What To Do If Your Dog Goes Under the Jump Bar

dog20under2007Q: I started agility with my Staffordshire Terrier Tevo a few months ago. Did you know a Staffie could limbo dance? Tevo will run under the jumps no matter how low they are set. Sometimes this is really difficult and he has to duck to get underneath and crawl on his belly, but under he goes! My classmates think it’s really funny. What should I do?

A: Your dog is so clever and so creative! Tevo is still new to agility and he is experimenting with the jumps. He thinks, “Hey! There’s more than one way to get to the other side of a hurdle!” and Tevo gets a round of laughter for his antics if he goes under rather than over the pole. Which way would you choose?

When a dog is introduced to the hurdles, he has to learn that the object of the exercise is to jump between the wings and over the poles. It sounds as if Tevo is indeed targeting the pole and assessing its heights, but failing to decide to jump it. It could be that the poles were raised too soon- before Tevo learned the right way to do it was up and over. Running underneath poles is a common fault in young or inexperienced dogs and many show real determination in picking this route.

  1. Put the poles on the ground Unless Tevo sticks his nose under the pole and lifts it over his back, he’ll have to go over. It’s the easier option, especially if there are a number of poles laid in a line.
  2. Fill the gap underneath the pole When Tevo has started to give up limbo dancing for jumping, he still might go under a pole every now and again.  Put the pole on the ground and work your way back up again.  Don’t be tempted to lower it just a little. If Tevo stoops and scoots underneath, you will have to lower it again. Far better to start from ground level where mistakes are really hard to make and work up.
  3. Do you have a jump command?  You want Tevo to be checking the jump’s height, so ensure that you point with your hand above the pole and not below it. Give Tevo space to take-off and land. Many inexperienced dogs often go under poles on turns because they arrive at the hurdle before they can gather themselves up and jump.

Jumps are always a problem. Dogs either refuse them outright, go around them, or go under them. When Tevo has turned into a speedo over the jumps, you might find out that your next challenge is to stop him knocking them out of their cups!

Used with permission.
From Questions and Answers on Dog Agility Training, by Mary Ann Nester, T.F.H. Publications
Visit Mary Ann at http://www.aslanagility.com/