How to Train Your Dog to Broad Jump

Medium
2-3 Weeks
Fun

Introduction

The broad jump, sometimes referred to as the long jump, especially in Britain, is a common obstacle in canine agility courses. Dogs competing in agility trials will need to know this skill, but it is also a fun exercise for dogs who are not competing. The goal of the broad jump exercise is for your dog to jump long and low, to clear several flat boards that are placed between vertical marker poles. The challenge in training a dog to jump this obstacle is that most dogs decide it would be easier to run on top of, launch off of, step between the boards, go around the vertical poles, or climb over the boards, rather than jump them all at once. That's a lot of things you have to convince your dog not to do in order to successfully complete this exercise!  

Defining Tasks

The broad jump is part of most agility courses, so if you are participating in agility classes, proficiency at the broad jump will be required. The difficulty of teaching this jump will depend on your dog's previous experience with jumping. Usually, this jump is introduced after the high jump has been successfully taught and performed. Because there are several “errors” your dog may be naturally inclined to make, such as stepping on the broad jump boards, the broad jump can be somewhat more difficult to teach than other jumps. The activity may need to be broken down into several steps to “shape” the complete exercise. Depending on your dog's aptitude, this exercise may take several days or may require gradual shaping over a few weeks to successfully achieve. The strength to stretch out and jump the full, broad distance will take several weeks to achieve.

The broad jump is wider than it is high. In agility courses, the broad jump width is set to twice that of the high jump for the associated class. Ffor instance, if the height required for that class is 20 inches, the broad jump is set to 40 inches. Because of the physical requirements, the potential for misunderstanding the obstacle, and the tendency to jump on the boards instead of over them, this obstacle is usually taught to older puppies with an aptitude for obstacles and adult dogs.

Getting Started

Typically, dogs that are being introduced to the broad jump have successfully learned the high jump. Also, if your dog has learned the wrapping exercise, where they wrap around an obstacle such as a cone to receive a treat, this exercise can be incorporated into shaping successful completion of the broad jump obstacle. You will need a little creativity if your dog makes mistakes to help him understand the task by breaking it down into component parts, to “shape” the activity, so your dog can understand what is required and gradually complete the obstacle successfully.  Treats or a favorite toy can be used as a reward.

The boards of the obstacle are typically not high, only 6-12 inches off the ground, and four, eight-inch boards, or five, six-inch boards are placed next to each other horizontally, with each successive board slightly higher to form an incline. The boards are 4 to 5 feet in length. The corners of the jump are marked by vertice poles.

The dog is required to jump the entire obstacle, between the guideposts, without touching or stepping on any of the horizontal boards. The dog may touch the vertical poles as long as they go between them. Various verbal commands are used for this jump, including 'jump', 'over', and 'up'.  There are a variety of methods for teaching the broad jump. Finding which one works best for your dog may require several attempts and insight into how your dog learns best.

The Recognize Jump Method

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1
Tip boards vertically
Tip the horizontal broad jump panels so they are vertical or on an angle. This will discourage your dog from stepping on, or launching off of them. You may need to start with fewer boards and work your way up.
Step
2
Set target obstacle
Place your dog several feet in front of the obstacle and ask him to stay. Have a wrap obstacle such as a pylon or target set up on the far side of the jump, that your dog has previously been trained to approach and 'wrap’ around or touch and get a reward.
Step
3
Direct to jump and obstacle
Give the 'jump' command and encourage your dog towards the jump and the target or wrap obstacle.
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4
Reinforce jump
If the dog successfully jumps the obstacle, followed by wrapping or targeting, give them the treat or toy and gradually reposition the boards so they are more horizontal, and try again until your dog is jumping the correct number of horizontal boards.
Step
5
Adjust as required
If your dog does not correctly jump the obstacle, modify the jump by placing boards closer together or removing a few, to make the jump shorter. Try again.
Step
6
Gradually make horizontal
When your dog successfully completes, reposition boards so they are farther apart and horizontal.
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The High Jump Bar Method

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Step
1
Add bars
Place a bar jump over the highest horizontal panel, to act as a jump cue for your dog. Or place high jump bars between each horizontal board, e.g. several bar jumps.
Step
2
Set your dog
Place your dog several feet in front of the obstacle and ask him to stay.
Step
3
Encourage jump
Give the 'jump' command and encourage your dog towards the jump and a wrap or target point.
Step
4
Simplify if required
If your dog steps on a panel, you may need to remove panels and start with just one panel and bar, then two panels and bar, etc. and increase the number of panels.
Step
5
Reinforce
Reward successful attempts with a treat or toy.
Step
6
Phase out bars
If your dog successfully jumps the horizontal boards and the bar, you can then start lowering the bar or bars gradually, to the same height as the horizontal obstacles. Eventually phase out the bars so that your dog is jumping only the horizontal panels.
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The Deter Step Between Method

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Step
1
Set deterrant
Set up the horizontal boards and put chicken wire slightly in front of the first board and between the horizontal boards where you do not want your dog to step.
Step
2
Set up dog
Place your dog several feet in front of the obstacle and ask him to stay.
Step
3
Encourage to jump
Give the jump command and encourage your dog towards the jump.
Step
4
Simplify if required
If your dog steps on the deterrent, shorten the jump by removing some of the horizontal boards and try again.
Step
5
Reinforce success
When your dog takes off prior to the chicken wire and does not land between boards, reward him.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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