The focus of Mastering Jumping Skills, Volume 1 is on the following topics:
Understanding how your dog moves and jumps: To most effectively train your dog to jump, you should have a basic understanding of how a dog moves on the flat and what he does during the jumping effort. The jumping skills the dog needs to be successful today go well beyond extension and collection; courses require the dog to be able to weight shift, collect, extend, bend, slice, dive, and shape, as well as perform a combination of these skills. Chapter 1 is an examination of the dog—what he does, what he is capable of (or not), and what mechanical skills are required for dog agility jumping.
Understanding how the jumps themselves affect your dog’s performance: Dog agility jumps vary widely in appearance and the type of challenge they present. Understanding how the basic components of a jump and the type of jump can potentially affect your dog’s jumping performance and safety is important for you as a handler. Chapter 2 takes an in-depth look at the jumps themselves, from jump cups to bases to wings.
Preparing your dog for his jump training with physical conditioning: Jumping in dog agility has become much more physically demanding over the years. Courses have more difficult jumping challenges, which are more strenuous to perform, and most dogs require more training time to achieve the necessary skills. To maximize your dog’s ability to perform these skills and minimize the risk of injury, he should be fit and well-conditioned before starting a jumping program. Adding a balanced conditioning program that includes body awareness and stability exercises, core strengthening, strength and flexibility training, and aerobic and crosstraining activities to build endurance is an important part of a comprehensive jumping program. Chapter 3 provides the elements you need to create an overall conditioning program as well as targeted exercises for improving specific jumping skills.
Preparing your dog for his jump training with foundation skills on the flat: Flatwork is used to lay the foundation for successful jumping performance before actual jumps are introduced. Having your dog learn to respond to your handling cues and motion without real jumps is essential to ease your dog’s ultimate transition from jumping skill training to handling sequences and running courses. As your dog is practicing one or more of the mechanical skills needed for jumping, you are simultaneously developing his understanding of handling skills needed for jumping. But while the drills included here are a critical aid in your dog’s jump training, they are not intended to encompass the full scope of the flatwork you need to do for developing your handling skills (see Developing Handling Skills). Work on the flatwork sequencing in Chapter 4 can continue to be done to build your dog’s enthusiasm, understanding of cues, and responsiveness to motion, as you are separately progressing with your dog’s jump training and working through the other chapters in the book.
Introducing your dog to jumping with little motion or handler influence: Your dog begins his jump training in Chapter 5 by offering to jump a single jump from a standstill and walk, with as little influence from you, as a handler, as possible. Allowing your dog to take his time to figure out the necessary mechanics and problem solve will develop his awareness of the bar, lay the foundation for his jumping form, and build a desire to jump cleanly. Natural handler cues such as location, shoulder direction, and motion may be quietly introduced at a rudimentary level followed by the more formerly trained cues such as verbal and hand signals.
Building your dog’s jumping skills: Once he understands how to jump on cue, you will ask your dog to perform many different one-jump drills using a single-bar jump. Each drill in Chapter 6 allows him to practice specific jumping skills. These skills are the foundation of this jumping program and will be used throughout your dog’s career. It is important to be sure your dog is confidently and successfully performing jumping skills on one jump, before adding another obstacle, adding another skill, or changing the character of the jump.
Solidifying your dog’s jumping skills: The drills in Chapters 7 and 8 have been carefully crafted to increase the difficulty of the jumping effort by adding a second obstacle while still allowing you to focus on (and reward) your dog’s performance of the jumping skill(s) being practiced. As your dog progresses through the two-jump drills in Chapter 7, you will begin to recognize your dog’s strongest and weakest jumping skills. Use this knowledge to guide your selection of which drills to work on in Chapter 8. The drills in Chapter 8 are also well suited for experienced dogs needing to refresh their jumping skills.
Introducing different types of jumps: The instructions in Chapter 9 help you introduce the various specialty jumps used in agility that present unique challenges: spreads, tire, panel, wall/viaduct, and long/broad jump.
Understanding how a nontraditional approach to a jump affects your dog: Jumps that require the dog to approach from the landing side and cross the plane of the jump to reach the takeoff side present your dog with a different type of jumping challenge. Your dog has already been introduced to the foundation jumping skills needed, but he must learn to combine those skills to successfully perform this type of jumping effort.