Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Cathy Slot Jumping Weekend

Finally my notes are ready. Apologies in advance for the mixed fonts in this post. Can I just say that the Blogger Post editing sucks. And I don't do HTML.

A few weeks ago now I attended and worked Cypher at a jumping weekend conducted by Cathy Slot from Queensland. Cathy has had the honour now of working with Susan Salo’s methodology a number of times now including a whole week in Canada with Susan Salo herself in 2006. She emphasised she was sharing, to the best of her ability and recollection, what she had learnt from working with Susan and also through working with handlers and dogs on the East Coast. Cathy regularly reiterated through out the whole weekend that she was by no means an expert in jumping she never the less felt that Susan’s training methods had helped a large number of dogs who struggled with jumping and even dogs who needed to make their style more efficient and tidier. Cathy said that she was happy to share as much as she could, given that Susan Salo had indicated she wouldn’t be able to come to Australia to teach everyone herself.She also referred everyone to Susan’s articles in Clean Run (US) magazine. The following notes and images were transcribed from my scribbles at the three day weekend. If you are working from these notes, please remember that there isn’t a “set recipe” for all dogs. I must say it required a quite radical change in my usual methodology towards teaching jumping. I have been of the belief that keeping grids low for too long will results in dogs’ becoming lazy over jumps especially if when toes are clicking against bars or bars are being dropped that we do not mark it in some way. I’m all for getting them jumping at competition height asap so that there is less repetition on heights they will not see in trials and less chance for bar touching/knocking. The following weekend meant a rather big change in that approach however it is the first time keeping grids low has made sense to me. I can see that there is very good rationale behind it. I am using the following grids with all three of my dogs – only one of which has a bar knocking problem, the other two are needing improvement on their general style and ability to scope and take off points. Cathy did mention that once the dog is jumping full height, Susan will continue get them to jump a variety of heights, including during sequencing/exercises, usually including higher than their competition jump height.

  • Jumping Grids are a lifelong training skill

Every time your dog jumps there are multiple components to that skill/behaviour performance.
It’s like a question with multiple parts and if one part is wrong then the whole question is wrong.
The components of Jumping:

  • Path
  • Distance
  • Appropriate Judgement of Take Off Point
  • Weight transfer
  • Angle of Elevation
  • Height

Dog needs to be able to SCOPE which equals reading ahead and adjusting their stride. We want dogs to anticipate the job ahead.

The Dog’s job is to have a focused mind and be physically able/skilled.

Susan Salo’s Theory is that as handlers we interfere with the dog’s process.

Dogs naturally want to carry 75% of their body weight on their front, in front of their shoulder line.

The efficient dog often seems to be slower in appearance when being watched but in reality is quicker.

Agility equals a hugely complex problem solving exercise.

In weaving we don’t want the ‘pitter patter’ effect but we do want to see them driving into the weaves and maintaining their rhythm. The reason why Susan Salo uses jump grids is so she can control the environment and teach the dog rhythm.

Good jumping sounds soft and rhythmic. We need to listen more carefully to our dog’s jumping style. We do not want to see the dog pulling on shoulders or being inverted over a jump.

A lot of grids will be bounce work. The grids are designed for the dog to be successful not to catch the dog out.


We are not to do these exercises to death. We do not have to perfect #1 before going onto #2 etc. Susan Salo is changing everything all the time otherwise the dog learns a habit.
There are only two scenarios in all the grid exercises where you have the heights of grids at full height.

Jump humps are for 6 month old puppies. See image.

We need to think about the bars we use for proofing and make sure we use a huge variety of colours, sizes and looks.

With regards to speed the speed will come once the dog gets understanding.

Distance Exercise – Most important because every time the dog does it the picture has changed. IE a jump has changed distance in relation to the jumps prior or after it.

On Bend Work it’s important to note that the dog’s weight is inequable in distribution. The longer the stride the harder it is for weight transfer.

Susan Salo: You cannot have a dog who is perfect across the whole realm of jumping components.

Puppies & Jump Humps – Designed to help with:

  • Spatial Awareness
  • Path
  • Extend and Collect
  • Look Ahead and Read

The Dog always determines how fast you move on.

Plus independent performance of the jumping skills is what also determines progress.

Susan Salo: The dog should do what’s in front of it unless I tell him otherwise.

When doing grid work a lure or toy is used. High drive to a toy is very beneficial however food on a target plate can also be used.

When watching the dog jump we are looking for:

  • Ease of Motion
  • Fluidity
  • Smooth movement between obstacles

Dropped Bars are a matter of Cause and Effect

The cause is often outside of the dog’s power. Therefore both Susan and Cathy believe that punishing dropped bars is inappropriate and unfair.

Every hour of agility training that you do you should be putting in two hours of conditioning work.

Susan Salo: Prior to commencing bend work get a dressmaker tape measure and measure the width/circumference of your dog’s thigh muscles on both sides. If your training is more on one side than the other then you will notice a difference in the thigh measurements from one side to the other.

Most important repetition is the one you do the very first time because that reflects the dog’s natural way of jumping and ability to read the “puzzle” set.

Dog should use minimal effort to get over bar ie just enough to get the job done.

In Foundation Work:

For an unbalanced dog – give the dog the easy side, then hard side and finish with the easy side. Always finish with the easy side for the dog.

Perch Work – the weight should be on the front. Add a jump hump to each side of the perch so the dog has to step sideways with hind feet over the jump hump.

Ladder Work – Looking for trotting and rewarding low.

Tugging – Shouldn’t do it from side to side or up and down. Tugging should be back away from you in a straight line.

If a dog is knocking the same bar in a grid then you need to make the jump before or two jumps before look different visually.


When Proofing only change one thing at a time:

- Walking

- Running

- Sending

- Coming in from behind

- Throwing of the toy

We need to constantly ask ourselves Are our expectations too high for the dog?

Sit position is recommended at the start line however not with crunched shoulder position. The angle of the shoulders in the sit should be open and not closed via the dog crouching or going ‘vulture’ like.

Susal Salo: In her opinion the dog sees each jump as a specific jump they don’t generalise well.

Bar type and stripes affect the value of the jump to the dog.

Colours & Shape – Yellows and pale greens fade into the background.

Susan Salo: Some days it may not be what you think is successful as long as the dog is still trying you are successful.

  • SET POINT – this is the place at which the dog organises their body to leave the ground. The head should be low and the back soft and relaxed.
  • REPETITIONS – The Set Point Exercise can be done up to three times a week.
  • Whenever you do BEND grids should always start and finish with STRAIGHT lines

We always start off with the SET POINT exercise because there is no speed. It presents the correct take off point to the dog.


  • With Wings
  • Without Wings
  • Round Bar
  • Square Bar
  • Flowerpots at Wing
  • Flowerpots Under Hurdle
  • Something flapping
  • Panel Jumps
  • Tyre
  • Double Spread as a straight oxer
  • Triple spread as a rising spread

NEVER DO THE GRIDS NEXT TO A FENCE. Why? Because then the dog is not choosing and we don’t see it’s natural style.

Susan Salo: Does not like shaping the tyre. Trains hurdle first.

When the dog jumps two bars at once in the grids: lower grid then go in and reward between the two jumps in question.

PROGRESSIVE GRID Measures: 1 jump hump plus 5 jumps at 5, 6, 7 and 8 feet apart. IE Each grid is longer than the one before.

If dog puts an extra stride in then you should compress the jumps.

Cypher was not reliant on my movement as to whether he got his rear end under him well.

When training the Broad Jump put the bar at the beginning of the boards.

MOVING GRID – (helps dogs judge distance) 4 bars plus jump hump
Jump hump then 3 ft to first hurdle, then 6ft to 2nd hurdle, 6ft to 3rd hurdle then 15 ft to 4th hurdle. 6 Repetitions.

Rep #1 – Start as above
Rep #2 – Move last hurdle out half a foot
Rep #3 – Move last hurdle out another half foot
Rep #4 – Move last hurdle out another half foot
Rep #5 – Move last hurdle out another half foot
Rep #6 – Finish with the same as Rep #1

The amount of distance to move out or in on each repetition is determined by the dog. It does not have to be a minimum amount, the main thing is that it moves every time.

Once dog is understanding the above grid and is bounce jumping then can start with the 4th hurdle at 16 ft, 17ft, 18ft and so on. Should be able to move out to 21 feet for medium/large dogs after much practice. The last jump bar only can be moved up to full height. All other bars should stay low no more than 300 and can be lowered if necessary. If dog is surprised by placement of the last bar (or perhaps you want to check if they really intended doing what they did, eg after a bounce to 15 feet, instead of one stride) then do not move that bar out to see if they repeat the same performance. If so, it was intentional, if not it probably did catch them by surprise.

For small dogs the measurements are 2ft from jump hump then 4, 4 and 9 feet.

If dogs are two striding between 3rd and 4th bar then still move out at least one inch and
lower the jumps.

Reward effort EVEN IF dog puts two strides in or jumps two bars at once. Up to 21 feet is average for a Border Collie. 23 feet expected for average large dog.

The last bar can also become a tyre, flowerpot jump or spread.
Always be assessing the mental attitude of your dog.

When do you do what grids?

BALANCE GRID – Standard maintenance is just before a competition and once after the competition. For a high maintenance dog – then 3 times a week. Once a week is sufficient for a dog with no jumping issues. Once a fortnight do the SET POINT exercises.

Maintenance should happen before working in seminars and you should do the balance grids after these and competitions.

Bend Work should be done once a month for standard maintenance.

Basic Bend Work once a fortnight.

TURNS – Most dogs can power in or power out of a turn but cannot do both.

Susan Salo: The average speed dog can beat the superior speed dog many times over if it can use what it has and knows how to bend.

SLICE: What dogs do when taking jumps at angles. Susan Salo works the tyre into the slice.


Start with – Straight Grids then go onto Bend Grids and then Slice Grids

Always Finish with Straight Grids.


There are two options for where the handler can stand. Option A: In line with the toy or lure but at least 2 to 3 meters away parallel. Option B: In line with the dog but at least 2 to 3 meters away parallel. Handler needs to be out of the picture as much as possible. Handler may take one step forward.

Cypher needs to work on feet not moving when I go back and reward with food on the start line.

Dogs front two feet should be as close to jump hump as possible. Dog does not have to be perfect but you want the dog to be making eye contact with the lure/toy.

If the dog just launches and doesn’t put a stride in over jump hump and he does that twice in a row then move jump hump back away from jump in 3 inch increments. Also reward in the gap between the hump and the hurdle.

When doing this exercise do not alternate between lead out and send. Pick one option and repeat a few times on both sides. Then do the one you didn’t start with. This exercise starts with bar low and works up to normal height.

If the dog is not rounding nicely over the bar and is pulling with shoulders change the look. See picture below. Start with one piece of long PVC coming down one side. If still not happy then add the second piece on the other side.

For Puppies

Start with both pieces of long PVC forming a V from each upright and use a jump hump on the ground instead of a bar.

Don’t Forget: For all SET POINT exercises change the look of the bar/uprights (whole picture) in order to PROOF.


5 Jumps plus 1 Jump Hump

For Medium/Large dogs

Jump Hump – 3 ft - Bar 1 – 6ft- Bar 2 - 6ft – Bar 3 – 6ft – Bar 4 – 6ft – Bar 5.

This is the Basic Standard Grid.

Always place Lure or Toy 2 stride lengths from the last bar.

Things to Look For:

  • Is dog landing in centre between two bars?
  • Does dog gets it’s back end underneath them?
  • What does the dog’s jumping sound like? Loud or feather like
  • What si the dog’s head and rear end doing?

Cypher’s style/form changed when I sent him as opposed to when I did a lead out.


Have 3 bars low and 2 of the bars high. (Still never at full height)

Bar 1 – Low (Medium large dogs 200)

Bar 2 – High (Medium large dogs 300/400)

Bar 3 - Low (Medium large dogs 200)

Bar 4 – High (Medium large dogs 300/400)

Bar 5 – Low (Medium large dogs 200)

Still 4ft apart for Small Dogs and 6 ft apart for medium/large.

Ultimate aim: To remove Bar 3 in order to one stride between 2 and 4.


Exercise 1. 8 Repetitions.

Rep 1 – 3 have dog bend round one side three times. Keep the dog on a circle path with the placement of lure/toy.

Rep 4,5 6 have dog bend round the other side three times. Again keep the dog on a cicle path with the placement of lure/toy. Handler always positioned on the inside. May take a step forward if dog cutting inside of uprights.

Rep 7 and 8 – One in each direction

Cypher good at bending left, bending right more awkward.

Don’t forget should always do the STRAIGHT BALANCE grid before and after BEND and SLICE work.

Exercise 2

See Image

This exercise can be worked as a figure 8.


See image.

This exercise teaches the dog to slice jumps (ie take them at acute angles)

To make slice angle more acute move jump humps out sideways. Three reps on one side then three reps on the other side.

The middle bar can be moved up to full height.

With slices it is important to work both equally.

Basic Grids can be turned into slicing grids. Exchange the bar in the slice exercise for a tyre and for a spread.




For dogs that jump with heads high and gazelle like do the SETPOINT exercise that is set up for puppies except instead of jump hump as a bar you use solid panels. The two pieces of PVC are also V set on the landing side of the jump (the BACK of the jump). Jump hump is 3 ft away from jump panels.

Dogs with Early take off: MOVING GRIDS.

HALF CIRCLE WORK – A progression from Bend Grids.

See Image.

AIM: Want the dog giving 3 performances irrespective of where the handler is.

Rep #1 Dog does Bar 1, 2 and 3 (Toy placed on ground between 3 and 4)

Rep #2 Dog does Bar 3, 2 and 1.

Rep #3 Dog does Bar 1,2,3,4 and 5.

Rep #4 Dog does Bar 5,4,3,2 and 1.

Problems: Change things in the following order if not successful:

1) Lower the heights first

2) Break it down into segments second

3) Bring Arc in or out thirdly

Make sure you return to a balance grid variable heights after this work.


See image:

  • AIMS: Trying to get the dog to have rhythm
  • Cathy noted our dogs have good toy drive
  • If you do run down the lane then you automatically increase drive and length of stride and you’ll never know if he actually understands/scopes/judges well

Progression: Not testing to see if the dog bounces each jump. If the dog is not bouncing then bring the heights down THEN bring in the last two.

Testing to see if dog judges that it needs more effort for each bar.

WHY WE USE A TOY. It decreases the impact of the handler.

Susan Salo: A dog can take anything up to 12 months to develop a good jumping style. Earlier for scoping skills to develop.

SCOPING: The dog’s ability to read and adjust stride over a number of variable distances and jump heights. This only starts to happen after a dog is completing the BALANCE GRIDS very well.

Six Meter apart jump lanes can be used for handling practice.


Anonymous said...

Wow Simone what a lot of work! Well done! :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Simone,
thank you so much for sharing your notes - jump grids are great and you have really motivated me to work them more than I do.
Always enjoy reading your blog, especially after you have been to a seminar!
Thanks again,

tsuey hiu said...

I am not sure whether my previous comment was updated but if not here is a new one : Thank you so much for your comprehensive note. It is obvious that you have spent a great deal of time & effort - thank you for your generosity in sharing.
May the Agility God bless you with many wonderful runs & qualies

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing Simone - so comprehensive.

Turbo Taj said...

Hi Simone

Thankyou for providing such detailed notes, although Taj and I have a grand total of two puppy foundation classes under our belts (and therefore I don't really understand everythign you have written) I am sure that I will keep coming back and studying your blog for notes, tips and advice.

If Taj can have a quarter of his dad's success, I will be thrilled! At just six months of age, I can see some similarities between him and Cypher already, so I guess its possible:)



Trent said...

great post, thanks very much for sharing.