Dog Manual

Lesson Ten - Jumping

At the command OVER, the dog must jump over an obstacle or jumping board. This, the liveliest exercise of the entire training course, is welcomed by participants because of the variety it gives to the sometimes monotonous, oft repeated routine. It is usually executed with real enjoyment by the guide as well as by the dog; and it is remarkable how a dog, which in the beginning may show aversion and even clumsiness, later becomes a very graceful jumper.

Students frequently object to the jumping lesson out of fear that the dog will jump every fence or obstacle in his way and thus get out of control, as for instance, when he is confined in a yard. This fear, however, is without foundation inasmuch as the dog is taught to obey a command. To jump of his own accord, whenever he has the desire, would prove lack of obedience which can and will be overcome by permitting him to jump only on command.

First let me warn the guide against jumping his dog at too early an age. Unfortunately, puppies are sometimes subjected to strains beyond their strength and this should not be permitted. In fact, no dog under ten months of age should be sent over the jumping board for his bones are too soft, and many a good dog has been spoiled by teaching him to jump too young. Jumps even over low boards are attended by considerable shoulder strain when the dog lands, and we all know that great disadvantage of loose shoulders to competitors at bench shows. Not alone the height of the jump either, but constant repetition of the jump, will bring about the same defect or malformation. Yes, it's great fun to watch those graceful jumpers, but do not repeat such performances merely to satisfy the pleasure of the spectators or the guide. I am quite proud of the fact that, in 1928, I had in one of my classes a student who set the world's record for German shepherd dogs in jumping and scaling a height of twelve feet four inches. Great credit is due this student because accomplishment of the record required years of patient training, plus infinite care in the gradual increase of the jumping height in order to avoid over-strain of the dog.

The jumping board, which should be no more than four feet high for a full-grown dog, can be gradually raised to the desired height. Begin with a height of only, say, two feet—if the dog is small, not higher than his shoulder so that he can look over and beyond the obstacle. Start off this lesson with a few of the exercises previ- ously learned, i.e., HEELING, SITTING, DOWN, and as with every exercise on the leash. The dog already understands the command HEEL, wherefore school-like handling of the leash may be eliminated: it should be held quite short, in the left hand only. In such position, with the short-leashed dog at one's left, step with him over the jumping board, encouraging with the command HEEL and, without stopping, continually praise him. After circling and walking over the obstacle (guide and dog) probably three times, the dog as a rule will overcome any first indicated resistance, and will step over without hesitation. If, however, he still should resist, continue the exercise until he goes over with a little jump. Ordinarily three times will suffice.

As soon as this part of the lesson has been mastered the guide, for the first time, commands JUMP or OVER, choosing but one of these commands and using the same word each time. But do not attempt to instill this command until the dog learns to step over the board with his guide, and altogether without resistance. Continue the exercise three times more, issuing the command JUMP or OVER at the very instant he is to take the jump, not too soon, not too late!

For the purpose of determining whether or not the dog understands the command, let the guide walk toward the board and stop suddenly before it as he issues the order OVER.   Thinking that the guide is following, the dog will jump as he hears the command. This time the hold on the leash should be lengthened enough so the dog will not become entangled. Once the dog has cleared the board, the guide, who is still holding him on the leash, should walk around the board and go straight on ahead, giving the command HEEL, coincidentally praising and petting the pupil. Then after circling around, the guide may again approach the board and repeat the exercise several times.

When it is certain that the dog has learned this much of the exercise, raise the board a little higher, to the level of the dog's head. This time, keeping the dog on his left side, the guide should approach the board, pass it without stopping, and at the same time issue the command OVER, if necessary helping the dog over with a slight jerk. But never pull a dog over a board or other obstacle.

This part of the jump should not be attempted until the dog has learned to step over the board easily with his guide. If he has to be pulled over, it is clear that he docs not understand what is expected of him. To force him over will only arouse fear and aversion to the exercise. Often such hesitancy is observed with dogs that have been overfed, and sometimes a shy or timid dog will reflect the same attitude. However, the fault can be overcome in every case by careful handling while the dog is being familiarized with the board in stepping over it with his guide.
1. The guide walks over the board with the dog Heeling on a short leash.
2. Continue with the command Over and keep on going. Repeat several times.  
3. The guide passes around the board, allowing the dog to take the jump while still on the leash. 

The lesson should be executed speedily, though not at a run, when approaching the board. To scale a height of three or four feet a medium sized dog need not run but can make the jump from a standing position. A long run will only result in the dog's loss of jumping power because he may be unable to estimate the height. Many guides make the mistake of stopping and waiting until the dog is over the board. This is what the dog expects, so that he will not jump because he has been trained to sit whenever the guide stops. Despite the fact that the dog is HEELING without the leash, it is essential to go through this exercise with him on the leash for the simple reason that he will break away before he learns to jump freely.

The next step is to raise the board to its full height of from three to four feet, then after the dog is absolutely sure of taking the obstacle correctly, to start on the jump coming back.

This, too, is executed with the dog on the leash. First, set the board at the dog's shoulder height, and after he goes over in the usual manner, give the command BACK accompanied by a light jerk of the leash. The guide must remain behind the board and must never follow the dog when he goes over.

Because this lesson is undertaken with the dog on leash, it is fair to assume that the guide is responsible for the few errors which may occur. Later, when it is executed without the leash, the guide oftentimes allows the dog too long a run. This can have but one result: the dog goes around the board instead of jumping over. The run, therefore, should be no longer than the height of the board, that is, if the board is four feet, then the run approach must be four feet.

A too long distance between the obstacle and the guide will cause the dog
to walk around the obstacle. 

A short distance between the obstacle and the guide will cause the dog to
jump the obstacle. 
Lack of command constitutes another error; likewise running too fast toward the board, and walking too slowly. The peppy dog will exert all his strength in speeding to the board, but this must be prevented for it results in loss of control on the part of the guide. If the dog is too peppy, deceive him by keeping him on leash, then pass close to the board with the command HEEL but disappoint him by not permitting him to jump!

Another method of toning down the dog that is too lively or energetic at the board is to put him through several obedience exercises in front of the board before allowing him to jump. Under the HEEL command, walk in the direction of the board, stop before it and command SIT, DOWN, SIT, also do several turns to right and left, then proceed with the command OVER. After he has made the jump, execute the same orders, SIT, DOWN, SIT, STAY; then BACK, HEEL and SIT.

Now is the crucial time to see that the jumping lesson is executed in the right way. This means a review of all lessons taught thus far. For instance, before the dog makes the jump over the board, have him SIT beside his guide.
After he has made the return jump, have him SIT in front of his guide awaiting the command HEEL.

This execution is necessary for obedience tests at dog shows: it is also preparation for retrieving lessons to come. For practical everyday purposes, that is, on the street, it is better to call the dog and command him to HEEL, for often there is no opportunity to sit in front of the guide. In other words, the dog must not be permitted to wander about, but should be kept at the guide's side. Again let me emphasize that just so long as the dog is not under complete control, he must be worked on the leash. With the dog under absolute control, the guide may start without the leash but he must remain close to the board to prevent the dog from going around. The command BACK should follow the moment the dog is on top of the obstacle, so as to avoid having him run away when he reaches the other side of the board. Yes, a good jumper is invariably admired by critics and spectators alike, and when jumping is not overdone it constitutes a healthful exercise because so many of the dog's muscles are brought into play.

And now, a few suggestions about the jumping board itself. It must always be in prime condition. Boards warped by rain or dampness must be replaced immediately if injury to the dog is to be prevented. Of particular danger is space between the boards which can easily cause broken toe-nails.   To avoid breakdowns, the board must be strong and solid for, should it break under the dog's weight, time will be lost in persuading the dog to go over it again even though he is not injured at the time it gives way. And then training must be started all over again as described in the beginning of this lesson!

Off the leash. Having been issued the command, Sit-Stay, the dog is now told to Come Over.
As he hesitates, he is given the encouraging command and sign 

So he jumps, landing in sitting position in front of the guide.

The command heel brings the "finish" and the dog Sits at the guide's left.
When a dog jumps, he should clear the board, not leave his hindlegs on it. Some dogs habitually use the board as an aid to jumping but this cannot be considered a clean jump. To prevent, use a hurdle made with tree branches clipped evenly at the top, in which case the dog will very soon realize he cannot get a good hold and will thereafter clear the obstacle with a correct jump.

The acceptable jump, then, will be executed as follows, using the commands taught up to now:

At the command HEEL, walk toward the board and stop with the command SIT.
At the command OVER, the dog takes the obstacle.
At the command COME, he returns and stops in sitting position in front of his guide.
At the command HEEL the dog makes the FINISH exercise as described in lesson No. 6, and goes into the original position close to the guide's left side.

It is essential for the guide not to move throughout the execution of all of these exercises. If the exercises are carried out to the letter, as herein explained, the commands can soon be eliminated entirely, and in an amazingly short time the dog will understand what is wanted. In fact, he will follow the established routine without the spoken command.

No particular time is designated for this lesson which should be worked in with previous lessons for the purpose of making obedience training more interesting.

Combined scaling and jumping through a window.  
Height 10 feet.
Executed by Bodo v.d. Mueritz, New Milford, N.J., 1927.