Updated: Dec 7, 2021
There are many types of jump grids, I'm going to outline a few of the ones that I think are most useful.
Why do we do grids?
Jump grids are jumping education, we use them to teach dogs how to jump and take the correct strides between jumps. We also use them as jumping maintenance for experience dogs. Jump grids teach the dog how to look ahead and see what's coming so they can make accurate striding choices. One of the main reasons dogs knock bars is because they chose to put in the wrong amount of strides between obstacles...resulting in them taking off too early (which makes them start to land over the bar and hit it), or take off too late (which makes them not get enough air over the bar and hit it). As the dogs are running full speed around the course, they need to make split second decisions to help them jump cleanly. Because the distances between each obstacle varies, the dogs need to learn how to add strides, or elongate their stride, when the distance is big. Or take a stride out, or shorten their stride, when the distance is closer.
The best way we can help them learn to do this is by setting up different striding pictures and letting them get many repetitions in.
If a dog isn't looking ahead to see what's coming, and hasn't had exposure to grid training, they can be surprised by the distances between jump and make the wrong choice resulting in the bar coming down.
Important tips -
Always have a target plate at the end of the grid. This is really important to help the dogs learn to look ahead and see what's coming. If they are looking at you, they can't see the upcoming jumps and distances. Running towards a plate and rewarding on it will help the dogs have good forward focus. You can also use a manners minder or placed toy.
An easy way to measure the distances between jumps is to know how long your jump bar is...most are 4ft or 5ft. Use the jump bar end to end to measure the distance.
Video record your sessions. It is really hard to see what the dog is doing while you're working them. It is importnat to know what they're doing...are they focusing forward? How many strides are they putting in? You can see this really easy with video. The video examples of Chip below, I put some in slow motion...learn what dogs looks like when they are bouncing vs. one striding.
Recall Run Send. With every straight line grid, you should practice it in a Recall Run Send pattern. Dogs do different things with their jumping if the handler is ahead, running next to them, or behind them...so it's important that we practice these elements in grid setting. You might find one of these is more challenging for your dog than others.
Recall - you leave your dog at one end of the grid and go to the other end of the grid to release them. Place the treat on the plate, then stand up and release your dog. You are ahead the whole time and not moving after you release them. You can leave the dog in a sit stay or have someone else hold them. Always place the treat on the plate first, you don't want to be bending down to place the treat as the dog is jumping. And the cookie needs to be on the plate when the dog lands from the final jump.
Run. Pre-load the plate so a cookie is there if the dog beats you to the plate. Lead out about halfway down the grid, then release your dog and run full speed with them toward the plate. Practice this with dog on your left and right sides.
Send. Pre-load the plate. No lead out or sit stay. Hold the dog in the collar, do a "ready, set, go!" You still run with the dog, you just don't have a head start, so the dog will drive ahead of you to the plate.
Rewarding and Errors.
We need the dogs to look forward towards the plate, that's why we are pre-loading the plate in most situations. Pre-load the plate with a small piece of treat (not a whole jackpot), the dog will get this treat no matter what...this is what will help reinforce them for driving forward. If the dog jumped the grid cleanly, then do a party on the plate and jackpot them with more rewards.
If they knocked a bar, they get the one small cookie on the plate, but they don't get the party. After an error, always repeat the same picture again. The dogs are learning jumping skills through repetition, so show them the same picture a few more times and see if they can sort it out.
If you get repeated errors (you've done the same picture at least 4 times and the dog is still making the same error) then start to make it easier. You can lower the jumps - all of them, or just the one they are knocking. You can take some speed away. Maybe don't lead out as far, or run as quickly. Only do half the grid, start the dog one jump before where the error was happening.
1. Equal Distance Grid.
Full Height. 3 to 6 jumps. You can go both directions, just make sure you're going towards a target. Work dog on both sides of you.
This grid is meant to be at full height. If your dog hasn't jumped full height yet, or is still learning, you can start low and work up to full height.
Use as many jumps as you can, but ideally this is done with 4, 5, or 6 jumps.
The distance between each jump should be the same. You should vary the distance, they can be anywhere between 18ft and 26ft apart. Just make sure the distance is the same between each jump. The example picture above shows examples at different distances and using different amounts of jumps.
They should have the same spacing between each jump. But as they pick up speed towards the end of the grid, sometimes you will see errors. They need to learn to stay balanced and use the correct striding, even if they pick up speed.
Do this grid in the Recall Run Send variety listed above.
If you do the grid a few times cleanly, then change up the spacing - if your jumps were 18ft apart, now put them 20' apart. Agility courses are never the same, it's important for the dogs to see new pictures constantly.
2. Variable Distance Grid
Full height. 3 or 4 jumps. Go only one direction. Run towards a target.
Ideally do this grid with 4 jumps, but you can do it with 3 jumps.
This grid changes the distance between the last two jumps, to make sure the dog is noticing the change in distance and adjusting their stride appropriately. The distance between jumps 1 & 2, and jumps 2 & 3 stay the same each time...it could be 18ft or 20ft. The distance between jumps 3 & 4 should change every few times. If the dog jumps the grid cleanly twice, then change the distance by about 2-5 feet.
When the jump gets farther away, you should see the dog elongate their stride to cover the larger distance. Or they may add in another stride to cover the distance.
When the jump moves closer in, the dog needs to either shorten their stride or take out a stride.
You can do this as a Recall Run Send.
3. Increasing/Decreasing Distance Grid
Full height. 4 or 5 jumps. Go both directions.
This grid works on the distance between jumps increasing as you go one direction, and decreasing as you go the other direction.
When you go in the increasing distance, the dogs need to look ahead and judge the upcoming distance to decide whether they should elongate their stride or add an additional stride.
When going in the decreasing distance direction, the dogs need to look ahead to determine if they should shorten their stride, or take a stride out.
Work this as a Recall Run Send, always going towards a target plate.
You can go back and forth, but if the dog hits a bar repeat the same picture again until they jump cleanly.
4. Power Bounce Grid
Low jumps. Can use 3 to 6 jumps.
This grid works on fast footwork, and getting organized and balanced correctly between jumps. They must learn to do this very quickly as the jumps are so close together. This is also a good conditioning drill as it takes a lot of rear end strength for the dog to power off of each bounce. If your dog hasn't done this much before, don't do too many reps. They will get tired quickly!
This grid is built based on the size of the dog. The distance between the jumps is determined on your dog's size and what height they measure into (not what height they are jumping, if you're in preferred for example.) You may have to experiment with the distances to see what works best for your dog.
We want the dogs to bounce between each jump, which means they are landing and taking off in the same hit (you will only see them his the ground once). This means the jumps need to be close enough in order for them to do that.
Bouncing takes strength and confidence. If the dog isn't bouncing, either move the jumps a few inches closer together until they are bouncing, or lower the jumps and help their confidence.
5. Set Point
This grid teaches the dog the correct take off spot, using a low lead in jump as a stride regulator.
The wingless jump is always at 8" (or 4" for 8" dogs). The winged jump works up to full height. Start low if your dog is jump learning jumping or hasn't done this before. Work up a few inches at a time until you reach full height. Keep your sessions short, fatigue errors will happen if they get tired.
We want a bounce between the two jumps, so the jumps need to be closer enough together to get that. 4 - 4.5ft is usually good for dogs jumping 16" and under. 4.5 - 5.5ft is usually good for dogs jumping 20" and above.
Start with the dog in a stay close to the first jump. You want them to be able to take off for the jump from where they are sitting. Because the jumps are so closer together, we don't want a lot of speed.
Do this drill as a Recall Run Send.
After doing it in a straight line, work the bend. Still try to keep the same distance between the jumps...measuring center of bar to center of bar. Move the target plate to support the dog bending over the winged jump.
Start this low and work up to full height as your dog is turning nicely. It is common for them to turn better one direction than the other. If you notice this, do more on their harder direction. And you may need to keep the jump lower and progress more slowly on their harder direction.
You can also do this drill with other jumps like a panel or spread jump.
6. Three Jump Bend Grid
This is a more advanced version of the set point bend. The dog should make a bounce between each jump. This helps the dogs learn they can start turning before they jump and bend over the bar. Instead of jumping straight, then turning after they land.
Start with the jumps very low and close together to help encourage the bounce. Pre-load the target plate to help the dogs head carriage over the last turn...they should be looking down, not up at you. I like to hold them in the collar close to the first jump, then send them into the grid...don't need to do a sit stay. Keep your hands low and quiet and pivot in a small circle as the dog goes around the grid.
You can raise the jumps a little at a time as the dog is successful. Some of the larger dogs may need more space between the jumps as the height gets higher.
Go both directions and try to recognize if the dog is better one way.
Final reminders - these are physically challenging drills, don't over work the dog. You will get fatigue errors if they get tired.
Video record your sessions, it's hard to see what they are doing a lot of the time while you're moving with them.
Make sure they are focusing forward and you are using placed rewards at the end of the grid.