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 tosses, like all disc dog throws are as much about time as they are about placement. Or you could think about time as part of placement. The trajectory of a vault toss is key to getting placement and time to work together and to set a target that is likely to be caught and caught safely.
Controlling the apex of the throw is a big part of trajectory. Vault tosses should hit high, for the dog to see clearly from the ground or from the vaulting platform, and then drop down a bit for the catch.
Me and my dogs bank on 8-16 inches of drop from the apex to the catch. This creates time and clarity for the target, allowing the dog to look before leaping and to make a good decision about where and when the disc should be caught.
Without apex control the dog must leap and look at the same time, and even then, the dog has no idea where and when the disc will be caught until they are nearly there. This lack of planning and shortened timeframe creates safety issues even if, or especially if the toss is small and the vault is low.
Understanding and controlling the apex of your toss is a key to safe and successful vaulting.
Lower is not always safer. Misunderstanding the mechanics of the disc dog vault usually leads to handlers endeavoring to keep their vaults and throws as low as possible. This does not always lead to safe vaulting.
I think many people see my vault toss work and think, “That is an unsafe height – that’s crazy! I would never throw that high…” Neither would I.
The increased and varied height is an exercise and tool for increasing precision and accuracy. The more separation between hand and target, the harder and more challenging the throw. The more challenged you are on the throw the better you get at delivering it. This increased challenge makes a regular vault toss a super easy task.
At the beginning of the video, these tosses are quite high. Too high for vaulting. I’m not practicing my vault placement I’m practicing vault placement. I am choosing an arbitrary height and attempting to hit it. This variety of height and trajectory makes me a better thrower in general and allows me to throw to the place I need to throw for the vault instead of vaulting to where I need to throw.
The extreme placement at the end of the video is a good illustration of this going big as physical challenge. If I can hit these targets to within my margin of error, then hitting targets at a fraction of that height should be, and is, an easy operation. It’s a gimme.
Alternating Clock & Counter
Handlers and dogs both have preferences for direction on vaults. My default is left to right (clock). My dogs tend to vault clockwise as well. I’m not sure if this is due to my confidence or their directional preference, but our default is clock.
On Back Vaults, this clockwise direction leads to a cramped, awkward toss and throwing position. It reminds me of throwing like a tyrannosaurus. Some handlers have tremendous problems with this throw.
The counter clock direction (right to left) asks the handler to make a throw across the body and under the arm or with their off hand. This, historically, has been very uncomfortable for me. As a result, I avoided it for years and only vaulted clock. An Over is any leaping catch that happens over top of the handler’s body. Overs are usually named by the part of the body over which the dog flies, i.e - Leg Over, the last few years I’ve added it to my repertoire and it has served me quite well, allowing for many more vault variations and much greater vault proficiency.
Be sure to work both directions and become competent in each. It is important and will serve you well. It will make you a better handler and a more flexible teammate.
Be sure to adjust your distance from the target to adjust your trajectory and to build skills for placing the disc where it needs to be, not simply where you can.
The more accurate and precise you can be with your trajectory, the more safe and successful your vaults will be. The more trajectories you practice, the more accurate and precise you become.
Match Your Default
Be sure to get at least some practice at what you believe your default vault placement to be. This is important.
Just be sure that you can place the disc anywhere with precision and accuracy. If you can do this you can easily hit your default.