CLASS COMPLETE DESCRIPTION
Agility is changing rapidly and handler skills and techniques are constantly improving. The communication and timing between Handler to Dog is becoming more and more important. The courses are faster and more technically demanding on both dog and handler. The dogs are moving at such high speed and as such they need to learn how to handle their bodies safely, fluidly and confidently at these speeds in order to react quickly to the information being given.For a successful jumping course, as handlers, we need precise handling, a good timing of commands and the ability to make fast and accurate decisions for the dog’s path and lines.
On top of these components one of the most important skills is for the dog to understand how to jump correctly, confidently and with total understanding of the jumping task. With good handling we can influence the speed and length of a dog’s stride, the way of how a dog approaches a jump, the take off point and the information of what happens next.
While running in the course, we wish to guide our dog through the most optimal path, so that we can get the fastest time for each dog. First however, a dog needs to know all of the basic and advanced techniques of movement and jumping and when we look at this we must take into account the following:
• The collection of the Stride.
• Adjustment of the stride (lengthening or shortening).
• Lead leg changes.
• Suitable transfer of body weight in accordance with situation.
• Dog understanding of his own body e.g. his correct reaction of front feet, the connection between the front end and hind end and the opening of the hind feet.
• The understanding of the take-off and the landing point.
• The Bending of the body while turning.
With jumping, the correct push-off point is crucial whether jumping straight or turning. Arriving at the correct take off point will determine the whole jumping picture.
We also need to understand that the take-off point is determined differently for each dog. This will depend on the dog’s structure, his athletic abilities, his jumping technique, his experience and so on.
Whatever the height of the jump, the correct take off point will be the same distance measuring from the center of the pole on the floor along the floor away from the jump.
If we are working with lower jumps (especially with large dogs) the take off point is adjusted to each individual dog, based on his length and movement and is NEVER SHORTER THAN THE LENGTH OF HIS BACK.
In order for our dogs to turn into good jumpers over many obstacles with different spaces and tight turns, he will need to learn many jumping skills, have much knowledge and understanding and this can be taught with specific and focused exercises and regular training.
GENERAL INFORMATION REGARDING COLLECTION
When we think of the word collection, we first imagine a visibly shortened and a slower stride. Whereas the word collection actually means: “The transfer of the weight in movement to the hind legs with a purpose to push off from a horizontal movement to a vertical movement”.
With collection, a dog will make more strides over a given distance whereas with an elongated stride he will make fewer strides for the same distance.
While extending, the dog’s hind legs will travel forward and not upwards as it would be during collection. While the dog extends his stride, he will straighten and level his hind joints and move forward horizontally covering more space.
To achieve collection, a dog must shorten his stride, but this doesn’t mean that his movement requires less energy. It is important that he continues to move with the same strength.
IT IS IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND THAT A DOG CAN SHORTEN HIS STRIDE BUT NOT COLLECT HIMSELF AND THEREFORE LOSE HIS FORWARD MOVEMENT AND STRENGTH OF THE PUSH OFF IN HIS HIND LEGS.
Shortened stride is not the same as collection.
THE SEQUENCE OF COLLECTION
When we wish for our dog to make a tight (or a soft) turn at a jump, he must be given the information at the right time, to adjust his movement. The handler communicates the information to the dog and then the dog has to:
• Judge the distance to the jump.
• Adjust his speed and movement.
• Simultaneously, with the shortening of the stride he will lift his head and push his hind feet under the center of his body, (this is to maintain strength, flexibility and the power of forward movement).
• He will recognize and arrive at the take-off point.
• He will enter the jump (according to the angle of entrance and the degree of turn, he will transfer the majority of his weight onto his inside hind leg).
• He will lift his head, free his shoulders and direct the force upwards.
• He will move away his front feet and make space for his hind feet, which he will place under his shoulder area.
• He will push himself into a jump while rounding his back.
• He will continue his movement into the turn, while above the pole he will direct his front end down.
• He will use his front end to put himself to the ground and open his hind legs.
• He will land on his front feet. His head will be pointing down or slightly turned in the direction of continuation.
• When he lands he will raise his head up and soften the touch down to ease the force from the front feet.
• After landing and lifting his head, he will push his front end into forward movement and make space for his hind legs, which will take care of the acceleration and the continuation of fluid movement towards the next jump.
WHEN IS A TIGHT TURN IMPOSSIBLE?
A tight turn becomes impossible when:
• A dog doesn’t use the correct jumping technique, meaning the rounded back.
• A dog doesn’t jump from the correct take-off point. If he jumps too far away, his weight will not transfer to his hind legs, consequently his jumps will be too flat and he will not be able to bend. In this case dog will turn its whole body. Their landing will be hard, the force on the front feet will be much bigger, the body will need more time to find balance and the hind legs will need more time to push the body forwards.
• A dog jumps with his head in the air. In this case, the weight transfer is wrong, the landing is hard and the dog is not able to bend and point himself downwards.
WHAT INFLUENCES COLLECTION
There are many factors which influence a dog’s movement and collection in parkour. One of them is how a course is set and what lines there are. The biggest influence on a dog’s movement is his handler’s movement. We have to realize that from all the information, the dog will find the easiest and the most natural to read his handler’s movement and the direction of his movement.
The handler gives information to his dog:
• With the direction of movement
• With his tempo
• With the length and intensity of his stride
• Where his shoulders are facing and the pointing of his arms
• Where his feet and hips are focused
• With his position (in front, behind, parallel to, far away or close to his dog)
• With his cheek and eyes
The movement of the handler and the direction his shoulders are moving will influence his dog’s movement and the length of his stride. If the handler is moving forward, this will be natural information to his dog to lengthen his stride. If the handler is static, his dog will automatically shorten his stride (and not necessarily collect himself) but much of his focus will be on his handler.
If the handler is behind the dog, a natural information to the dog will be to shorten his stride. In the case where the handler starts slowing down his strides, his dog will understand that what follows is collection. During training, we must always realize and take into consideration, that our movement will influence our dog enormously. Things that influence collection and turns are also:
• Physical abilities of a dog (body structure, weight, movement),
• Physical Fitness
LIMITATIONS DURING COLLECTION AND TIGHT TURNS
If the dog understands the basics of movement and collection and the jumping technique, he will do the exercise as best he can.
Regardless of his understanding and training we must still realize that each dog and each breed has certain advantages and certain limitations. While working and teaching a dog we must always adapt everything to each dog.
Despite the knowledge and the understanding of the exercise it can happen that a dog cannot do the exercise any better for whatever reason.
The reasons can be:
• Physical Limitations (breed, structure of the body, overweight, poor eyesight etc.)
• Lack of flexibility
• Muscle pain, hidden injuries
• Poor physical fitness.
WHEN A HANDLER NOTICES A CHANGE IN THE MOVEMENT OR ANY DIFFICULTIES WHILE HIS DOG IS PERFORMING AN EXERCISE IT IS IMPORTANT THAT HIS DOG IS CHECKED BY A VET, A DOG PHYSIOTHERAPIST, OSTEOPATH…