To begin jump training, place bars in X formation at the 12" cup. 3 jumps in a row, back chain using just one, then adding one at a time. Owner runs with dog on lead, commanding hup just before jumping. Later the instructor can be placed at the end of the 3 jumps. Dogs should know that the instructor has goodies for them. Owner then attempts run bys at the jumps, dog focusing on jumps/instructor ahead. (Katie Greer)
You must first learn to walk before you can run - If you take a dog who has not learned to jump, and has not developed the muscles needed to jump, it is extremely beneficial to set up a comfortable rhythmic series of jumps (the jumping chute) so that the dog can learn the subtleties of this skill - in the jumping chute, just because of its predictability, the dog will experiment with take off distance, rounding out, striding, landing form.
Once the dog is confident, you can start varying the spacing of the jumps, one versus two strides between jumps, even up to 4 to 6 strides, varying the length of the expected strides. The chute may be curved so the jumps are not in a straight line. The dog will first learn the mechanics of jumping and only then is he asked to creatively use those skills in problem solving. (Chris Miele)
The most important thing is to get the dog to focus on the center of the jump. One tool that is particularly useful, especially if the dog likes toys, is to attach a tennis ball to a nylon line about a foot long and tie the line through a hole in a piece of light weight PVC pipe. This creates a ball tied to a line on the end of a stick; then hold the pipe so that the ball is hanging over the center and a little behind the jump and call the dog over the jump. This gets you away from the wing a bit and the dog focuses on the ball. You can drag the ball on the ground and let the dog chase it after the exercise and let him ultimately win and get the ball. It can be a great game if your dog likes the ball or other toy. You can attach the line to the ball by cutting a slit in the ball with a knife, tying a knot in the line and shoving it through the slit. The dog will pull the ball loose once in a while but it's easy to fix. (Kent Mahan)
On an agility course the jumps are not nice and evenly paced out for your dog's individual stride--in fact, it's a big disadvantage if your dog relies on establishing a precise rhythm to jump successfully. Do plenty of jump chute training, but focus on using very irregular spacing and angles between the jumps. The end goal is to have a dog that is a smart jumper. You want the dog to evaluate the height and angle of each jump he approaches--and this skill can be taught.
Use as many as 10 or 12 jumps in the chute. Keep the jumps at 6" for minis and 12" for bigger dogs since you are not focusing on height. You might set the first few jumps at equal distances apart at a very comfortable distance for the dog so that the dog gets confident, then throw in a jump with less distance. you might also give an abnormally long distance in the middle to low spread jump and then ask the dog to recover quickly for the next jump. A dog that is not able to judge the jumps and correct his striding will crash jumps EVEN at 12"!
What you want to see is the dog to start correcting himself even at top speed. When he's comfortable, move the jumps around for the next training session--they're never spaced the same way. Also, slightly angling jumps across the chute rather than placing them straight across the chute is helpful.
If you are training a puppy, make a jump chute out of just the jump poles. Lay them at the ground at different distances and different angles and trot the puppy over them. Even at a young age a dog can learn a lot of important jumping skills without physically exerting himself or endangering himself by actually jumping. And who's to say that a jumping chute needs to be straight...try putting a 90 degree turn at the end of a straight stretch of jumps. Try a lot of different things! A smart jumper is a good jumper and a happy jumper! (Monica Percival)
Here's a suggestion for teaching a dog to jump comfortably, based on it's normal stride at a light run. When we have a few problem jumpers in our agility classes, we conduct a 3 week class to evaluate the dog's jumping "style" problem, and how a handler can then take the info learned in class and work further with the dog. Our methods are loosely based on the Clothier method, but we improvised on a few points, adapting more for agility running rather than the "formula" method based on the dog's height, length, and elbow measurement.
First, know the shoulder height of your dog. For all jumping exercises, use 2/3 the dog's height for its jump height. Next, measure your dog's stride. The way we do this at an indoor facility (matted) is to wet one paw, and then do a fairly long, informal recall. Then measure the distance between the middle 3-4 paw prints, when the dog was running at a fair speed. Average the number, and this is the dog's stride length when running as it would be in agility.
Set up a jumping "chute" with at least 3-4 jumps. The spacing should be TWICE the distance of the dog's stride measurement. This will encourage the dog to take off and land in an evenly spaced arc on either side of the jump, and allows one full stride to reach the next jump. But as Clothier's program states, it takes many weeks of progressive exercises to correctly teach the dog good jumping style. As space allows, building up to 8-10 jumps in a line is desired. In our classes, we only have room for a series of 5, but with a few repetitions over the 3 weeks, we did see improved style with all of the dogs.
Another advanced exercise is to set the jumps just ONE stride length apart, to teach "bounce" jumping. This greatly increases the dog's timing between jumps; but this exercise should not be done until the dog is jumping comfortably over the other exercise.
What surprised us in the last class we had was that with this method of measuring the dog's stride, a Border Terrier had a longer natural stride than a Lab did, and when we set up the correct distance for each, the dog comfortably ran the exercises.
Sometimes we get over complicated in our agility training. The majority of dogs do not need a lot of training in jumping. They basically already know how to jump, and with simple sequencing they learn how to pace themselves on an agility course. There are always those dogs that need special training. But, there are more dogs that don't! (Anne Smith)
ALL other things being equal, it is better for a dog to jump with a flatter trajectory. Why? Because there is less stress on the bones and joints, ligaments and tendons. This is especially important given that the majority of jumps in obedience and agility have a turn before or after. However, dogs need to be trained to safely jump with a flatter trajectory and to jump with confidence. Many dogs that jump flat and then crash the jump do so because of a lack of confidence. They have the attitude that they just want to get past the jump, and as soon as possible! They haven't learned the technique of clearing the jump while still keeping as flat a trajectory as is permissible by the room available, the footing and according to the speed of the dog. Training a dog to jump flatter safely has many dividends down the road because dogs will have a longer competitive life and will sustain fewer and less severe injuries. (Chris Zink)
The 30" dogs do not have (relatively) as much room between jumps, and the good ones (that know how to accommodate) will round off their jumping trajectory in order to make the turns after in the shorter allowed space. This means that there is more concussion for the 30" dogs, in addition to their already being larger and increasing the concussion that way. When dogs are given the right foundation, they know how to use a variety of styles, and select the appropriate one for the circumstances, including how fast they are running, how much space there is before and after the jump, whether or not there is a turn before or after the jump, what the footing is like, whether or not the human gave them the command on time, and etc. (Chris Zink)
The theory that dogs should jump at their correct height at all times is built on the false premise that dogs are unable to learn how to judge heights. To jump your dog at full height all of the time is very tough on him and even dangerous (especially if the footing or the space to run up to the jump is not sufficient). Dogs asked to jump full height all the time in practice will have a shorter performance life.
There are several things that should be considered when you are deciding what height to jump your dog in practice:
- What is the dog's weight:height ratio? The higher it is, the lower (in relation to the dog's competition jump height) should be the jumps.
- How much room is there to jump? The higher the heights, the greater room the dog needs to prepare for a jump. If a dog is given more room, it can achieve the speed needed to jump with a flatter (and hence safer) trajectory.
- What is the footing like? If it is slippery or the footing is unsure in any way, the jumps should be lowered.
- How forgiving is the footing for landing? The harder the surface, the lower the jumps.
- What are you trying to train? If you are teaching the dog a new concept (other than jumping), then the heights should be lower.
Dogs can be trained to judge what height each upcoming jump is and to accommodate itself to that. In fact, dogs should be trained occasionally over heights that vary throughout the course, just so that they can polish their ability to judge heights. (Chris Zink)
When training a dog on spread jumps, start with very low jumps, with a very small (12 " for the Belgians, probably 6" for the Sheltie) jump ahead of it. By putting the spread among close jumps the dogs are not able to take off early for the spread. They quickly learned that they could jump it from close up, in fact it was easier close up. You want the jumps so close they only get one stride in between, with 2 regular jumps then the spread.
KEEP THE JUMPS TINY!!! This is to practice a style and gain confidence over spreads. You can slowly make the spread bigger but the jumps ahead of it should stay tiny. Be careful that the spread never gets so big that the dog is not comfortable jumping it without a running start. Soon they learn that they can get close, and they get great striding practice. (Maria Amodei)
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