30 April 2010

ETS and packing

So in the midst of final preparation for my trip, and this article about ETS comes out in Clean Run. I normally don't read Clean Run but so many people are blogging about this I took a glance at it while eating some cereal yesterday. I've also looked at Linda's online article previously. What's disturbing me is that so many people think ETS is a load of bullshit.

It's absolutely not.

Now, is "Early Takeoff Syndrome" something a dog inherits, that causes only weird jumping issues? No, of course not. it's a combination of some mental softness/confidence issues, and depth perception, in my opinion (which is similar to what Linda concluded, I believe). I had a dog with a mild ETS issue, and I know quite a few dogs with ETS issues. Some breeds, terriers especially, are very prone to it. Border collies are one of the ones where it seems to run in lines. Now, when I had a dog with an early takeoff issue, I went back and did a LOT of jump work with her. We did bounce grids (pre-Susan Salo, who doesn't float my boat), jump lines with varying distances, sending, recalls, big spreads, everything. And sometimes she'd look good for a while. Sometimes she wouldn't. I believe that I know what I'm doing. And I couldn't "fix" this dog with jump work. I did eventually adapt by doing the things Linda describes: I starting handling from the rear. I didn't lead out as far. I didn't use landing side front crosses. I never raced her down a line of jumps. I over-used rear crosses to stay out of her way. I even set her up 3 feet from the first obstacle! (these were the things that earned me the wrongful reputation of "not doing front crosses" for a while!) This is not a list of things you do with a dog who simply has a minor jumping problem or hits bars. I've had plenty of dogs in agility now, and only one with this issue. Maybe you don't want to call it a "syndrome", but it really can't be called anything else? It's a collection of descriptors that fit a group of dogs with a so-far uncureable problem.

I know a dog who had it as a mild case as a younger dog, and it got worse. She was bred to a dog with no issues. 2 of those offspring also stutter and leap. One rather spectacularly. One of the non-stuttering ones has been bred several times now, so it will be interesting to see if his offspring stutter. The original dog, the female, was bred from pure working border collie lines, by a working border collie person who does zero agility.

My ETS dog has a half-sister who was bred, and she also had mild ETS. Some of her offspring have varying degrees of it as well. One crashes spread jumps with some regularity. The other doesn't hit many bars but arcs early most of the time.

I don't think "ETS" is genetic, but the combination of factors that combine to produce the problem ARE, so it's pretty much the same thing, isn't it? Now if you aren't breeding dogs specifically for agility, then it does not matter one bit. But if you are, or are buying a pup for agility, then it should matter. I've dealt with a mild form (and I spent 4 months getting my dog to go through an EIGHT INCH HIGH TIRE happily because she'd crashed so many she was terrified of it!), and I would not want it again.

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