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!