Why it’s important to teach your dogs jump skills
Why train jump exercises?
During your dog’s agility life the majority of obstacles that they do involve jump skills. But jumps can also be one of the obstacles that result in your dog obtaining an injury. This is why we at Devon Dogs feel that teaching your dog how to jump is of utmost importance.
On a different note if your dog jumps economically not only will they reduce the risk of injury but it will also shave seconds off your time, which can be the difference between winning a class or finishing just out of the places. Likewise by teaching your dog how to jump it will increase their confidence and their understanding of how to complete a jump in the most efficient way.
What to train?
1. Set point and spider arms
This exercise is great for teaching your dog to take off at the correct distance and also for entering a jump using propulsion from their hind end.
2. Focus Forward
We want our dogs to focus on the jump in front of them. This means that you can lead out on a start line away from the first jump but that your dog will stay focused forward and thus will take the jump when released. This is trained initially by giving your dog something to focus on past the jump, ideally a toy. The dog should also only ever be released when it is focusing forward and not looking at you. This comes easier to some dogs rather than others but it is definitely something to work on as its an invaluable skill. Focus forward also helps create value for the jump itself, and can help you analyse where the value is for your dog. Is it solely for the handler, is it solely for the jump? Ideally you want a balance between the two. Focus forward will allow your dog to become task focused.
There are a number of grids to train your dogs on, each of them teaching your dog a different skill but all be equally as valuable to your dog training repertoire.
Balance grid: This is 5 jumps in a straight line all 7ft apart. Initially recall your dog to you, a toy placed on the floor is again very helpful for that all important focus forward. You can then leave your toy at the end and send the dog to the toy. Lastly you can leave your toy at the end as before and then race your dog too it. Remember to practice on each side of the dog as your don’t want your dog becoming more accustomed to working on one side of you than the other. With each exercise you are looking for your dog to land in the middle of each jump and not end up on top of itself by the 4th and 5th jump.
Slice: This is the same as a balance grid but with each jump along the row being shifted either all to the left or all to the right.
Bend Grid: This is a semi circle of jumps with the mid point of each jump being 7ft from each other. You then send your dog into the jumps and they should bend naturally around the jumps taking the most efficient path.
Please note that in all grid work the jumps are kept low as this is to teach your dog striding and thus height is not a factor that is needed and it can result in injuries if your not careful.
About the Author: Lauren Langman is responsible for the design and development of all Devon Dogs classes, events and workshops. She competes in Agility at Grade 7, the highest rank of competition in the British agility arena. She regularly competes and wins at top agility events in the UK including Crufts and Olympia, and has represented the UK at World Agility Championship level on many occasions.