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Mastering Jumping Skills

Mastering Jumping Skills
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Mastering Jumping Skills by Linda Mecklenburg

~~Mastering Jumping Skills
The sport of agility is constantly evolving, and as handling becomes more accomplished, and courses become more demanding, there is a greater need to teach our dogs specific jumping skills, aside from basic collection and extension.
In this book, Linda Mecklenburg, world gold medalist and regarded as one of the most accomplished handlers and trainers in the US, provides us with a comprehensive programme to teach your dog to successfully negotiate all the jumping challenges he will face in agility, with a competitive edge.
Volume one of Mastering Jumping Skills includes over 350 training drills covering all important topics such as lead changes, collection and extension, weight shift, slicing, diving, shaping and more. Mecklenburg also provides us with flatwork exercises, how to tackle specialty jumps such as long jumps, walls and tyres, along with a chapter dedicated to creating a conditioning programme to target specific skills needed for jumping.
Through this book, Mecklenburg shows us how to teach our dogs to be fast, reliable, successful and economical jumpers.

We begins with some guidance on using the book, explaining how to select the appropriate drills for your dog, along with the various pre-requisites for before you begin.
In chapter one, Mecklenburg explains that in agility, the jump is the most important of all the obstacles. She looks at the aspects of jumping that have an impact on competing in agility, including both factors that can be influenced with handling, such as striding, leads, jumping arcs, takeoff point and approach, as well as the skills you will teach your dog using this programme, such as weight shift, form, collection, extension, bending, slicing, diving and shaping.  Mecklenburg then examines the dog on the flat, and how striding, leads, collection and extension impact the dogs jumping ability, along with looking at the dog over the jump, and the part that the following seven components play; jumping effort, leads, collection and extension, jumping arcs, takeoff point and takeoff zone, jumping form and leg technique. She also considers the handlers influence on the dog’s stride, length and jumping effort, as well as jumping skills that involve the handler, such as convergence and shaping.
In chapter two, Mecklenburg introduces the jumps, and explains how it is important to understand how the components of the jumps, and the type of jump can affect the dog’s performance. She takes us through jump wings, jump cups, poles (including weight, diameter and colour), ground lines and ground poles, types of jump (e.g. winged or wingless), spread jumps, tyre jumps, panel jumps, wall and viaducts and long jumps.  Mecklenburg also considers jumping surfaces, and other environmental factors.
Chapter three is written canine fitness expert, Bobbie Lyons, and focuses on conditioning to improve jumping. For any of the dog sports, those that are in peak physical condition tend to perform better, suffering fewer injuries and going on to experience longer competitive careers. Lyons provides us with a well balanced conditioning programme, including exercises designed to improve key jumping skills. She concentrates on body awareness and stability exercises, core strengthening, strength and flexibility training, and aerobic and cross training activities to build endurance. She also provides us with an appropriate warm up and cool down.
Chapter four moves on to foundation flatwork for jumping.  Mecklenburg stresses that before beginning a jumping programme, it is important that first the dog undertakes some preliminary training specifically geared towards building future jumping skills. The flatwork foundation skills include,
• Heel position
• Recalls on the flat
• Circling a cone and post
• Turns on the flat
• Send on the flat
• Combining the skills
• Handling sequences on the flat
In chapter five, Mecklenburg progresses to foundation jump training. She discusses the right age to start, along with training, environment and equipment. This section is divided into the following six stages;
Stage one: Offering
Goals-
• The dog learns to want to jump
• The dog learns to go over the pole and around the standards without touching them.
• The dog looks down as he comes over the pole ( encourages a round form)
• The dog confidently offers to jump back and forth from a standstill and circles the standard.
• The dog progresses to pole being at chest height.
Stage two: Collection and bending
Goals-
• The dog shows an awareness of the pole and how his body relates to it.
• The dog neatly tucks his front legs to clear the pole on the ascent.
• The dog uses neck and back over pole and jumps with round form.
• The dog uses his rear end to propel himself vertically over the pole and neatly tucks his rear legs to clear pole on descent.
• The dog demonstrates a basic understanding of collection and bending.
• The dog progresses to the pole being at shoulder height.
Stage three: Variable approach, angle and distance
Goals-
• The dog offers to jump with you in variable locations on the take off side.
Stage four: Take off side location
Goals-
• The dog offers to jump with you in variable locations on the take off side.
Stage five: Landing side location
Goals-
• The dog offers to jump when you are facing him on the landing side, and lands in front of you.

Stage six: Kneel to stand
Goals-
• The dog confidently offers to jump from a standstill, maintaining good form while you kneel and then while you stand.
Mecklenburg then provides us with a summary of all the stages, before introducing motion cues and trained cues.
Chapter six continues with one jump drills. Mecklenburg argues that using just one jump allows you to focus on the jumping skill in question and be able to reward, or withhold the reward at the correct time. Each drill is designed to allow your dog to practice one or more specific jumping skills, including; collection, extension, bending, slices and convergence.
Chapter seven moves on to two obstacle drills, with the obstacle on the approach to the focus jump. These exercises are designed so you can appropriately time the reward for the jumping behaviours.
Chapter eight proceeds with two obstacle drills with the obstacle following the focus jump.
In chapter nine, Mecklenburg shows us how to tackle specialty jumps, which consist of; spreads, tyres, panels, wall/viaduct, and long jumps. She also comments on electronic timers which can have an impact on the jump.
Finally in chapter ten, we look at jumps with landing side approaches. This involves the dog moving from the landing side of the jump to the take off side, independent from the location of the handler.
There are also five appendixes covering the following topics; jump height reference for drills, determining spaces for drills, how rewards are used in this programme, leading legs and circling a cone or post.
Help your dog become the best jumper he can be with this invaluable guide to mastering jumping skills.

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