How to Train Your Small Dog to Jump Over Obstacles

Medium
2-5 Weeks
Fun

Introduction

Have you ever watched those little dogs on TV jump over their owners' arms, over tiny jumps, or over other dogs? Have you ever watched your own dog struggle to jump over obstacles that are in his way? What if he could learn how to conquer those obstacles and perhaps even jump as well as those dogs on TV?

Jumping over things requires not only muscles and physical ability, but also confidence for a small dog. Many of the obstacles that your small dog faces are as tall or taller than he is! If you believe that your small dog has the physical ability to do what you see other dogs doing but he lacks the confidence and skills, then he simply needs your help to overcome his fears and to show him how. Even if your small dog is not built to be the next agility champion, chances are that he can at least clear many of the things that stand in his way if he is shown how.

Defining Tasks

Being able to jump over obstacles is important for your small dog. Because your dog is not a three foot tall Great Dane, he is likely to encounter a lot of things in his way. If he has the confidence and ability to leap over those obstacles it will make life a lot easier for him and for you, since you will not have to pick him up as often!
Perhaps you would like to compete in something like agility with your dog. Agility can be a great way for the two of you to bond, to get your dog's excess energy out, to build his confidence, and to have a lot of fun! Jumping is a normal part of agility and you can prepare him for that by practicing jumping over normal obstacles at home.

While teaching your dog to jump, be sure to keep things fun. Because teaching your dog to jump is all about building his confidence, he will need you to remain positive and to help motivate him. If you start to get frustrated with your dog, take a break and come back to it later when you are feeling happier. You do not want to rush him if he is afraid. He will need time to warm up to the idea of going over things.

On the other hand, some dogs will have no problem jumping over things. With these dogs, you can go a lot faster, but still be sure to go slow enough and to keep things low enough for your dog to build up the proper muscle control so he does not injure himself while jumping. You can go much higher once you know he can "stick his landing". With these dogs, you may even be able to jump higher than your dog's own height. Feel free to work up to that level but just be cautious to protect him from injury.

Getting Started

To get started, you will need lots of small, soft treats. You will need a positive attitude and patience. You will need lots of different obstacles in varying heights. For the obstacles, choose items that are long and one inch, two inches, four inches, six inches, eight inches, and ten inches tall. If your dog is taller than ten inches, or if you wish you go beyond your dog's height, you will also need several more objects, each two inches taller than the last, until you have reached your desired final height. You can also buy, or build out of cardboard of PVC pipe, an agility jump with different levels of height.

If you are using 'the Running' method you will also need a six or eight-foot leash and collar or harness to attach it to. If you are using the 'Retrieval' method, you will need a ball and possibly objects to create two walls, one wall on either side of your jump. Several chairs lined up into two rows or tall cardboard or plastic boxes would work well for this.

The Treat Luring Method

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Step
1
Introduce object
To begin, place a long, one-inch object tall on the ground. Place a treat on the object and allow your dog to eat the treat.
Step
2
Step over
When your dog is comfortable touching the object, place the treat on the far side of the object, so that your dog has to cross the object to get to the treat. If your dog tries to go around the object to get to the treat, pick up the treat and place the treat on the other side of the object, giving your dog another opportunity to cross the object to get the treat. Repeat this until your dog crosses the object. When your dog crosses the object, let him eat the treat and give him three more treats, one at a time, while praising him,
Step
3
Add command
When your dog successfully goes over the object a couple of times, begin to tell your dog "jump" right before he crosses the object. Continue to reward him with a treat every time he goes over the object.
Step
4
Add height
When your dog is comfortable going over the current height, increase the height by replacing the one-inch high object with a two-inch high object. Practice having your dog go over that object until he is comfortable with the new height.
Step
5
Repeat
Once your dog is comfortable jumping over the two-inch object, continue to increase the height by replacing the current object with an object that is two inches higher. Repeat this process until your dog is jumping over an object that is his own height, or over an object that is as tall as he can successfully jump over if he cannot jump his entire height.
Step
6
Now practice!
After your dog is confidently jumping over tall objects, practice having him jump over objects that you encounter throughout your day. Continue to make jumping fun and to keep the jumping height safe for your dog.
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The Running Method

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Step
1
Play
To begin, attach a six or eight foot leash to your dog. Get your dog excited to chase you by running away from him, jumping up and down, and talking excitedly to him.
Step
2
Add an object
Once your dog is excited to run after you, place a long, one-inch high object on the ground. Get your dog to chase you and run over the object. When your dog crosses the object, praise him very excitedly. You can also offer him a treat if he is more food motivated than praise motivated.
Step
3
Add command
After you have crossed over the object several times with your dog, begin telling your dog "jump" in a happy voice right before he crosses the object.
Step
4
Increase height
Once your dog is going over the object with ease, increase the height by replacing the object with an object that is two inches higher. Repeat the process of jumping over that object until your dog is comfortable with that height also.
Step
5
Repeat
When your dog is comfortable with the two-inch height, repeat the entire process again by increasing the height two more inches. Continue to increase the height by two inches every time that your dog becomes completely comfortable jumping at the current height. Do this until the object is either as tall as your dog or as tall as your dog can successfully jump if you dog cannot jump his entire height.
Step
6
Remove leash
Once your dog can jump his entire height or has reached the maximum height of his jumping ability, remove the leash and practice having him jump over the object again. Do this by instructing him to jump, without you leading him over it this time. If he struggles to jump over the item, lead him over it again, but without the use of the leash. Practice this until he is comfortable jumping over it without the leash. Once he can do that, repeat telling him to "jump" again, without you leading him. Be sure to praise him and reward him extra well the first time he succeeds at this.
Step
7
Practice!
When your dog can jump when told to "jump", practice him jumping over objects that you run across throughout your day. Be sure to keep the height at a safe height and to always make jumping fun!
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The Retrieval Method

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Step
1
Create excitement
To begin, get your dog excited about a ball by practicing a few normal retrieves.
Step
2
Add small obstacle
Once you dog is excited about retrieving, place a long object, about one inch tall, in your dog's retrieval path and toss the ball a short distance over the object. Do this so that your dog must cross over the object to retrieve the ball.
Step
3
Add command
After your dog has jumped over the object a couple of times, begin to tell him "jump" in an excited voice every time he jumps over the object. Be sure to keep things happy and exciting to build his confidence.
Step
4
Repeat
Continue to toss the ball over the object until your dog does not hesitate to go over it. If your dog tries to go around the object, create two walls, one wall on each side of the object, to keep him from walking around it. Two lines of chairs or of plastic or cardboard boxes should work well.
Step
5
Increase height
When your dog is comfortable jumping over the current object, increase the height by replacing the one-inch high object with a two-inch high object. Continue playing fetch over the new object. If your dog will not jump over the new object, choose an item slightly lower and practice having him jump over that object first. Once your dog is comfortable with that item, try the two-inch item again.
Step
6
Repeat
When your dog is comfortable jumping over the two-inch high object, increase the height again by replacing the current item with an item that is about two inches higher than it. Repeat this process until the object that you are using is the height of your dog.
Step
7
Remove walls
Once your dog can jump over an object his own height, if you are using walls on either side of the jumping object, then remove the walls and practice having your dog jump over the object to retrieve his ball without the walls there.
Step
8
Practice
Now that your dog will jump over objects, practice having him jump over other things that you come across throughout your day. Be sure to keep the height at a safe height and to continue to make it fun for your dog.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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