A vault is nothing more than isolation of and manipulation of collection. Handlers who have dogs that vault BIG but leap small from the ground have a training problem, not a dog problem.
Odds are that this training problem is the result of pattern training. Many teams start playing with pattern trained behavior chains that are bad for leaping on the run — go around and run like heck chasing the target. They do this for a couple of months or years and then the handler says,”My Dog just doesn’t jump,” 🙁 and then move on to other, more fun and productive areas of the game, like set up moves, flipping, and vaulting.
The dog winds up good at all things disc with the exception of the leaping part. After all, ”He’s just not a leaper.”
…dogs that vault well but do not leap well do so because the vault is just a simple foundational leaping drill with concrete and easy to achieve criteria…
Vaults are Foundational Leaping
Performing a vault is performing the foundational elements of leaping. The dog is not moving. The cue is given. The collection point (vaulting platform) is defined. The target is placed to ensure a leap. The only difference between a vault and leap on the run are that the collection point is defined and it happens to be on the handler’s body. Other than that there is very little mechanical difference between the act of vaulting and the act of leaping from the ground. But what a huge difference it is in practice.
The difference is the level of criteria set by the situation. On a longer throw, the criteria is set quite high: the handler must throw perfectly, the dog must track well and collect well and time their jump well. Speed is greater on longer throws as is the likelihood of erratic placement – more speed, less consistency.
The criteria is also somewhat undefined on the longer throws. Is the criteria to catch, or to jump? If the dog knows to jump, from what Spot is a “go to a place”, or “go to a mat” behavior. This means that the dog seeks out and performs a duration behavior on a spot of the handler’s choosing. A Pedestal is a raised spot. Anything a dog can leap onto and perch upon. Spots and Pedestals are important dog training tools.... should he or she start that jump?
With a vault, the criteria is super low. The collection point (point of takeoff) is firmly defined. It is most likely your back, leg or chest – that’s a small, well defined, finite target. Speed is low to none. The throw is relatively easy. Tracking is not really a big deal. The criteria is quite clear on vaults: There is only one way to get this target, and you have one shot to get there… “The dog uses the player´s body as a launching pad to jump for a disc. A Vault is a leaping catch from the handler’s body. The dog leaves the ground for the target and uses the handler’s body to get there. There are many different styles and variations of vaults, but they are commonly described by the part of the...!”
Fixing the Problem
So, what’s the problem? Speed and erratic placement are problems, but they are problems that lead to the real problem and that is the lack of understanding of collection on the run. 99.x% of the time, this needs to be taught to the dog, and if the dog has been playing disc for a while and doesn’t jump, the shoddy collection must be unlearned and retaught – not an easy task, but do-able.
Reduce the dog’s speed, force and isolate collection, and deliver a proper target,consistently, over and over again every time, like the vault, and a new habit is created. Clearly communicate the intent of the game – Is it catching or leaping? Be sure to mark and reinforce the good leaps on the run to distinguish them from the non-leaping catches. Then generalize the skill to various distances and situations and you’re good to go.
It’s not really as hard as it sounds. We have been working on this for a few years rather casually here at Pawsitive Vybe, but we’ve stepped it up a bit over the last few months, and this new realization, that dogs that vault well but do not leap well do so because the vault is just a simple foundational leaping drill with concrete and easy to achieve criteria, has been eye opening and will bring this leap training back into the forefront of our Disc Dog Foundation. We’ll be adding more stuff to our online courses and Disc Dog camp offerings this Spring.
I’d love to talk about this concept, Apryl and I are just starting to wrap our heads around it. What do you think?