Anyone who has ever seen an agility competition is well aware of how fast-paced and exciting they can be. Seeing dogs fly through courses is always entertaining and for the dogs, it’s one of the best kinds of mental and physical exercise that they can participate in. Utilizing weaving poles, tunnels, and plenty of jumps, an agility course requires training and concentration, testing the abilities of both dog and handler under pressure.
While agility may be a high octane sport, it can also be a way to simply bond and exercise with your dog. Competitions aren’t a necessity, but agility courses both inside and outside of the competitive circles all have a few certain things in common. Among the most recognizable of the obstacles is the bar jump: a hurdle which requires the dog to leap over it without knocking off the loose bar that designates the height of the jump. This obstacle is one of the most important to learn and master in order to succeed at the sport of agility.
The bar jump is challenging in the sense that your dog must be in control of his jump in order to time it well enough to avoid knocking the bar off of the hurdle. Not only must your dog control his jump, but speed is also a factor. Too fast and your dog could stumble when trying to go to the next obstacle, too slow and he might not make the jump. Despite this, training your dog to jump over these hurdles is often the easiest first step to agility training and can set the expectations of how readily your dog may adjust to other obstacles.
This training is best for dogs who have finished growing. For many breeds, this means 18 months or older. Overworking a dog’s body before he’s finished developing can cause severe injury or other permanent damage and bar jump training is not recommended for puppies. Caution is also needed for senior dogs who may have joint problems, as jump training can exacerbate them. Always consult a veterinarian before beginning agility training.
To begin, you’ll either need to purchase a set of hurdles or construct them yourself. This can be done easily with either items found around the home or with materials purchased from a home improvement store. Just be sure that any items you use are safe for your dog to practice with. The bar on the hurdle should be removable and adjustable for height and should fall away easily if knocked. Heavy bars may injure your dog, so be sure that the material used for it is light and preferably hollow.
You’ll also need a designated area for your jump training such as an outdoor yard or a large room with a lot of floor space. Work on a reliable ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ with your dog before training for jumps. You may also want to use a leash to keep your dog in the immediate area. Gather some treats or a toy for a reward and you’re ready to go!