July 19, 2012

Deceleration: Position and Timing

Acceleration and Deceleration are movement cues that our dogs respond to naturally. If you take your dog to a park and start running, your dog will run too! If you slow down, your dog will slow down, add strides, and check in with you to see what you are doing. Our goal is to turn this natural response into a conscience response on the dog’s part, and then use these cues deliberately on course to get great drive and great turns out of our dog.


As with any maneuver, I need to give my dog the information he needs before he has committed himself to an incorrect response.  For a decel, this means cuing the deceleration just before the dog gathers to jump.  This allows the dog to choose a tight arc (taking off and landing relatively close to the jump) and angle his jump (to wrap toward the handler).


The decel cue should ideally occur in the dog’s take off zone.  For a small dog, this may be just six inches back from the jump.  For a larger dog, this maybe be several feet.  Under no circumstances should you step PAST the plane of the jump.  This is an acceleration cue and your dog would be correct to ‘jump long’ or jump in full extension.  This will cause him to land further out from the jump and therefore turn wide.  In theory, this is easy!  In practice, handlers have a hard time keeping their feet still.  Many handlers will unconsciously take one last step forward right as the dog is about to take off, as if they don’t trust the dog to take the jump while they themselves are stationary.  This is where video review will greatly improve your deceleration cue.

Timing vs Position

If you cannot get to the perfect position at the perfect time, timing trumps position.  Your dog has fantastic peripheral vision and can perceive your decel cue, even if you have ended up behind your dog.  You must slam on the breaks just before the dog gathers to jump.  If you are still racing to get to your ideal decel position, you are, in fact, giving a very strong acceleration cue.

Teaching your Dog

I use three jumps in a straight line to introduce my dog to the deceleration cue.

  • First, I will race my dog over all three jumps. This sets up a contrast (the acceleration) to the decel that will come next.
  • Next I will lead out into my perfect decel position at jump two.  I am now training myself!  I have taken out my movement allowing me to start in perfect position.
    • I release my dog who will take jump 1 and 2.  When he realizes I’m not coming, he will (eventually!) turn back toward me.  I reward this response with a treat or tug.
    • I repeat this for several repetitions.   I should see my dog start turning tighter and tighter; after all, the reward is always back with me and taking the jump long just delays his reward.
  • Once my dog has figured out that he should tightly wrap the jump to get to his reward quickly, I add in handler movement.
    • I lead out slightly so that I can get to my ideal position at the ideal time.  This makes the exercise much more difficult for my dog as I am now showing acceleration first, and then giving a decel cue.  It also makes the exercise much more difficult for me!  I must now get MY timing right in order to show my dog the proper decel cue at the proper time.
  • Once I am comfortable and my dog is responding well, I will randomize acceleration through all three jumps with deceleration at jump 2 (both a lead out into decel position and running into decel position).  This actually solidifies my dog’s understand since the contrast helps him pick up the physical differences between the acceleration cue and the deceleration cue.

This video demonstrates how effective these cues can be once your dog is responding to them consciously.  You can clearly see a difference in striding and arc when the handler is accelerating vs when the handler is decelerating.  Video your acceleration and deceleration cues.  How well does your dog understand these cues?  Post your videos!


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  • My dog understands the decel when I want her to wrap a jump, but when I just need her to decal for a sharp turn towards another jump I don’t have a common for that. Ho should I train that?

  • this is an excerpt from Linda Mecklenburg’s article from Clean Run on ETS.


    There is no known cure for ETS. It progresses
    slowly and gets steadily worse
    over time. I’ve worked with many dedicated,
    conscientious handlers of affected
    dogs over the years. It is important to
    understand the handler is not responsible
    for the development of ETS. It is not
    due to inadequate training, and training
    is not going to solve it. Repeated jump
    grids or other drills can actually worsen
    the problem because the dogs cannot
    respond as expected. If presented with
    jumping challenges they are incapable
    of solving, the dogs get discouraged and lose confidence, making matters worse.
    Often the last thing you should do is try
    to “fix” ETS because the more you obsesses
    about the problem, the more worried
    the dog gets. Indeed, because stress
    can exacerbate the problem, some dogs
    have been treated with anti-anxiety medications.
    To my knowledge, this has not
    been of much benefit unless the dog has
    other unrelated behavioral issues.

    • First, let me say that I am stating my own personal opinion 🙂

      However, I will note that in the next paragraph, Linda goes on to say
      “Although training does not improve early takeoff syndrome in the long term, there are some things that can be done to help the dog in the early stages. It is important for the dog to learn to focus on where the actual jump is.”

      She lists several exercises and then concludes:
      “Some handlers have reported that they’ve stopped competing totally to go back and work through the jumping program in Developing Jumping Skills from the beginning with some success. Others have felt that asking the dog to do simple jump grids had some benefit. In either case, most likely improvement is due to the confidence the dog gains through the program, not because of the training program itself. ”

      I view jump training as giving my dog this confidence by progressing through a system that allows him to understand the mechanics of jumping better. I would certainly NOT use any corrections, and I agree that confidence is king.

      But to answer Steve’s question, I personally would adjust my jump training, and work to ensure confidence with an ETS dog, but I would not adjust my handling.

  • Steve –
    I believe that dealing with ETS involves extensive work to help your dog learn how to jump correctly, however, I would NOT change my handling. I would work on jumping using single jumps or jump chutes. I personally saw a lot of short term improvement doing Susan Salo exercises.

    But to answer your question, I do not believe that the above exercises change if you have a dog with ETS.

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