When I say Jump…

alliejumpI want my dog to look at me and say ‘how high?’

Actually, I want my dog to go jump the obstacle I am indicating, but the idea is the same!

But really, in the grand scheme of things, jumping is the biggest thing in agility!  Every course contains jumps.  Most have more than one! (We are excluding specialty classes at the moment, such as hoopers and tunnelers) The more jumps you have, the merrier.

  • Begin with the Base-ic Start with the bar low to the ground- just a step over.  Call your dog over the jump, or guide them with their leash.  Praise them effusively, and raise the bar to  a hop.  Continue this until you’ve got the bar to the dogs’ designated jump height, and the dog is being recalled over the jump without their leash guiding them.  Now you’re ready for the next step!
  • The Anatomy of a Bar Jump Dogs need plenty of room for take off and landing.  Make sure your dog always has two strides on each side of the jump when you set them up, and more if they’re jumping a row.  The dog approaches the jump, gathers their hind legs under them and pushes off.  The dog needs sufficient impetus, and also a high enough ‘reach’ for their front paws.  On the way down, they need to have their hind legs tucked back under them, ready for landing as their front paws reach for the ground.
  • Now cha-cha, y’all! Once your dog is jumping, and you have your jump(s) set up with sufficient takeoff distance between them, you’re ready for more! You can start practicing sending your dog ahead,  front crosses, and rear crosses, and rows and foursquares.  The sky is the limit!

Things to remember about jumps in general:

  • Setting the Bar Don’t set the bar so high your dog can not jump it.  That’s setting your dog up to fail, and is unfair.  Don’t jump higher than the recommended height for your dog.
  • They’re the Base Agility revolves around jumps.  Without jumps, there is no agility.  Fortunately, jumping comes naturally to most dogs!  Make sure your dog has a good jumping base before you start competing.
  • Don’t knock the Bars If your dog starts knocking bars left and right, there is something wrong.  Either the bars have been reset too high, the spacing is off (remember, adequate take-off AND landing room), or your dog is getting confused cues.  Check your body language and make sure it is clear.  If none of those things are off, perhaps your dog is tired, or has suffered an injury.  Stop agility for the day and try again tomorrow!
  • End up high Even if your dog has been knocking bars and you have to end for the day, make sure your dog feels like a star, walking off the field.  Agility is fun! and if the errors were because your dog was tired, don’t run them as long in future, until their endurance is built up.
  • More is merrier! Even though there’s a great book, 101 exercises to do with a single jump, it’s still way more fun to have multiple obstacles on your course, to mimic what you’d see in a real trial, and to provide your dog with some challenges. Affordable Agility has a great four-jump set here for a great price!

Jumps are easy, fun, and great exercise for your dog.  While it may seem you haven’t taught your dog much by teaching them to jump, if you’ve followed the steps above you now have; directionals, sending ahead, and crosses! That’s a really good start, now, isn’t it?

Here’s a video to help out, too! Enjoy!