Teach Your Dog to Jump, For Exercise and Fun!
Amazingly, not all dogs know HOW to jump.
Do all dogs jump?
Pretty much, yes, but that doesn’t mean they understand the behavior. Just like all dogs know how to lie down, but some don't understand how to do so on cue.
Now, let me take a moment to mention that I am not speaking about jumping “on people”, that is something we all want to avoid.
For help with a rude jumping dog click here
I am talking about eventually jumping over a jump, like in dog agility or dog obedience, or perhaps just getting them to jump over a log or an obstacle when you are out hiking.
Jumping is a fun skill, when you get it on cue!
Want a tired dog?
Teach him to jump formed jumps in sequence (like they do in agility!).
Jumping over and over and over again can be exhausting and fun.
It also teaches hind end awareness! Many dogs don’t realize they need to pick up their back feet or how to move their back-end independently.
And, in my house I like an exhausted dog.
I can’t always find a pool, or another body of water for them to swim in, and I can’t always hook them up to my trike to run them.
But jumping them around a set course is pretty simple and it can be fun for you both.
Don’t make it easy by lining up your jumps, guide your dog from one jump to another and make him change directions and switch the direction to which he is running. I would get into the technical terms, but most people aren’t going to compete in agility with their dogs… but if you have enough fun, you might just change your mind!
Remember if you have a geriatric or arthritic dog or a very young dog avoid jumping, or make sure the jumps stay just above the paw!
Let’s Get Started
First we want to teach your dog to pick up his feet!
A dog has to be taught how to jump high, but that will come later (I always have my dogs x-rayed prior to agility or other stringent sports to make sure that I am not shortening their lives by adding stress to joints that aren’t genetically sound) .
First I sit on the ground and follow Mary Ellen Barry’s training by having my dog jump over my legs.
Sit on the ground, bend one leg behind me and extend one, this will be the jumping leg.
I have my dog sit on one side, while I toss a toy across my leg so that he is lured to jump over my extended leg.
If you feel toe nails or your dog hesitates you will need to work on this stage for long enough that, that goes away!
Next separate your legs by extending them into a V.
Use the toy to get your dog to jump over one and to the middle and then over the other.
You can tug with your dog at the same time while he jumps to get over one leg and then the other extended leg.
Eventually, you want to have your dog do a down stay as you toss a toy to the opposite side, having your dog jump over one leg and then the other. Try to avoid having your dog broad jump over both of your legs while they are in the V.
Now scoot your legs together, making the jump distance broader. At this point is when I add the command or cue “hup” or “over” or “go”; whatever word you decide to use is fine as long as you are consistent.
And, when your dog is consistently jumping your legs with ease; begin to mix it up a bit!
Remember, dog training is supposed to be fun right? You are supposed to enjoy each other’s company and bond when you train! So have a good time here!
After you have both exhausted yourselves with the fun of this game then it is time to add real jumps.
You can search google to help you find affordable jumps here.
Making Your Own
The nice thing about jumps is that they are cheap and easy to make.
You can go to the hardware store and buy some PVC piping and fittings and have new jumps for fairly cheap, or you can use items you have around the house.
A broom stick across a short bucket can make a fine jump.
Just make sure that if the dog nicks the jump that the bar will safely fall! The las thing we want to do is injure our dogs if they trip and fall or hit a foot HARD!
You can also make broad jumps by placing wooden boards or plastic tarps across the yard!
Invent and make your own from house hold items if you decide that buying or making your own isn’t in your budget!
Rule of Thumb
I have seen dogs jump amazing heights!
Dogs scale fences and police K9’s are taught to jump over jumps that are 7.5 feet!
But, this is very dangerous and training needs to be safe and strictly monitored.
The truth is, that this kind of jump is not safe for the average dog! Even experienced dogs have a problem sometime.
So in my opinion it is better safe than sorry!
If in doubt make the jump lower
Here is a guideline for dogs and jumping from affordable agility click HERE.
I like having jumps that adjust for multiple dogs and can move up with the dog’s skill, however as mentioned this is not necessary, making jumps out of household items will work.
Just make sure that the jump falls if the dog nicks it with his feet, this is important if you jump your dog one way and then the other. Typically agility jumps are made so that the bar is on the inside of the jump and can fall either direction.
Set up your jump.
Get your treats, your clicker and your dog. For more on why a clicker is so helpful with dog training click here.https://thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/clicker-dog-training/
The first thing I do is set the bar on the ground next to the sides of the jump.
Next I click my dog for walking through the jump and not stepping on the pole or bar that is on the ground.
I do this until my dog is happily running through the upright sides of the jump.
Then, I move the bar up from the smallest point off the ground, taking it one step at a time.
It is not effective if you want to move too quickly and move the bar too far up.
Creating the habit of running under the jump or running around the jump is detrimental.
A clicker will help you shape the behavior without force.
If the dog is hesitant, I use a leash to help guide. But BE CAREFUL a leash can easily get caught on the upright poles and pull the whole jump down on the dog; which can create fear of the jump.
I gently guide the dog over the bar, using my cue and clicking for picking up his feet and not knocking the bar.
If he tries to run around the uprights, I ignore this behavior and wait to reward him for the correct behavior.
As he is successful, I move the bar up slowly so as to focus on success and not push him too fast.
I find that everyone wants their dogs to start out jumping enormous heights. But knocking the bar and hitting the sides or avoiding the bar by running around only creates bad habits.
I, for one, would rather have a firm foundation!
When your dog learns to love jumping you can begin sending him over a jump from a further distance, so that you don’t have to run with him.
In the beginning of this part of the exercise I toss a toy or a treat out through the jump to help guide him through and teach him that you don’t have to be next to him for him to take a jump.
From here, the sky is the limit!
And, if you both love this new game you can explore some agility training!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.