Normally all dogs jump. Sometimes they jump on people and soil their attire. At times the problem becomes so acute and embarrassing that a dog has to be restrained from jumping. But if a dog is trained to jump on command, it helps to tone up his muscles and also provide him adequate exercise. Amusing part of this exercise is that though dogs keep jumping on people, but it becomes difficult to teach them to jump on command or jump across an obstacle when need be. Then there are lazy dogs who like to walk under the obstacle or circumvent it rather than jump over. Some breeds like Dachshunds are designed in such a way that jumping is difficult for them and it can even be injurious if they over do it.
The owners of some of the common large breeds like Labrador Retrievers and German Shepherd Dogs find it very difficult with the required exercise schedule of their dogs. Often they run short of time and energy. They can be taught to retrieve but for that one needs a large area, so that the dog runs adequately and there is space to throw the ball as well. Jumping on the other hand is an exercise which is power packed and needs much less space and minimum of equipment. Only precaution to be taken is that before you venture out to teach your dog to jump, better take a clearance from the vet. Certain heavy bodied breeds like St. Bernard, Great Danes and Mastiffs are misfit to jump. These dogs have hind leg problems. Jumping is excellent for breeds like Labrador Retrievers who are rather lazy by habit. The increased blood circulation during the jumps makes them energetic and active.
The best age to start teaching a dog to jump is from four to six month. But of course it is presumed that by then your pup is conversant with basic commands like Come, Sit, Stay, Go and Heel. I prefer this age because by then the musculature of the dog begins to get strong and jumping helps to make the muscle tone better. At this age dog too is generally more responsive. Once he enters adolescence his attention gets easily diverted and he tends to break the discipline.
You need a wooden board about maximum 12 inches height with a width to exactly fit the width of the door. The height of the board can be less according to the age and breed of the dog. A small breed dog will need a board of lesser height and vice versa.
Teaching a dog to jump is quite simple. Make him sit on heel position (that is to your left) with leash and choke collar on and walk towards the door and just walk across the board. Naturally he will stop on the other side. Gently tug at the leash and coax him to come. Ninety out of hundred chances are that he will jump over. Exactly at that moment issue the command Bozo Jump in most exciting tone. As soon as he lands go on your haunches to praise him a lot. Your swiftness at that moment counts a lot, because the dog must understand that he is being praised to jump over and not for coming to you.
Another precaution required is to cover the board with a thick towel else the accidental impact of the wood on the body, especially on the hind legs can scare the dog to shy away from the board permanently.
It is easier said than done. Out of several dogs I trained to jump I found some staying put on the other side of the board. They won’t budge from their place. Such dogs can be made to move with slight maneuvering. Firstly ensure that the height of the board is low enough for your dog to go over. Secondly have some small ‘cubes’ of fried liver ready with you as a reward. When you call the dog across the board, keep one cube in your palm and open the fist at a height which he can not see. He will certainly get the smell. Dogs are usually crazy about this treat and he will move forward, sniffing his way and will certainly jump. As usual give the command as he jumps and offer him the treat on your open palm immediately after he lands. Repeat it a few times and he will understand what you mean by the command Jump.
Once the dog has understood the command, you can try various permutations and combinations. For example, if your dog is a greedy one you may place a piece of his reward on the other side of the board and ask the dog to Go, with arm lifted horizontally and finger pointing in the direction of the board. He will run towards the tidbit and also jump across. At the spilt moment do give the command Jump and let him have the reward. Once he completes the exercise he will come back to you running and will surely jump across the board to reach you. Again do not forget to reward him with lots of praise. Now make him Sit and Stay, while you cross over and place the reward again. Many perky puppies at this stage tend to break the discipline and come running to grab the reward. Do not let it happen. If your pup does so, immediately hide the reward, carry the pup to the other side and make again make him Sit and Stay and move to other side with an eye on the pup. If he even flinches, immediately retort with a Stay.
Once the pup is thorough, you can raise the height of the jumping board to the maximum capacity of the pup. Now you van make him retrieve ball and other objects across the board. In due course of time instead of a food reward, the ball becomes his reward and he begins to enjoy the game.
At this stage you can get a suitable ring for the pup to jump across. If nothing is available you may use an old rim of a bicycle tire. It is better to cover the metal with foam or with toweling. Place this ring above the board and make arrangements to hold it in place or seek help of an assistant.
Now make the dog go and jump across through the ring. A reward will make him do it again and again. Gradually remove the board from under the ring. You will notice that now dog jumps through the ring even though a blank space is there under the ring. Being creatures of routine they try to follow what has been taught.
After the dog has learnt well to jump through the ring, you can take him outside in the open and with an assistant holding the ring, you can make your dog jump through it. Police and Security dogs are trained to jump through a ring of fire. However, I do not advise pet dogs to be trained for that, as fire could be hazardous both for the dog and the handler or the home.
Jumping consumes considerable energy and unlike constant running it does not strain the dog’s heart. After each jump he gets a break of few moments which is enough for his heart to relax. The exercise strengthens the hind muscles and is good for lazy breeds like Labrador Retrievers. Some of the toy breeds like Tibetan Spaniels enjoy jumping very much. After the ring they soon learn to jump through the crook of the arm or any other such opening shown by the master.