How to Train Your Dog to Agility Jump

How to Train Your Dog to Agility Jump
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon1-6 Weeks
Fun training category iconFun

Introduction

Have a dog that loves to run and jump? Why not use that ability to create a fun activity together that promotes learning, following direction, and developing physical strength. You and your dog can even get involved in agility competitions. Many dogs love to jump and are very good at it. Both large and small dogs can be naturally good at jumping--although a small dog may require somewhat smaller obstacles, you would be surprised at how high a talented small dog may be able to jump. Training your dog to agility jump builds your relationship with your dog, provides a fun training experience, and builds physical strength. Before teaching agility jumping, ensure your dog should be jumping, as some dogs with physical limitations, medical conditions, or certain conformational traits, such as long-bodied dogs, should avoid this exercise. Be sure to check with a veterinarian whether your dog should learn agility jumping before proceeding.

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Defining Tasks

An agility jump is part of most agility competitions, so if you are planning on competing you will need to teach your dog how to perform these obstacles. Some dogs and owners may just choose to learn agility jumping for fun. To perform an agility jump correctly, your dog will need to wait patiently for the jump command in front of the obstacle, approach the jump on command, launch himself over the jump, land, and approach his handler ready for his next command. Jumping is a natural activity for dogs. Working dogs, such as herding and hunting dogs, routinely jump obstacles as part of their work, and your dog's ancestors routinely jumped obstacles while hunting and traveling. Most dogs jump naturally as part of play, so the “trick” to teaching agility jumping is to combine this natural activity with a command.

Although it may not take long to teach your dog to jump to a command, it may take weeks or months for them to develop the strength to jump larger obstacles efficiently and safely, without risk of injuring themselves. Because of the physical requirements of a jump, it can be hazardous to dogs that are not physically ready to attempt the jump, especially if a jump height is too challenging, or in young dogs where joints, bones, and muscles are still developing. Be sure to determine what is an appropriate height for your dog to jump and remember that different dog breeds develop at different rates--some dogs may be ready to start agility jumping activity younger than others. It's usually recommended that dogs are at least 1 year of age, older for giant breeds, before initiating agility jumping.

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Getting Started

Make sure that the jumps you have set up do not present a hazard if your dog fails to clear them. Sharp objects or objects that can hurt your dog if they fall on him are not appropriate for jump construction. Usually, jumps consist of a lightweight bar suspended at an appropriate height.

Determine the recommended height for jumps for your dog based on their size and ability. Dogs are eager to please and may attempt to jump an obstacle that is beyond their ability, resulting in muscle or joint strain or injury if they fail to clear the jump Always start easy, and work your way up to more difficult jumps slowly and according to your dog's ability. Have appropriate jumps starting at 4 inches for small dogs and 6 inches for larger dogs, that will not injure your dog. Jumps are commercially available, or can be homemade with broom handles elevated above the floor.

Many agility jump training methods incorporate a long leash, 6 to 12 feet in length, and rewards such as food treats or a favorite toy, so be sure you have these available. Decide on a command you will use, such as “jump” or “over”. You can use wings or poles leading up to the jump to guide your dog toward the jump, and discourage him from going around the jump. Vary jump types to include bars, tires, hoops, logs, straw bales or whatever else is appropriate, safe, and available in your home or yard.

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The Lead Together Method

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Lead Together method for How to Train Your Dog to Agility Jump
1

Position your dog

Set up a low jump a few inches from the floor. Ask your dog to sit and stay a few feet in front and facing the jump, while you walk to the other side of the jump with a long leash attached.

2

Call your dog to the jump

Show him his reward, food, or toy, and call your dog. Give a slight tug on the leash.

3

Introduce the command

As he approaches the jump, give the verbal command for jump. Use the leash to guide him over the jump and prevent him from going around the jump.

4

Reward and repeat

Your dog may just step over the jump, if it is low. This is OK – reward him for going over the obstacle. Gradually raise the obstacle and repeat the process, until your dog is jumping the obstacle smoothly. If your dog goes around, back him up to a closer starting point and try again. Do not punish the dog for failed attempts, simply start again until success is achieved and a reward can be provided.

5

Join in

Once successful, start walking or running beside him towards the jump, give him the jump command as he approaches the obstacle, and reward him after he completes the jump. Eventually remove the leash and walk or run next to your dog as they complete the jump.

The Retrieval Method

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Retrieval method for How to Train Your Dog to Agility Jump
1

Introduce the obstacle and the object

Start by walking or running with your dog on a leash, and both you and your dog jump over the obstacle. Provide the retrieval object when he is on the other side of the obstacle.

2

Split off

Gradually begin to go around the obstacle as your dog jumps the obstacle while still walking or running at his side.

3

Toss the object

After your dog is jumping the obstacle solo, with you at his side, wait until you are near the obstacle, and then release and toss the retrieval object over the jump as your dog jumps the obstacle to retrieve the object.

4

Increase distance

Slowly start releasing the object from further and further back.

5

Object only

When a successful pattern is established, throw or toss the retrieval object over the jump for your dog to retrieve.

The Team Approach Method

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Team Approach method for How to Train Your Dog to Agility Jump
1

Approach the jump

Set up one or several jumps, and walk or run with your dog on a leash towards the obstacle.

2

Introduce the command

As you approach each obstacle, give the verbal jump command, and step or jump the obstacle with your dog. Reward your dog each time he completes a jump with you by providing him with a treat or toy.

3

Remove the leash

Remove the leash and complete the obstacles, jumping with your dog off leash.

4

Change positions

Engage a helper to run or walk beside the dog while you call him from the opposite side of the jump. Your helper runs or walks beside the dog, but does not jump the obstacle with the dog.

5

Going solo

With the dog still off leash, walk or run beside your dog toward the obstacle. When you approach the obstacle, give the jump command, but allow the dog to jump over the obstacle while you pass on the outside of the obstacle. Gradually raise the jumps. You may need to go back to the beginning steps if necessary after raising the jump if your dog avoids the jump. Practice this several times a day for several days or weeks to gradually increase your dog's jumping ability and build strength.

By Amy Caldwell

Published: 09/21/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Roxie

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Daschund

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3 Months

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How to stop puppy biting

July 23, 2020

Roxie's Owner

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Alisha Smith - Alisha S., Dog Trainer

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257 Dog owners recommended

Puppies may nip for a number of reasons. Nipping can be a means of energy release, getting attention, interacting and exploring their environment or it could be a habit that helps with teething. Whatever the cause, nipping can still be painful for the receiver, and it’s an action that pet parents want to curb. Some ways to stop biting before it becomes a real problem include: Using teething toys. Distracting with and redirecting your dog’s biting to safe and durable chew toys is one way to keep them from focusing their mouthy energies to an approved location and teach them what biting habits are acceptable. Making sure your dog is getting the proper amount of exercise. Exercise is huge. Different dogs have different exercise needs based on their breed and size, so check with your veterinarian to make sure that yours is getting the exercise they need. Dogs—and especially puppies—use their playtime to get out extra energy. With too much pent-up energy, your pup may resort to play biting. Having them expel their energy in positive ways - including both physical and mental exercise - will help mitigate extra nips. Being consistent. Training your dog takes patience, practice and consistency. With the right training techniques and commitment, your dog will learn what is preferred behavior. While sometimes it may be easier to let a little nipping activity go, be sure to remain consistent in your cues and redirection. That way, boundaries are clear to your dog. Using positive reinforcement. To establish preferred behaviors, use positive reinforcement when your dog exhibits the correct behavior. For instance, praise and treat your puppy when they listen to your cue to stop unwanted biting as well as when they choose an appropriate teething toy on their own. Saying “Ouch!” The next time your puppy becomes too exuberant and nips you, say “OUCH!” in a very shocked tone and immediately stop playing with them. Your puppy should learn - just as they did with their littermates - that their form of play has become unwanted. When they stop, ensure that you follow up with positive reinforcement by offering praise, treat and/or resuming play. Letting every interaction with your puppy be a learning opportunity. While there are moments of dedicated training time, every interaction with your dog can be used as a potential teaching moment. Please let me know if you have any additional questions. Thank you for writing in!

July 24, 2020

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Oakey

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Kelpie cross Staffy

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8 Years

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my dog used to love going over simple jumps but I have noticed that he is starting to refuse them unless I throw his ball over the jump for him to fetch then he is happy to jump the jump how could I help him get back to loving it?

Oct. 14, 2019

Oakey's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello Isabella, I would actually talk to your vet about this. Due to pup's age and his recent hesitancy - despite enjoying it before and nothing traumatic happening to change that, jumping might be too hard on jumps bones, muscles or joints now, and could even be aggravating something like arthritis. The ball might be motivating pup enough that pup jumps anyways, but if there is something physical going on, it's possible he shouldn't be jumping jumps anymore. If its something that can be managed pain-wise and your vet doesn't feel like it will cause pup any harm, pup may even be able to resume jumping once things are managed, and he may enjoy it again once it no longer causes him pain. I am not a vet so I highly suggest speaking to your vet about this. Also, pay attention to pup's weight. I am assuming he is average weight and not overweight, but if he is becoming overweight as his metabolism slows down with age and he looses potential muscle mass, the extra weight could be the reason for the lack of jumping and helping him safely and slowly loose weight with your veterinarian's guidance could help the jumping. Be aware that many herding breeds can be in pain and show it very little because they are so driven. (I am not a vet, so ask your vet all of this, instead of depending on my advice). Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Oct. 14, 2019


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