Teaching a dog to jump hurdles is necessary for a variety of dog sports including agility and obedience. However, even non-competitive dogs benefit from knowing how to jump. Hurdle training stimulates both the dog’s body and mind, allowing him to have fun and burn off excess energy.
Wait until the dog is at least 18 months old before training her to jump. Growing puppies have soft knee tissue that can be permanently injured and disfigured by too many jumps. To get a younger puppy familiar with the equipment without danger of injury, keep the bar on the ground for her to sniff, chew on and investigate until her joints are fully developed.
Place the hurdle on steady, even ground when your dog is old enough to jump safely. Lay the bar flat on the ground between the two horizontal supports. Starting close to the ground allows the dog to build his confidence before tackling a high jump.
Fit your dog with a collar and leash, and stand a few feet front of the jump. Line the dog up between the two horizontal bars to teach her to approach from the center of the jump.
Walk your dog forward toward the jump and give her the “jump” command as soon as she steps over the bar. Immediately toss her favorite toy in front of her, and allow her to chase it. The toy acts as positive reinforcement, and allowing the dog to run after it teaches her to look forward and build speed after clearing the hurdle.
Raise the bar to the first cross support only after she is consistently walking over the bar. Walk with her toward the jump and ask her to jump. Keep the leash loose so she has plenty of room to run, and praise her once she clears the bar.
Remove the leash once the dog is jumping the hurdle at the lowest setting. Part of proper hurdle performance is off-leash obedience, and starting this at a low jump height will keep the dog from getting confused as you raise the bar.
Increase the height of the bar in small increments as long as the dog is clearing it without knocking it over. If she starts knocking the bar down, reduce the height and repeat the process until she is once again jumping without faults.
Add additional hurdles once the dog is confidently jumping a single hurdle. Space the hurdles far enough apart that she has room to maneuver between jumps. Talk to the dog in a cheerful voice and let her play with her toy throughout the run to keep her happy and make jumping an enjoyable game for her.
- Work with the dog in 10-minute sessions each day. This keeps her fresh and prevents burnout from long training sessions.
- Don’t place the hurdles in soft, muddy ground. Unstable soil may lead to injuries.
Louise Lawson has been a published author and editor for more than 10 years. Lawson specializes in pet and food-related articles, utilizing her 15 years as a sous chef and as a dog breeder, handler and trainer to produce pieces for online and print publications.