This week I received a new jump for DPF Leading Agility’s trials and training: a triple bar. This triggered me to contemplate the role of wings on jumps. Within the sport, there is a growing trend for the preference of wings on jumps. The wings can serve several purposes:
- Improve the visibility of the jump on the course, relative to other obstacles and background;
- Highlight the center / apex of the jump (indeed Naarah Cuddy has an exercise that highlights that some dogs rely heavily on the wings to determine their take-off points, and jump there regardless of whether the bar is between the wings or not);
- Help shape a better approach for backside jumps or exit for wrap.
In addition to the above, some believe that wings put on the back edge of a spread jump may assist with depth perception of the jump for the dog. However, Susan Salo wrote in Clean Run some time ago about jumping mechanics. In that article, she discussed the importance of equally “weighted” poles, or if one pole has greater weight (e.g., more visible banding) it should be the most important pole for the dog’s information.
In agility in Canada, we have many types of jumps: single bar (wing and wingless – AAC, UKI, CKC), ascending (multiple poles, in ascending order along the natural jump ascent for the top bar – AAC), double bar (equal height bars with some spread, and X of bars below – AAC), spread (two poles of ascending height with wide spread – UKI), and the triple bar (three ascending poles with wide spread – AAC and CKC). Each of these have their own jump trajectory that the dog must compute on approach.
I present three key different ones to highlight how the placement and number of poles, the wing, and minimal jump trajectory interact. I use the assumptions that the most economical jump is where the dog’s take-off point is equidistant from the jump as is the landing point. So if a jump is 24″ high, the take-off point is just outside of 24″ and the landing point is just outside of 24″.
The single bar nicely fits this criteria as seen above.
With the double bar jump (AAC), a challenge becomes the dog’s ability to read the depth and true jump apex since the bars are of equal height. For many dogs, their eyes are near their jump height; this can obscure the information of the second back pole. Thus, the dog needs additional cues that there is an unseen depth to the jump.
In Canada, the double bar is required to have an “X” created by two additional poles in the spread. This creates a unique picture from the single bar jump for the dog. However, the X under the bars, actually draws the dog’s eyes down from the top bars, which may detract a novice dog from being able to accurately read the jump requirements. The well-trained dog, who is familiar with the “X”, may use that as a visual cue for the spread and second pole.
Alternatively the wing, if placed in the center, may help provide additional depth information. If wings are placed solely on one side, the wings on the landing side would highlight the depth more strongly, but as the double could be bi-directional in games, the wings on the approach pole would provide no depth cues. In this situation, an economical jump trajectory would result in the back pole being knocked.
Thus as you can see above, the double bar jump requires the dog’s most economical jump trajectory to be higher and longer than the single bar jump.
Finally, for the spread jumps that have fully visible bars, the question begs to be asked: do wings help or hinder the assessment of the jump trajectory requirements for the dog?
When the bars are fully visible, the dog can see which is the top bar’s jump height. The dog can also see the front bar’s height and what its jump trajectory requirements are. This category of “spreads” are one of two types: (1) all the front poles fall beneath the natural jump trajectory for the back pole; or (2) the front poles require a bigger and longer jump and an altered take-off point than what the back pole suggests.
For the former (AAC Ascending), the take-off and landing are similar to those of a single bar jump (with a straight approach). This jump is simply more visually “busy” for the dog with up to 6 poles. However, wings for these jumps are fixed at the back, near the 24″ cup. For the small to medium dogs, this creates false information of depth that isn’t true to the actual jump. These dogs must focus solely on the information of the poles to accurately assess their jump trajectory. Thus, wings on the ascending jump only assist large (20-24″) dogs, but may be a detractor to the small to medium (8″-16″).
For the latter (UKI Spread, and Triple), both the front and the back bars are equally important in the calculation for the dog. Given they are of equal importance, these two bars must be of “equal weight” visually for the dog. As Susan Salo previously argued, the visual draw of the poles’ striping/marking should be equal. But also given what Naraah Cuddy highlights with jump wings and bar-awareness training, the presence and location of wings also alter the “weight” of the bars. Thus, having a wing on the back of these jumps actually make it more likely that the dog will miscalculate the take-off point and take a pole (likely the front one).
Given spreads are not wrapped, nor used as backside jumps, the wings are not required for shaping of the curved lines before or after the jump. However, there still remains the issue of visibility from other obstacles/backgrounds. This speaks to the importance of color and boldness of the striping. These poles should be highly visible (strong / thick vertical striping of good contrast color from the background visuals – not thin spirals or prints; e.g., Nicki Gurr, 2018).
And this concludes my musings on the different jumps and wings. This isn’t the definitive answer, but the start of a conversation. Please note, I know that dogs don’t always jump true to economics. Some fly through the air, catching incredible air time. Kelsey was like that (my flying squirrel). Some massively over-jump jumps (I wonder if that is the default for “better safe rather than sorry”). But the above analyses are the mechanically most economical jump calculations for straight approaches in moderate extension.
Let me know what your experiences have been with spreads, wings and your dog’s size and performance challenges.