Performing agility exercises with your dog is a great way for you both to keep fit. Most dogs enjoy the mental and physical challenge of agility training, even if this means simply negotiating some rudimentary obstacles. Teaching your dog to jump an obstacle incorporates elements of agility, obedience and good old fashioned play.
For this you will need some adjustable jumps, these can be anything from competition standard hurdles to two piles of books with a scarf draped across the top. The most important aspect of teaching your dog the jump is that it is done safely and that both of you have fun.
Shall we start?
With your dog present in front of you, erect both jumps, configuring them at low height and setting them ten feet apart. Do it again. Then walk your dog to a point between the obstacles. Aim the dog toward the High Jump, and issue the command, "Stay." Walk to an equidistant spot, relative to the obstacles and the dog. Emphatically point and step toward the High Jump and command, "Up."
As your dog sails over the correct jump, praise, "Good Pup," and take him back to the starting point. The dog may be apprehensive at first, so it is important to allow him do this in his own time. Jogging with him on lead towards the obstacle until he feels that he wants to jump it may work best.
After the dog has jumped the obstacle, command the dog to "Stay," return to a location opposite the animal, and repeat the exercise. Do the routine twice more, then end the session. By positioning yourself on the other side of the obstacle, you are incentivising your dog to get from point a to point b – via the jump. Your dog may attempt to find a way round the obstacle, so safely limiting these options is a good idea.
On the next day, repeat the preceding exercise once. Then "Stay" your companion, having first aligned him toward the other obstacle, the Bar Jump. Return to your command location, and - adding pronounced body language - command him over this second jump. If he does as well with it as he did with the first hurdle - and he probably will - great!
Once your dog understands the concept of going over the jump, provided they are set at a safe and clearable height, it won’t really matter how high they are.
Now the work is in gradually raising the jumps' heights, repositioning them until they're eighteen to twenty feet apart, you’ll find that the need to position the dog in front of the obstacles decreases as he becomes used to the exercise. During the teaching sequence, should your pet take any action other than the correct one, don't chastise him. Perform some work at which he excels (to finish high), and call it a day. Initiate a more structured method tomorrow.
Directed Jumping - Structured Method
Begin by leaving your dog on a “Sit-Stay”, fifteen feet from and facing a standard High Jump. Walk to the hurdle's opposite side and command, "Up." Skip the finish. Repeat the exercise, but this time move leftward a few feet as your pet leaves the ground; turning to face him as he lands. Run through this routine three more times, then close the session.
Start the next period by leaving your dog on a Sit-Stay, fifteen feet from and facing a standard High Jump. Walk to the obstacle's other side, and after standing there for a few seconds, move a few feet to your left. Adding an exaggerated hand signal, verbally command your dog over the jump. Should he attempt to run to you, block him and repeat the "Up" command while gesturing toward the obstacle. If need be, lift him over the hurdle. Repeat this new procedure three times before ending the period.
Over the next few sessions, gradually position yourself farther left until you're twenty feet removed from the centre line between the two jumps. Though less distance is required in competition, the extra-mile principle operates here by saying to your dog that he's to clear the indicated obstacle regardless how far you are from it.
The next stage is steadily moving your pet's starting point to your left (his right). "Sit-Stay" your friend three feet left of the two jumps' centre line, and walk to a point opposite his new starting position. Adding excessive body language (stepping and pointing toward the desired jump), command, "Up."
Most of all have fun as you learn. Send your photographs of your dog learning the high jump into us with your own top tips - we'd love to hear from you!