Before I ever send my dogs over the French Ring palisade, I teach them proper technique using an a-frame. It can be an agility or Schutzhund a-frame, or doesn’t even have to be a formal (ie certain measurements) a-frame for another sport, but simply something made of a couple pieces of plywood and some hinges. I also teach my dogs to go to a “place” and stay there, this isn’t required for this technique, but is handy for many things, not just the a-frame/palisade.
Starting with the a-frame at a height where I can control the dog the entire way up and down, I have them run up and over the a-frame, while telling them “place” as they are coming down the back side. I want them to go all the way down to the ground on the a-frame, and NOT jump off. When they get to their place they are rewarded and then released. If your dog doesn’t know “place” you can put food or a toy at the bottom of the a-frame and guide them to it. I do this repeatedly until the dog is consistently going all the way down the back side of the a-frame and either stopping at their place, or grabbing the toy and continuing on. The dog is NEVER allowed to jump off the back side of the a-frame. If they do jump off, they are not rewarded, and the next time they do it I will make them pause at the top of the a-frame for a second, then come down the back side slowly.
Once the dog is consistently going all the way down the back side, I increase the height of the a-frame, making it steeper, and repeat the steps in part 1. I will continue to increase the steepness of the a-frame until it either can’t go any higher/steeper, or the dog is sliding down the back side in an effort to stop at the bottom, unable to stop until they hit the ground.
After the technique is solid, I will lower the a-frame to the point the dog can run down the back side, instead of sliding, and teach the concept of going over, waiting, then coming back. This is best done with a helper to verify the dog is going all the way down the back side of the a-frame, and also to prepare them for the return. Standing on one side of the a-frame I will send the dog up and over. After they stop on the back side, my helper will take the dog 3-4 feet away from the a-frame and send them back over it to me. This is where having a “place” really comes in handy, as you can replace the helper on the back side with a “place” command, have your dog go to place, wait, then return on command.
Then next step before we finally do the actual palisade is to have the dog in a stay, a couple meters away from the a-frame, while I go stand next to the a-frame, in the same position I would be in if we were doing the palisade in a trial. I will send the dog over the a-frame (out jump) and to their place marker or toy, and have them down/stay. I move to where the dog was originally sitting, and recall the dog back over the a-frame. If the dog anticipates the recall, I will send them over the a-frame to their place, then while they are holding the stay throw a toy over the a-frame to reward the stay. Then we start over again with the out jump.
At this point I will introduce the palisade. The first time I put them over the palisade I like to do a few a-frames first, just to set the tone. Then we move to the palisade and start with step 4, replacing the a-frame with the palisade. Using this technique 99% of my dogs have jumped the palisade without issue the first time they were shown it. And they have proper technique on the back side, coming down the side of the palisade and then dropping to the ground vs launching off the top.
Throughout a dogs FR career I keep an eye on their palisade technique, and we will go back and work the a-frame on a semi-regular basis, to keep them consistent. If a dog starts launching off the top of the palisade, and it’s not corrected immediately, it is very easy for them to build a habit that can be difficult to fix, and also hard on their bodies.
© 2011 Kadi Thingvall