Clutch is a premature ejumpulator, Ann affliction otherwise known as an irrational leaper. He’s always launching off after a disc that’s 10 feet in the air or putting together a massive 5 foot high leap for a 6 foot target and flying underneath it. This is an affliction that affects many disc dogs. Well we’re giving him a treatment for his ailment. We’re gonna throw it upside down to him…
Why!? Why Do They Try to Leap For that?
Most dogs jump for frisbees as a last resort or only after they have missed them.
Dogs leap irrationally and premature ejumpulate due to over pursuit. The over pursuit puts the dog too close or past the target at which point the emergency plan gets called and the leaping behavior needs to get started. Emergency Response is no method for reliable catches and leaping catches. How do you create thoughtful pursuit that results with an intent to snatch the disc out of the air?
The answer to over-pursuit is not throw it to where and when they can make a good catch. The answer is to slow down their pursuit, teach them how to track, and how to collect for a target. Teaching them and reinforcing the skills of catching is the goal and it is a much bigger goal than simply catch the disc at x distance.
Creating a Late Read
The solution to over-pursuit and the resultant irrational leaping and premature ejumpulation and the key to safe and successful leaping catches is to create a late read. Well what does that mean?
A perfectly thrown laser beam has a very predictable flight path. It is so sharp and sticky in the air that it doesn’t even require watching – the dog “knows where it’s going to be”. But they don’t. It’s a frisbee and it’s funky, and the wind makes for subtle and not so subtle changes in placement. You don’t want the dog going on autopilot early in the throw. The disc will not be where they thinks it will be…
A disc that changes direction late in it’s flightpath creates the need for a decision to be made close to the catch. The dog must be reading the disc in order to make a successful catch. Because non-successful catches can look and feel so ugly because the dog misses so bad – like without hope – the dog learns to watch that disc for funky movement at the finish and to be ready for anything.
That my friends is what collection for a target is all about. Once you’ve got that, the dog is in the leaping game.
After just a few of these throws the dog will start to rethink their approach to catching a disc. You can see it happen to Clutch at 2:06 of the video. He is struggling to work through how to approach catching this disc. He is intrigued by it. This desire to overcome the challenge of reading that late disc is a powerful motivator for athletes and students of the game, your dog will start to collect because it is an interesting challenge. This changes the focus of frisbee from Run like heck and get it, bring it here to watch it and snatch it out of the air.
This collection, once established, can and should be marked. it can even be cued (although I’d wait until you have lots of experience with it…). Marking the collection draws attention to it and leads to the catch as the cookie. Dogs rarely miss their cookies. You really do want to take your time here, it is a process. Resist the urge to push the pace on this skill. Let it develop and work around it in the rest of your game while it does so.
Creative Thinking on the Fly
You are not trying to get them to catch it. You are actually trying to fool the dog, fairly, by the rules of the disc gods, and leverage that ridiculous, not even on the right planet missed catch to turn it into the fun, challenging experience of trying to snatch it out of the air.
If you try to “help them catch it” or “give him and easy one” you may catch it, but the lesson will remain unlearned.
An epiphany is a sudden experience of enlightenment. You should see that switch go off in your dog rather quickly. Many times the epiphany of the late read and the accomplished ease of snatching it out of the air lead to immediate improvement or even cures of premature ejumpulation.
You might never need work it again if your dog catches a sharp enough lesson from a super embarrassing attempt at ta catch. A few sessions of this can cure the most habitual of premature ejumpulators.
It will not work right away on all dogs, not all dogs are up for an epiphany today, this week, or even this month or year. But it is a solid tracking and collection exercise and you never know when that light bulb is going to pop on.
It is my experience that a few thoughtful sessions every few months tends to be enough to solve the problem to a large degree. I get a ton of improvement from several sessions of the method any time I do it. It’s a great exercise.
The Importance of Marking
For this procedure, the importance of marking and how it can come into play in this drill is a class in and of itself. Let’s just say Marking is important – knowing when to mark and when not to.
If you don’t know, don’t mark. Do it, get it working and then figure out what it is you need to mark. Don’t be marking all willy-nilly. If you mark it and it gets at all reinforced, you’re going to be communicating that. It is easy to communicate the wrong thing and break the process, and it is easy to communicate the wrong thing and teach the wrong skill. Both are problems…
Short for “Positive Marker”, a Mark is a word or signal given at the exact moment a desired behavior is performed. It’s like a clicker. Mark can also mean the act of marking collection and the catch only after the dog starts to perform the skill – collecting and adjusting to the disc at a distance is great, but we don’t want to mark it if the dog can’t get to the catch, unless it is something special… We don’t want to mark effort, as that is likely what got us into this mess in the first place, unless it is something special… like I said, an entire class…
Marking and cuing collection should be reserved until you have a handle on the skill and know what you’re looking for.