Ground Bound Dogs with Tracy Custer

Recently there was a post on the Disc Dog Discussions Facebook Group about a dog who would only lift her front paws off the ground instead of leaping for a catch.  Tracy Custer’s response to this question was so on point that I asked her to let me publish it here.  Luckily, Tracy is a super nice person & gave me permission! So below is her response, giving some training advice for those dogs who don’t leap.

There are lots of drills you can do to help teach a ground bound dog to use their hind end more…………I adopted a BC back in December who never left the ground and now he is popping nicely. And believe it or not, Chill was also glued to the ground for the first 2 months or so.

Set point Jumps and Jump Grids: lots of video out there, Susan Salo also has some great training on this stuff. I took my experience from horse jumping and agility to work through a lot of this. Put the foundation on the dog to jump well without a disc, before trying to add the disc into the equation. Of course, leaping over a stationary object for a target on the ground is very different than leaping for a moving target in the air. So, once the dog is proficient with the jump work, I will add a disc on just a simple set point to an ascending oxer (that is a jump with two bars, the back bar being higher than the front). I will put photos of this drill in the replies below………….

Hind end awareness work: Lots of dogs really just don’t know how to use their rears. So things like cavalettis, hind feet on a platform/step/target, shape lifting each hind leg, backing up, etc.

Fitness work: Build strength with cross training like swimming, hiking, running, etc.

Throwing to create a leaping opportunity: Throwing with intent (as PVybers say!), placement of the disc can make a huge difference. Throwing drills like pendulums and flanks can help the dog see these opportunities. PVybe has tons of vids on these types of drills.

I also have a little technique I call a Popper, that Melissa Heeter showed me many years ago. It is difficult to explain, but it has been huge in giving some of my dogs confidence in leaping for a disc. If you are a righty, have the dog seated at your left side. You are basically going to offer a take (from your right hand), over your extended left leg. Here’s the important part…………show the disc high, as the dog leaps to take it, drop the disc about 6″. This causes the dog to drop his head. At the same time, as the dog leaps over your left leg, gently pop up his midsection with your left hand. You are creating the arc through the dog’s body. As the dog gets more proficient, your left hand is used less and less. Of course, please take the time to desensitize the dog to you touching under the belly, etc, as some dogs can be uncomfortable if you just suddenly reach under them : )

Here is the photo series Tracy mentions.  Special thanks to Bria Schimsa for allowing us to use her photos! If you click/tap a photo, you should be able to see a larger version.

Here is a 2nd series of the same sequence, also photographed by Bria Schimsa.


Tracy mentioned Susan Salo in her response.  Susan Salo is well known for her jumping resources in the agility world.  Here’s a link to some resources: Susan Salo Resources

She also mentions Pvybe.  Here’s a link to the Pvybe website: Pvybe

Thank you Tracy, for sharing so much great information with us!