Friday, December 05, 2014


Kili and I have been hard at work on a new trick. I wanted to hold off on posting it until it was finished, because, honestly, when I decided to train this trick I wasn't sure how long it would take. But yet again, Kili is a super star and she learned the vault in a little over a month.

As with all tricks that require a lot of body movement, this one had to be broken right down. The thing with greyhounds isn't that they can't be trained to do the tricks you see Border Collies doing... it's that it requires more time and sometimes creativity, not just so they mentally "get" what you want, but also physically. Our greyhounds just don't move the same way as a border collie, and what comes naturally to a smaller, more compact breed, is foreign for a leggy, long sighthound. I looked for videos on Youtube: "How to teach dog to vault" and I got lots of hits. But basically all of them said "set your dog up a short distance from you. Show your dog the disc. Hold it up high and invite them to take it" and their little border collie would vault right up there. That does not work with a sighthound. As you'll see... we had to start from beyond square one.

Step 1: Teach the dog to jump off an object. The idea of the vault is for your dog to jump off your body. So I started by teaching Kili to jump off a box. But there's a difference between vaulting off a box and just jumping off a box. The former involves jumping UP and OUT, and the latter is jumping DOWN. The key was to find a way to teach Kili that I wanted her to jump UPWARDS.

Step 2: I tried several things before I finally found a winning combo. I set an agility jump right on the other side of my box and then lured with a cookie, keeping my hand (and therefore the cookie) elevated to convince her to stretch for it. Once she was consistently vaulting from the box I started to lower the height of the agility jump and switched to a disc instead of a food lure.

Step 3: Introduce the handler. With the bar on the agility jump gone I wanted to start introducing myself into the equation since eventually she'd have to be jumping onto and off me. I started by kneeling behind the vaulting box and offering the disc for a take. Eventually I removed the jump completely and then started to slide my way further and further onto the box. This got her used to working with a smaller platform sine I am clearly not as wide as a rubbermaid container.

Step 4: Vaulting off the handler and catching in the air. I needed to get Kili to start jumping onto me as her vaulting platform. I took the blanket off the box and used it to keep consistency. I sat on the box and covered my lap with the blanket. My legs were now the target for her to launch off of. I used the disc and offered her a take. However, we also needed to get her used to the idea of catching the disc instead of just taking it from my hand. For that I went back a step so she was using the box again. I didn't want her worrying about her footing as well as catching.

Step 5: Catching during vault and moving on up. The next step was putting the two actions of the previous step together. She needed to jump off me but also catch the disc. For this I simply went back to having her vault off my lap but offered a throw instead of a take. Once she was comfortable with catching during a vault it was time to start taking this vertical. We moved from the box to a stool and continued with catching during a vault. At this stage I also faded out the blanket as a target.

Step 6: Going vertical. Kili now had a pretty solid concept of the vault. It was time to get this trick free standing. I will obviously not have a chair or box to sit on during a freestyle routine. I needed to be standing. This was the simplest part of the whole training process because I just had to find ways to slowly increase my height. I used an adjustable stool and slowly raised it until I was just standing and leaning on it for support. I've left a blooper in there when I lost my balance. I just started using the stool less and less for support and finally removed it completely. Ta da! Free standing leg vault!

I really loved this trick. There's still some work to go into it with fine tuning and making it a really solid behaviour. I can't wait to get this trick outdoors in the spring and get some video from further away to give you a better appreciation for how cool this trick is. Next? A back vault!

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