately and during the first night we were able to add a second jump. This actually ended up failing about half the time, so we went back to class and discussed with Rick and he tweaked our homework a bit. Now I was to send him off to jump and mark/reward, but each time I started backing up and moving out. This was teaching distance. There was a time when I would have to turn really close into the jump to force Kirby over it and prevent him from coming into my side and blowing it off. We had no distance. But soon we were able to add jumps and I could begin on either side from a good distance away. 

We have absolutely not 'mastered' the agility jump, not by any stretch of the imagination. But we've greatly improved. By the next class, Rick said it was like he was a completely different dog, taking most if not all of the jumps he was asked to!

Switching from treats to a tennis ball had huge effects on the agility course. We have since begun using it elsewhere, and I'm kicking myself for not doing it earlier because I'm sure we would have advanced a lot quicker. 
As long as the black dog is having fun though, it's alright by me. And I really enjoy our agility classes. I've always had really nice classmates and it's educational to watch them work as well and pick their way through their own issues and come up with a solution. Sometimes it helps me, sometimes it doesn't, but may help somebody else. As long as I can afford it, I will likely continue taking classes even after we begin trialing. While I will technically be taking the same class multiple times, they are never the same. Paws Abilities trainers have always been excellent at looking at the individual team and breaking each class down to fit the needs of it's students. Our main focus for our last Intermediate Agility classes was jumps and handling skills. We are beginning Intermediate Agility again and those 6 classes will probably focus on something completely different. That's the beauty of it.