Jumping and Scaling Obstacles

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Jumping and Scaling Obstacles

“Hup” “Hop” “Over” “Jump”

PGB_2312Jumping and Scaling of obstacles form part of the Agility Group of exercises in Working Trials but In IPO/Schutzhund and in Breed Working trials they are included in the Obedience phase. The main difference between the two is that in the latter these exercises are linked to retrieving a fairly heavy dumbbell over the obstacles and the heights are slightly increased.

For the purposes of this article the attention will be focused on the Working trial exercises.

What the rulebook says: Before beginning the exercise the handler will tell the Judge which position (“Stand,” “Sit” or “Down”) will be taken by the dog upon reaching the far side of the “A” Frame. A command to the dog to “Stay” (in any position) after landing applies to the Clear and Long jumps. When the dog has taken up the prescribed position the handler will be commanded to move at normal pace, with turns, to a position from where he must call his dog to “Heel.”

Athletic ability

The obstacles in the Working trials exercisesare not particularly demanding. Any reasonably athletic dog should easily negotiate them. Some breeds have a definite natural advantage when it comes to jumping, not only in size but also in build. Other dogs may need a bit of help as long as they have the right willingness. However, physical ability is often difficult to judge so we need to make sure that they jump correctly.

What is required from trainers and handlers is not only to teach the jump but firstly to develop the athletic ability of the dog in performing a jump. We want the dog to jump with extended hind legs like a gazelle (Springbok). The important point is that we are teaching jumping skills, not jumping height. A young dog must not be exposed to excessive pressure on hip and elbow joints until maturity (2 years old).

Stick jumping

PGB_2237A “rattle stick,” manufactured from a length of bamboo with lengthwise cuts will make a noise when touched by the dog’s back legs. This will cause the dog to avoid touching the stick and make it tuck or extend its rear legs to clear the stick. Dogs that are “spooked” by the stick are given an opportunity to investigate it on the ground. The dog goes to the stick – NOT the stick to the dog.

The aim here is for the dog to be conditioned to understand the requirements of the Clear jump without jumping at full height. Next is to teach the dog how to jump and this can best be achieved with Stick jumping, A helper kneels down holding a rattle stick parallel to the ground at a height of about six inches (15 cm).

Handlers must first decide on a personal and convenient command such as “Jump” “Over” “Hup” or “Hop” (mine) etc. Starting at a very low height the dogs are coaxed over the rattle stick while at the same time an upward tug is given to encourage the jumping act. Obstacles must be taught in fun and play. Lots of praise and encouragement will have all dogs enjoying their jumping exercises. If verbal praise does not motivate your dog then try lobbing a ball or toy over the stick just as he clears the jump.

As the stick height is slowly increased by 50mm or two inches at a time, the handler now needs to run outside the stick but the dog will receive the same commands and pop from the lead.

When the dog begins to show understanding and jumps easily over the stick the leash can be relaxed and then removed. Finally, before going to the fixed jump the distance to the stick must be increased.

Clear jump

The training hurdle is set at a very low level in the beginning around 200mm (7.8 inches) in height. The handler starts the dog on leash and with the command “Hup!” runs the dog over the jump and then praises the dog and plays with him with a toy. Dogs love this game and the height stays the same until the habit begins to sink in that he must always go between the uprights. Only then the handler begins to gradually raise the height of the jump by 50mm (2 inches} at a time.

A helper will still be holding the rattle stick steady but slightly above the jump. Do allow the dog first to get used to a new height before increasing it again. Over a period of time the dog should regularly clear a height at least two inched over what is required in competition.

You should also experiment to find out what is the best take off point for your dog. What is best for him, closer or further away? Remember, you are allowed to begin the exercise by moving with your dog but when the command to jump is given, the handler must halt and await the judge’s orders to re-join the dog beyond the jump.

Long – or Broad jump

This jump is done in exactly the same manner as the clear jump.

PGB_2272Good progress with this jump will have been made if the dog was able to master stick jumping. The dog must be able to clear a height one and a half times his body height at the withers. To start the dog is placed about two meters from the jump that has a jumping length of one meter (3 feet). The helper holds the jumping stick parallel to and about a foot above the boards. The dog is commanded to jump as in stick jump training and should easily clear the jump the first time. Training with the stick must continue for a number of training sessions before the stick can be removed.

Some dogs may want to walk through the long jump when the stick is removed. To avoid this, the handler/helper now holds the stick out of sight but next to the side of the jump. The dog is commanded to jump and just as he gets to the jump the stick is brought to its former position and the jump command is repeated. If the dog wants to walk through the jump the stick will lightly tap his front legs. If this does not solve the problem the first time a helper must be retained for a while longer until the stick is not needed.

Scaling “A” frame or “Wall”

The height of the scaling wall or “A” frame makes it appear as a very difficult exercise to go over. However, fit, mature dogs in good condition can quite easily be taught this exercise. The age of the dog must be considered because the wall puts great physical strain on the shoulders of a dog.

The initial reaction of a dog when brought to the wall is to try to go around it. The handler’s job is to teach him to scale up one side and then climb down the other. This is done by opening the wall so that the apex is only about a metre high. With the left hand gripping the leash fairly close to the collar and with a treat held in the right hand just in front of the dog’s nose it is usually quite easy to lead the dog over the obstacle for the first time. The handler runs alongside the wall. After much praise this experience is repeated a few times until the dog can go over on a loose leash and only be rewarded once over. Puppies can be picked up and placed near the apex to run down one side to find a treat at the bottom.

As was done with the Clear – and Long jumps the same “Hop” “Hup” command must be given before running the dog on leash over the wall.

When a dog shows confidence while crossing the wall, it is time to get him to go over without his handler next to him. The dog is placed at one end in a sitting position. A long line attached to his collar is strung across the top of the wall. The handler and a helper are positioned on either side to prevent the dog from running to the side. The handler gives the jump command, slaps the top of the wall and tugs on the long line. As the dog passes him the handler follows the dog and gives a “Sit” “Down” or “Stand” command as the dog reaches the ground at the other end.

As training progresses the height of the wall is increased very slowly. A problem that occurs when the sides get steeper is that the dog is inclined to want to jump down instead of climbing down the far side. Great care must be taken to slow the dog down when he reaches the top. Working at lower heights for a longer time will create good habits.

When the wall reaches close to its full height an additional problem arises in that the handler is unable to see what the dog is doing on the opposite side. He should continue to run to the side of the wall to check correct behaviour until training is complete.

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