On Vaulting | Timing: A Moving Target

Timing is VERY important when you have to hit a moving target. Timing is what you do when you have to jump into a double Dutch jump rope, or what you have to do when doing things in flow or under tight tolerances. When vaulting a disc dog, timing is not YOUR problem.

Notice the humans are not trying to time the rope for the dog. It is the human’s responsibility to set a good rhythm and the dog’s responsibility to read and then fall in line with that rhythm. While there is timing in this skill, trying to time this operation for the dog is destined to fail. Reading and timing the rope is the dog’s responsibility.

The handler’s job is not to hit a moving target. Hitting the moving target is the dog’s job. The handler’s job is to give the dog a clue, tell the dog when to go, and put the target where it needs to be – Tell > Trigger > Target. Ideally this operation has a rhythm, or a cadence that the dog can time.

Timing a moving dog with the throw is the problem that most teams have with vaulting and it’s not really a timing problem at all. The problem is a faulty understanding (and application) of the vaulting behavior by the dog, the handler, and/or the team.

Trying to time the vault to the dog is like trying to time the rope for the jumper. That is just not how the skill works. It is like cramming square pegs into round holes.

A Reactive Toss

If a handler is “trying to not be late” or trying to beat the dog to the vault, the handler is reacting to the dog’s movement and is attempting to make a Reactive Toss. The dog is a moving target that the handler is trying to hit in the mouth with a throw. It is like trying to time the jump rope to fit the entry of the jumper.

A Reactive Toss does require split-second timing. It totally can be done, as evidenced by the many caught vaults using this method, and it often isn’t even that hard – just wait until the dog is flying by and deliver a tiny 6-12″ toss – you can cram it in there for the catch.

It is not reliable though, and it’s not solid teamwork. Making a Reactive Toss when vaulting a disc dog is papering over foundational vaulting problems and asking for trouble.

Cool pic, right? This dorsiflex position (head up and arched back) is what happens when the handler doesn’t put the Reactive Toss into the dog’s mouth on a vault or over. The dog has vaulted but not for a target and the handler did not put it in his mouth.

A Reactive Toss is NOT a safe toss. This is especially true as the toss gets bigger with more separation. A 6-12 inch Reactive Toss might be easy, but a 4-6 foot Reactive Toss, like the one above is not easy at all.

Even small mistakes in either disc placement or that split-second timing means the dog has to choose between staying on trajectory or catching the disc, mid-leap. Crazy dogs who love frisbees don’t always make good decisions in that situation. Bad decisions after trajectory has been set makes landing safely a bit of a problem.

A Reactive Toss reinforces trajectory and makes leaping for and catching the disc an afterthought. The dog selects the “
“appropriate” trajectory and the handler tries to stuff it in there, at exactly the right spot at the right time.

A Responsive Dog

The dog, having been told what’s coming, should wait for the handler’s Trigger to begin the targeting process. The responsive dog reads the situation and makes the play on the disc from the ground. This reinforces patience and keeps the idea of leaping for and catching the disc at the forefront of the skill.

The dog reads and responds to the handler’s actions, just like the jumper reads and responds to the action of the rope. Everyone knows what is happening and everything is about getting that target or catching the disc from the start. This is a Responsive Dog.

Who Times the Moving Target?

In each of these situations one of the team members is responsible for timing a moving target.

With a Reactive Toss the handler has to read the situation and time the throw to hit a moving dog’s mouth. A Responsive Dog on the other hand is responsible for reading the situation and navigating the handler’s body to leap for and catch the disc.

I’m putting together a vaulting class that will address all of these issues and deliver foundational conceptual understanding of the skill. It will also deliver practical information for better and more successful vaulting. Over the next week or two, I will also be kicking out a few more Patrons Only blog posts on this topic over the next week or two.

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