Yesterday I decided that Strummer was finally ready to start jump training. He's around 17 months old so his growth plates should be closed or pretty darn near close. He's moving nice and smoothly these days, has nice muscle tone and has lost most of his awkward puppy galumphing (that's a technical term). His obedience and impulse control training are coming along well and he seems to be mentally ready.
Top handler Linda Mecklinberg has written a nice series of articles in Clean Run over the last 8 months or so and I've decided to try following her program. Both my other dogs started their jump training with a jump chute with 2-3 jumps set low. The dogs were led over the jumps on lead and/or called over the jumps from the other side of the chute. After that they went straight into sequences with little thought to any kind of foundation training. Actually it's not that I never thought about it with Lola (who was trained second), it's just that I didn't know what to do other than what I was shown in beginner classes. This time around I want to go more slowly and put more thought into it. In particular, I really want Strummer to understand cues for collection (ie shortening stride for a turn after a jump) and extension (jump big going in a straight line to take advantage of speed).
To start, I took one jump, set the bar at 12" high (really should've been 8" but my jump doesn't go that low) and stood facing it and perpendicular to it. The first time or 2 I lured Strummy over with a cookie (ie piece of kibble) but quickly he got the idea and was jumping back and forth on his own. Every time he jumped I clicked and gave him a cookie. I also gave him some squeaky verbal praise (Gooooood booooooy!) because he likes that. Then I progressed to sitting so I could reach in and reward him while he was still facing forward. Ideally I want him focusing on the jump and not looking at me for his cookie. Then I raised the bar 2" and started over from standing. Supposedly he should be able to get to competition jump height (which will be 22" or 26", I'm pretty sure he's right on the border) in one or two sessions. Since jumping from a standstill is pretty strenuous I decided to stop at 16". I probably could have raised the bar more quickly but I wanted to make sure I was getting plenty of confident, enthusiastic jumps before I raised it each time and by the time he was doing well at 16" he was panting and I thought that was enough for our first session.
We had a little play session with his tug toy then we moved on to weaves. I haven't worked them in a while but he remembered them and happily charged through the entry. We're ready for the next stage, I just have to read up on what that is.
Contact training was not as successful. I'm trying to shape a 2 on/2 off (rear legs on the obstacle, front legs on the ground) on a wood plank flat on the ground. He's so crazy and squirmy that he runs all over the board and even if he approximates what I want and I click, he's long lost the position by the time he gets his cookie and I want to reward him in position. We did get some successful reps with him being perpendicular to the plank in the correct position and even a few with him right at the end of the plank. Clearly this will take a while. At least he seems to understand his release command.
As for my own training I've decided to give the race next week a miss. After the hike on Monday I had some pain on my right leg, below and to the left of my bad knee that still hasn't gone away and is still sore to the touch. It's very isolated and I'm starting to fear a stress fracture. I know that sounds extreme and I'm probably overreacting-how could I possibly have gotten a stress fracture anyway? But so far every time I've suspected that something's been wrong I've been right. So for now I'm not going to do any running except for agility and I'm going to keep that to a minimum. The pain's not really bad unless I press on the bad spot and I don't want to go running to the doctor and messing with bone scans right now, I'm just so sick of doctor's offices. I'm hoping whatever it is is in an early enough stage that some simple rest will take care of it. I've got plenty of agility training that doesn't involve running to keep me busy for the next several weeks and I'm going to continue to go to masters and try to work in some cycling on the weekends.