Thursday, July 21, 2011

Agility Training 101- Jumping

Lisa Scarsi Photographgy

Jumping over an object can be easy for some dogs while seemingly impossible for others.  Like all tricks or new commands, teaching your dog will take time and patience.
Corona resident, Shelly Smith, shares her in-home training techniques she used to get her Brittany Spaniel, D.J., the practice he needed between class.    

·         Go to a place in your home where there is plenty of space for your dog to move around.  You can go in the backyard if you have to but there might be too many distractions. 
·         Find a straight pole, such as a broom stick, a painting extension pole, a pool brush pole, etc.  I used my Swiffer Sweeper.  
·         Lay the pole on the floor in a position like you’ll be playing limbo later.
·         Let your dog sniff the pole and get use to it like it were another piece of furniture.  (Give plenty of positive reinforcement while your dog gets use to the pole.)  
·         Have your dog sit and stay on one side of the pole while you go on the other side.  Call your dog to you and reward him/her for going over the pole.  Repeat this step until you feel your dog is completely comfortable with the pole.  If your dog wants to walk around the pole to get to you, walk over the pole yourself and encourage him follow you to show him what action you are looking for.  Reward him as soon as he steps over the pole.  
·         After your dog masters walking over the pole, raise it a couple of inches.  I started by stacking a couple of books on each end of my Swiffer.  That gives the pole a little bit of height to help the dog understand they need to jump over it and not crawl under it.  I had to walk over it a couple of times and get D.J. to follow me before he did it on his own.  
“As your dog becomes more comfortable with the height of the jump, you can increase it, but you should only increase it a little at the beginning of each session.   My dog graduated from stacked books to the height of a chair seat which helped him tremendously in agility class.” 
The height you can go to depends on the breed and height of your own dog.  Obviously, if you have a Dachshund or Chihuahua you would not ask them to jump over a pole as high as a chair seat.  They would likely hurt themselves.  And if you had a Rhodesian Ridgeback, a chair seat may not reach her full jumping potential.  It is suggested by professionals that the height of the pole should not exceed the ridge between the dog’s shoulder blades (also known as the withers), which is usually the tallest point of your dog’s body.
Once your dog has mastered jumping over a pole you can use these same training steps to teach him to jump through the agility course hoop, using a simple hula-hoop at home.  
Happy jumping!

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