Place one of the boards upright by itself, allow the dogs to jump it with much the same as the other jumps are taught. Gradually add boards, appropriate to the size of the dog. Place a training jump with a bar over top of the broad jump to make it look more like a jump if any are having problems. (Katie Greer)
Train the broad jump (In the UK it's called a long jump!) by starting with two of the boards one each side of a normal jump, then lower the jump and widen the spread until the dog is jumping with all of the spread and a 15" high bar - remove the bar and bingo you have the normal broad jump - usually at about 4 foot spread. Then work the dog gradually up to the full spread, making sure that the corner markers are always in the right place so that the dog has a marker when approaching the jump. This works for taking dogs out to the 9 foot spreads that are used for working trials in the UK. (Tony Dickinson)
You can teach the broad jump the same way in agility classes as you do in competition obedience classes.....that is, with a clicker. It may take a little longer to lay down the foundation but the dog loves the progressions.
- Place two small pylons approximately one meter apart, and put a target about one meter away on the other side of them. Have the dog run through and touch the target (no food on the target, so if you haven't taught the behavior of touching a target you will have to back up even further and teach this first). Click and reward. If you use a toy to reward after the click here, it may be helpful later.
- Very quickly (after only a couple of repetitions), move the target out and start clicking before they get to the target. In essence, the dog is being reinforced for going through the pylons.
- Remove the target. Now the dog is just running through the pylons. You may give this behavior a name such as "go" or "go, go". If you are trying to teach a dog to run on after the last obstacle you can stop here.
- As a separate exercise, take one broad jump board and stand straddling it, armed with a clicker and some treats. You should change the direction you are facing when straddling the board so the dog learns this with you on the right and the left. You may lure the dog at first, either with a touch stick or a piece of food, to get him to jump.
- When luring any behavior, try it no more than three times. Stand still and see if the dog offers you the behavior on its own. Click the dog when he is suspended over the board. Here is where the timing of the click is important. Just like the marine mammal trainers trying to get the dolphin to go higher in the air, you must communicate with your dog that it is his "body over the board" that you are rewarding---so clicking when he is IN the air is important. If he walks the board just ignore him and set him up to start again (no corrections of course). If you have to, you can pull out your lure again but remember, only three times. He must choose for himself to "pop" over the board and unless he has made the decision to do so the learning will be much slower as far as the walking vs jumping of the obstacle is concerned. Soon he will be flying over the board in order to get the click.
- Now add a second board. Continue to stand straddling both boards. Repeat the instructions for the single board until the dog continually offers you the jumping behaviour and never offers you the "walking the boards behavior". At this point you can start to wean your body out, backing up a little at a time so that eventually you are beside the board. You are now ready to add a cue to this "jumping, not walking, the broad jump" behavior. Come up with something a little shorter, such as "hup"!
- As you are weaning your body position from the picture, also add your newly learned "go, go" behavior with the pylons. Place the pylons about 2 metres on the other side of the long/broad jump. Have the dog jump the two boards and then give your cue "go, go" so that the dog lands and instead of turning back to you, runs through the pylons. Click the dog once it is through the pylons and throw your toy. Keeping the pylons in the picture for both obedience and agility teaches the dog to land with its front end facing forward over the jump rather then twisting in the air and facing the handler. Twisting and then landing puts too much strain on the front and back ends.
- Start adding more boards, distractions and distance.
There are lots of methods for training the broad jump. People have used a bar over the jump, started with it narrow and gradually widened it, put chicken wire on top, tipped boards up on their edges, put gates around the jumps, and lots more, but one of the best methods these days uses clicker training to a target beyond the jump.
It could be an actual cookie reward the first few times but you can go right to a target that the dog gets a cookie for touching. Teach either "touch" for touching it with his nose or "spot" for touching with one or both front paws (always works great for contacts. Just make sure you say "yes" or "right" or click a clicker at the moment the dog touches the target. That is the power of clicker training -- the sound marker tells the dog, "what you are doing RIGHT NOW is the right thing and a reward is coming up." It can really improve your timing and communication with your dog.
Send him over just the highest board first, all by itself; next add the BACK board rather than the front. Stretch out the center and back bottom board quite a ways successfully before you put them back together with the low front board (and when you go to the three boards, put them up close together again first). If he steps between the boards and then goes to the target, do nothing -- no workee, no cookie. Just try again, or put them closer again for a while.
Once he has it all together, add your "jump" command back in before "touch". Fade your target which may have been as big as a paper plate or a margarine lid down to a stick-on dot, then remove the target sometimes and just do the jump. Sometimes sneak the target back out though to keep the dog going as straight as possible over the center of the jump.
How do you transition from the performance you get from calling her over it to running alongside her?
Gradually hang back one step while encouraging the dog to "touch" or "spot" (do the touch with the nose here), then hang back more and more. When the dog gets it right, don't hand out one measly treat -- toss a jackpot - a handful on the ground for her to eat.
With a motivated confident dog, this process can go very quickly but if bad habits have developed, don't rush it. Better to go slow and develop a dog who absolutely understand that clearing all the boards is rewarding, than one who is dreading that hogback every time she sees it because "Mom gets so uptight!"
(P. J. Lacette)
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