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Have you ever watched those impressive small dogs at the agility competitions on TV as they race over jumps, weave through obstacles, and speed through tunnels? The small dogs are always so much fun to watch. Many small dogs have so much enthusiasm for agility, and their small size and agile build make them especially good at it.
If your dog has a lot of energy or a big personality, then your dog would probably love to do agility. Perhaps you would like to compete at Agility with your dog, or perhaps you simply are looking for a fun way to exercise your little guy. Because small dogs are small, their agility equipment also takes up less space. This means that you might be able to build a fantastic course for your dog in your own backyard, or maybe just set up a couple of fun jumps for him. The Bar Jump is a great obstacle to teach your dog. This jump can typically be adjusted to different heights, allowing your dog to improve over time. This jump is also a great obstacle to include in larger courses or as part of a game of fetch, to add a fun challenge for your dog. With help, your dog can likely learn to enjoy the Bar Jump too.
Learning how to do the Bar Jump is not only fun for those wishing to compete in agility, but it can also be a great way to exercise your small dog and give him something new and interesting to do. If your dog is timid then the Bar Jump can also be great for building his confidence level, and for helping you and your dog to bond and to build trust.
Many small dogs are very confident and will have no problem learning how to do the Bar Jump when shown how, but some dogs will be afraid of the new experience or of the strange new object in his house or yard. If your dog is afraid, then be patient with him and give him lots of time to build confidence around the jump. Try offering him treats or toys for any attempt at exploring, sniffing, going through, or jumping over the Bar Jump. Keep things very positive and praise him excitedly for any progress.
When teaching the Bar Jump, be aware of your dog's physical ability. Be sure not to push him further than his body can safely handle. Many dogs need to build up muscle to protect their joints while jumping. If your dog is not already used to lots of physical activity, then keep the jumps low until he builds up enough muscle to protect his joints. If your dog is older and arthritic then he should not be jumping. You should also not jump your dog if he is younger than one year old. If your dog is younger than one year, then the growth plates in his body will still be changing and he might injure himself while jumping. If he is under a year then wait until he is older.
Because your dog is small, your jump is also likely smaller in size. The smaller size of the jump makes it possible to do the 'Chase' method. If you are using this method and find that the middle bar becomes too high for you to safely step or jump over while training this, then you can modify the training. To modify the training, when the middle bar becomes too tall, then move the jump into an open area. Rather than having your dog chase you, have your dog chase after a toy in your hand. When you run toward the jump with the toy in your hand, toss the toy over the jump, so that your dog will follow the toy over while you go around.
To get started you will need lots of small, tasty treats, and a Bar Jump with a middle bar that can be adjusted in height. If you are using the 'Chase' method then you will need a narrow but long area to set up your Bar Jump in. This area will need to be narrow enough that your dog cannot go around the jump, and long enough for you and your dog to be able to get a little bit of a running start before jumping over the bar. A long, narrow hallway or an open door frame might work well for this. You might also need a toy to entice your dog with. If you are using the 'Fetch' method then you will need a toy for your dog to retrieve and your dog will need to know how to retrieve things. For all of the methods, you will need a happy, excited attitude and patience to make jumping fun for your dog!
The Treat Luring Method
To begin, set up your Bar Jump in a safe and open area, and remove the middle bar that your dog jumps over. Encourage your dog to explore the Jump and praise him and offer him a treat whenever he approaches or touches the Bar Jump.
Lure through the jump
When your dog is comfortable around the Bar Jump, then lure your dog through the opening with a treat. When your dog goes through the opening, then praise your dog and offer him a treat.
Repeat luring your dog through the jump until he is comfortable going through. When your dog is comfortable, then add the middle bar to the jump at the lowest level, and lure your dog over the bar with a treat.
When your dog is confidently going over the lowest jump, then increase the bar by one notch and encourage your dog over that with a treat. Praise and reward your dog every time he goes over. Be sure to make jumping fun for your dog by acting excited and happy while training so that your dog will feel confident.
Continue to increase the height by one notch at a time as your dog becomes comfortable with each new height. Do this until you have reached either the maximum height that your dog can comfortably and safely jump at, or your own, lower, preferred height.
The Chase Method
Get set up
To begin, set up your Bar Jump in a doorway or somewhere narrow enough that your dog cannot go around the Bar Jump. You should also choose somewhere with enough length in front of and behind the jump to get a bit of a running start. Remove the middle bar or bars from the Jump. Allow your dog to explore and sniff the Bar Jump, praising him or rewarding him with a treat or toy whenever he gets close to it. Do this until he is completely comfortable around it.
When your dog is comfortable around the Bar Jump, then get him excited to chase and play with you. You can use a treat or toy for this if needed. When your dog is following after you excitedly, then back a little way away from the Bar Jump and then run through the opening while you encourage your dog to follow. When your dog follows you through, praise him and play with him for a minute where you are.
If he will not follow you, then go back to where you started and get him to chase you again, then repeat running through the jump. Do this until he will go through. If he still will not go through, then go back to letting him explore the jump to get him more comfortable around it. Reward him with a treat or toy every time that he touches the jump. Once you have done that, and he will touch it excitedly to receive a reward, then try to get him to chase you through the Jump again.
When your dog is completely comfortable going through the jump without the bar in place, then add the bar to the jump on the lowest notch. Get your dog excited to play with you and chase you again. When your dog is excited, then run and either jump or step over the Bar Jump yourself, with your dog following behind you. When he follows you over the jump, praise him excitedly, play with him for a minute, and then have him chase you over it again. Repeat this until he is comfortable jumping over it every time. It might take your dog several attempts before he will jump over the Bar Jump for the first time, continue to encourage him and repeat the process, while cheering him on and making things fun.
When your dog is comfortable jumping over the bar while it is on it's lowest notch, then raise the bar by one more notch, and encourage your dog to jump over the bar again by having him chase you over it. Every time that your dog becomes completely comfortable jumping over the bar at its current height, then raise the bar by one more notch. Do this until you have reached the maximum height that your dog can safely and comfortably jump at.
Move the jump
When your dog loves going over the jump, move it out of the narrow area and into an open area, then practice doing the Bar Jump in the open area. Most importantly, remember to have fun with your dog!
The Fetch Method
To begin, choose your dog's favorite toy to retrieve. Setup your Bar Jump in a safe, open area and remove the middle bar from the Jump. Encourage your dog to explore the jump and praise and reward him anytime that he touches or explores the Bar Jump.
Toss the toy
When your dog is comfortable with the jump, then toss the toy through the opening and encourage your dog to retrieve it. Praise him when he goes through and comes back with the toy.
Add the bar
Repeat having your dog retrieve the toy through the jump opening several times. Do this until your dog is completely comfortable going through. When your dog is comfortable, then add the middle bar onto the Bar Jump, on the lowest notch. With the bar in place, toss the toy over the bar for your dog to retrieve again. Praising him every time that he goes over and brings the toy back.
Repeat having your dog go over the bar to retrieve the toy until your dog goes over it with ease each time. When your dog is completely comfortable going over the bar, increase the height by one more notch, and then practice having your dog go over the bar at the new height.
When your dog is comfortable jumping over the bar at the new height, increase the height again and have your dog repeat retrieving the toy over the jump. Increase the height and repeat the retrievals every time that your dog becomes comfortable jumping at the current height. Do this until you have reached the maximum height that your dog can comfortably and safely jump at.
Once you have reached your dog's maximum height, then practice often and remember to have lots of fun with your dog!
By Caitlin Crittenden
Published: 01/30/2018, edited: 01/08/2021