Historically, handlers have cued vault by tapping the vaulting platform with a disc, believing that the tap was necessary and desirable to cue the dog into vaulting from that area of the handler’s body. It’s a decent idea. It’s worked in the past. But is that the best way to cue?
Where should the dog’s attention be focused during a vault? On the target and where they are going (and landing) or on our leg, or our back?
Cuing the Obstacle
When attention is drawn to the vaulting platform with the disc the dog puts her head on the platform. Where the disc was. The dog’s shoulders, legs and feet are below the head. Not quite where we want her for a vault. The dog should be putting her feet on the platform, not biting at it.
Cuing Obstacle does a help the dog get her feet on that part of the handler’s body. It draws too much attention to something that should be a quick after thought. “There’s my platform… Where’s my target!?” That’s how a vault works. if a dog knows where the target is going to be, she will use whatever is in the way to get there.
When using a directional cue attention is drawn to where the disc is going to be and the dog has much more intelligence on the situation. From the very start, the dog knows where she’s going to go and where the disc will be caught. If the cue is given towards a place she cannot get to on her own, she will look for the vaulting platform to get there. This directional cue allows the dog to begin the vaulting skill with the correct intent, to put her feet on the vaulting platform and get the disc.
Cuing direction applies primarily to vaults and overs. When doing a vault or an over, tell or show the dog where the disc is going to be instead of what she will be vaulting from or leaping over. Drawing attention to the obstacle is a distraction from the disc. Draw attention to the area where the target will be placed... is far superior to cuing obstacle. It allows the dog to focus on the task at hand, where the disc is going to be, and lets the vaulting platform be nothing more than details.
Cuing Direction fits within the handling principles of the Pawsitive Vybe Disc Dog Foundation. Hand to hand cuing from our foundational Set Up Moves and Flatwork translates quite readily to this Cuing Direction concept. If we have some bitework and Flag and Flash Cuing, it’s a perfect fit.