We thought we’d continue the fun this Spring and focus on tricks again this month. Canine sports often include behaviors that are fun tricks, such as teaching a dog to push a ball with it’s nose (Treibball), jump over a bar or through a hoop (Agility), or turn in a circle on cue (Canine Freestyle). This month we’ll focus on teaching our Play Group dogs to jump over an agility jump or through a hula hoop.
Here’s how we’ll do it:
- 1. Set up a jump that’s low enough for your dog to comfortably step over the jump with no effort.
- 2. Use a piece of food in your hand or a toy to lure your dog over the jump. To do this with food, put the piece of food directly in front of your dog’s nose on one side of the jump and slowly move your hand forward. Ideally, your dog will move forward to follow your hand, as if your hand were a magnet that could pull them forward. Use the food lure to move your dog all the way over the jump and give her the food as a treat once she’s over. If your dog is uncomfortable with this, you can start with the jump bar on the ground.
- 3. Once your dog has comfortably gone over the jump several times, you can work towards teaching a hand signal instead of using a food lure. Take the food out of the hand you were using to lure the dog, and exactly replicate what you were doing in step 2, but without food in your hand. As soon as your dog moves all the way over the jump, give her a treat from your other hand, pocket, or treat pouch.
- 4. Once your dog is consistently going over the bar with a hand signal (in other words, can go over the bar successfully when prompted by your hand signal 5 out of 5 times) you can slowly raise the jump one notch at a time.
As with people, when dogs are trying new sports or physical activities, there’s a higher risk of injury. The American Kennel Club sets specific jump heights for agility runs based on dog sizes and you can learn more about their regulations on their web site at, www.akc.org/events/agility/resources.
Remember the most important part of teaching tricks – have fun and keep training!