Time – Throw Early!
When throwing for vaults and overs the disc needs to be in the air very early — so early, it’s ridiculous. The dog needs to know where the target is going to be before they leave the ground. This is critical in terms of safety and in terms of performance.
If the dog leaves the ground for a target they make one decision, the right decision – “There is my target and this is how I’m getting there.” It’s a perfect plan… a mid-air interception.
But if the dog leaves the ground and the target is not where he expects it to be he’s thinking,”Where is my Target and how am I going to get there?”
Leaping without knowing where the target is, leaping to an empty 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 in space or to the vaulting platform, is guessing. Guessing is not at all like leaping for the target. Throwing late leads to multiple decisions on the fly. Frequently the dog guesses wrong, the disc is misplaced or wind blown which leads to a dog flinging themselves to try to catch the target.
Another way to think about throwing vault and over tosses late is that it becomes the handler’s responsibility to put the disc in the dog’s mouth. Not at all an easy proposition from a handler’s perspective unless takes are used or tiny tosses are used.
It is possible to make many vault and over tosses late and be successful. Many players, and many very good players, do. That said, the most frequent mistake on vaults and overs is throwing too late. It is the most common way to miss a vault, to vault poorly and/or crash.
Space – a Stride and a Half
Generally speaking a dog need at least a stride and a half of distance to perform a vault or over. That distance will change based upon the speed and size of the dog. One of the most common mistakes with practicing vaults is not setting the distance away from the handler appropriately.
A big vault or a big over with a dog that’s moving starts at about 20 feet away, minimum. A properly timed vault or over that starts with the dog standing still is usually about 7-10 feet, but again that is dependent on the dog’s stride length.
Crowding the Dog
If the dog doesn’t have enough space, the handler is crowding him and some dogs don’t have the athletic ability to perform when being crowded. Not all dogs have the vertical leap or explosiveness to make it up to or over the obstacle are not aggressive enough to just pop into action. From a handler’s perspective crowding the dog also means that things happen faster, our throws are going to be shorter, and there is less prep time to get synced up with the dog.
If the dog is crowded the vault or over becomes less of a planned skill and more of a reactive one. The dog can’t plan, there’s no time. So he reacts. This leads to anticipation, missing the obstacle, flailing and host of other performance issues. Of course spontaneous reaction can be a powerful training tool… just sayin…
Too Much Space
If a dog is given too much space, there are a different set of problems. Too much speed, too big a leap, too much scale; mistakes at speed can be dangerous and easy to make. A team must have great foundational performance of our vaulting and over skills with perfect disc placement and timing if vaults and overs are going to be worked on the run.
Giving a dog too much space can lead to a lack of controlled performance. Running into the obstacle, missing the catch by a mile, barely using the obstacle, crashing and rolling all are more likely to happen when a dog has too much space to set up.