Vault Training


by Bob, Chuck & Ron


I am in the process of teaching my dog to vault. Which of the vaults would be easiest to begin with and why? What are the critical steps in teaching your dog to vault? My dog continues to jump over my body instead of using it as a platform. What tips can I implement to get her to use my body to jump off of?

 

Bob - I think the easiest is a leg vault (sometimes called a catapult) or a chest vault because during these vaults you can maintain eye contact with your dog allowing you to better time your throws. Developing a back vault or a reverse back vault (sometimes referred to as a butt vault) is much easier taught with the help of another person. Have the other person bend over, tap the person on the back with a disc to get the dog to begin to vault (you can still maintain eye contact during this part of the training), then, after a few vaults you should be able to crouch down and tap yourself on the back to get the dog to begin vaults off your back. Start with low vaults (perhaps on your hands and knees) and progress to higher vaults. Use caution not to do vaulting if the dog doesn't demonstrate the ability to land properly on all four feet.

 

Chuck - Play with your dog enough and he will answer the question "which vault would be easiest to begin with." Flash learned the leg vault first. Boss' first vault, at 2 ½ years old, was off the chest and FlyGirl, at 8 months old, learned the back vault and leg vault at roughly the same time. The most critical steps in teaching my dogs to vault was teaching them 1) that they would not be punished if they put their feet on me, and 2) to pickup their back feet so that they would be in a position to place them on me for a vault. As puppies, my dogs were allowed and encouraged to jump up on me and were never taught that this behavior was wrong. When they learned the concept of vaulting, we then start teaching them the "off" command. If you have taught your dog that it is wrong to jump on you, then you will need to teach him that it is now ok to place his feet on you. You can use food, a Frisbee or anything else that your dog responds to, to encourage this. If your dog does not pickup his back feet naturally, encourage him to do so using your leg, arm, hula hoop, a short section of pvc pipe or anything else that will encourage your dog to pickup his back feet while taking a Frisbee from your hand. Work toward vaults slowly. Each of my dogs did hundreds of "takes" before the Frisbee was ever thrown in an attempt at a true vault. Just remember that all dogs are different and some require more patience. Vaults that FlyGirl already knows took Boss three long years to learn.

 

Ron - I'm sure Chuck and Bob will adequately address the training aspects of vaulting, so let me make a few general comments on the subject. Since there is a definite element of danger associated with vaulting, I would caution you to keep the welfare of your dog always at the forefront. Those who have an anxiety about these tricks should not feel compelled to learn them just to be competitive. Let me remind you that many world class teams, including several former World Champions, never have vaulted their dogs. If you must vault, however, keep it low to the ground and do it sparingly. Skyhoundz judging regards excessive heights and repetition as superfluous. I heartily agree.