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It's not uncommon to see green dogs refuse jumps during one or several periods during their training. They'll often do weird things with one or more obstacles as they progress. They will also frequently behave perfectly at the next session with whatever obstacle they weirded out on if the handler will go about things matter of factly. Each new session should be approached with a clean slate, so forget your previous experience the next time you go out! If you lower the jump to a fair height and the dog still refuses, there's nothing wrong with insisting that the dog complete a jump before ending the session, i.e. taking it by the collar and aiding in its forward momentum. End the session once several jumps are taken. (Katie Greer)

For dogs that consistently hit jumps, run silent as much as possible especially in practice; this helps the dog learn where they needs to be taking off - they are often rather better at deciding this than us. Other methods to try (not necessarily endorsed):

  • Training over fixed jumps, so the dog learns not to hit them.
  • Using a heavy pole instead of the light poles normally used.
  • Using a very light pole instead of a heavy pole.
  • Moving the pole up as the dog goes over - similar to rapping in horse jumping.
  • Stretching a length of high tensile fishing line 2" above the pole.

(Tony Dickinson)

Jumping the wings of a jump should be quickly discouraged for the simple reason that it can be dangerous. Your dogs could get caught on the wing, depending upon the construction of the wing, or badly crash the jump. Wing-jumping is often due to poor handling position. Handlers will have trouble with wings because they are working too close to their dogs, requiring them (the handlers) to move diagonally as they try to avoid the wings. The dogs then go diagonally, too.

You might try this: Set up three jumps in a row, at least one winged. Look at where your path is going to be- straight. Eyeball the whole path you are going to travel and then do it- straight. If your dog is not able to also go straight then you need to do some work in training your dog to work several feet away from you. Targeting or throwing a ball will help focus the dogs attention ahead instead of on you. (Anne Smith)

Another thing to try for wing-jumping is setting 2 bars in an "X". One end of the bar goes into a cup and the other end on the ground. It helps draw the dog's attention to the middle of the jump. Concentrate on showing them the proper place to jump and avoid setting them up to jump incorrectly. They learn much faster if you help them to be correct and reinforce their good behavior. Also work on teaching them to negotiate the jumps on their own. Much like teaching them to find their own correct entry to weaves. Start out sending them with straight approaches, gradually adding an angled approach to the jump. You might have to do a fair amount of running it with them to show them in the beginning, but the idea is to make sure they do it right every time they try. Reward and praise everything they do correctly. (Katie Greer)

Most dogs are natural jumpers, however, the purpose of the Clothier technique was for dogs having PROBLEMS with their timing of take-offs, who were inconsistent at arching & landing, and various other reasons such as stutter stepping, etc.

As Clothier writes in her book, The Clothier Natural Jumping Method, and our whole reason for making these lessons available to some dogs, is (loosely translated): "dogs will jump as they first learn; unless it hurts, they will continue to use this style (form) as they continue their jumping career". So this "back to basics" technique is meant for dogs that need help "relearning" how to jump properly; thus, the jumps in the chute, in the beginning, are always set 2 STRIDES apart, using 2/3 their actual full jump height, meant to TEACH each dog where to take off, arch, and land properly according to their stride length.

This is a shortened version of one club's class adaptation to the Clothier jumping chute method. The club made the following changes to adapt to a dog's ACTUAL stride while running (as on an agility course) as opposed to determining distance, etc. for obedience jumping in open and utility.

Instead of the "formula" for height, length, and elbow, the following was done:

  1. Indoors on a matted surface, you can do the "wet paw" technique for measuring stride. Have at least a 50-60' length to work with, and sit the dog at one end with ONE wet paw. Have the handler do a very informal recall, with the dog reaching a speed similar to that of a dog on a Starters course-moving out, but at a controlled "loping" stride. This is the speed of the dog you want to TRAIN at. Measure the distance in between wet paw marks, starting with the 2nd to the 3rd mark, and any other strides that the dog was moving at a good run at. This shouldn't have to be done more than one time, because under these controlled conditions the dog should be comfortable doing this. (In one class a Border Terrier had a longer measured stride than a Lab!)
  2. A jumping chute is set up, using 3 jumps to start with, and expanding the # of jumps in future lessons with the amount of room you have, with the jumps spaced 2 measured strides apart. This allows for 1/2 stride for take off, one stride to arch and jump, and 1/2 stride to land. In between jumps, there is then 1 stride length between landing and taking off for the next jump; thus the reason for using at least 3 jumps to start with, so that the dog has to adjust timing, take off, and landing as each run is done. As the dog makes the run down the chute, the instructor would watch from the side angle to see the dog's form while jumping, and to see that the take off distance is the same as the landing distance from the jump- thus the dog is arching at the peak (middle of max. height) of the jump.

Any dog requiring this type of training should follow a time table and lesson plan similarly as outlined by Clothier, and FUTURE lessons include spread jumps, bounce jumping, and then varied spacing of jumps.
(Darlene Woz)

When a dog starts to suddenly refuse jumps, look very carefully for a physical problem. To be fair to the dog, that always has to be ruled out first. These would include Hip Dysplasia, sprains and strains, muscle soreness from overdoing it after a period of rest, maybe arthritis of the knee if she is older, and even eye problems.

If all of those things have been ruled out, it is best to then analyse the dog's jumping with a video camera and the tape viewed in slow motion. You should video her jumping at several different heights from 10" up to the height that she refuses. You will usually see a change in jumping style occur at a height below the actual refusal. For example, she may begin to take off further away from the jump, or to hesitate, or to pop the jump. This will then begin to give you a hint about what the problem is.

You should also be sure and warm her up thoroughly before jumping, and also to give her a good massage - then video her and see if there is a difference then. That will tell you that there is some physical problem which you might be unable to diagnose, even at a vet's, because it might be very subtle.
(Chris Zink)

Some more ideas for a dog that is afraid of jumping:

  1. Wings with no bars. Just run through the wings with the dog on lead beside you. If he balks, remove one of the wings and try that. Lots of treats and praise.
  2. Wings with a ground bar/plank. Same deal, be careful not to trip on the ground bar yourself.
  3. As Chris Zink suggests, put the bar on two dented soda cans laid on their sides. This raises the bar about two-three inches above the ground line. Did you remember to give lots of treats and praise?
  4. Bar at its lowest setting.
  5. Wings on either side of a broad jump plank, laid on its side.
  6. Wings on either side of the broad jump plank, sitting upright.
  7. Remove the wings and start adding more planks to normal jumping width.

The key here is "easy does it". *Don't* be in a hurry - if you stress him out you'll make the problem worse and you'll be sorry. Be sure to use lots of treats and praise.

Also, you can at some stages use a 'restrained recall' to get the dog fired up and ready to go. You wait with treats (and praise) on the 'far' side of the jump, have a helper hold the dog on a short lead (tab or traffic lead) in a sit, about six to eight feet from the jump on the other side. You call him (assuming you have a great recall). He wants to come, but your assistant restrains him. He gets worked up, upset, 'gotta go, Mom's calling'. When his excitement is at a fever pitch, and he just has to get back to you, he'll forget his fear, if it's a minor one.

Don't let your dog fail. Set up the 'problem' so he cannot possibly make a mistake, train for several repetitions past the point where he is perfect over and over, and only then try to move to the next step. If he balks, go back a step or two and try again.
(Jim Hutchins )

Dogs knock bars for many reasons. A knowledgeable person should evaluate the problem. It may take more than one evaluation to determine the exact cause. Your dog takes off too far away from the jump to clear it? Possibly, although it could be a flat, horizontal jumping trajectory that is the real problem. Or it could be inexperience, overexcitement, improperly spaced obstacles, inappropriately timed jump command, etc.

Does the dog have any pattern to the bars that fall -- i.e. the 24" jumps fall less/more frequently than the 30", only spread jumps, only the first jump, only jumps off a turn, only in the ring, not in training, etc? Is the dog moving fast or slow? What level is he at -- is he very green? Is this your first agility dog? Are you an experienced handler? The answers to these questions determine what the solution will be. Every dog is different.

In addition to the dog that has difficulty clearing the extra height, there are many dogs that have difficulty making the transition from 24" to 30" and back. Most BCs can jump 24" very effectively with a flat jumping style but at 30" this style is just not effective with the extra height of the jump. Most dogs must jump with a more vertical, "round" style in order to efficiently clear the 30" jumps and make the turns generally required in USDAA. This means that if you have a dog that is performing at both 24" and 30" he must be talented enough (or trained) to make the transition in style. Some dogs naturally jump round at both heights and have little problem going from one height to the other. Sometimes the only change that needs to be made is in the handler.

There are many possibilities as to why bars may fall so before you try all sorts of quick fix methods, have someone evaluate both you and the dog.
(Linda Mecklenburg)

If the dog has learned that there is no penalty for knocking a bar down you need to institute a penalty. One that you can use is that the dog goes and does that jump again until he gets it right. For a dog who wants to run and jump this is a big deterrent to knocking jumps down.

If the dog is only barely clearing the bar you could run the dog at a greater height over the practice jump before a run. You could also use a standard jump with a fishing line stretched a couple of inches above the bar. When the dog jumps low he feels the line and adjusts his jump accordingly. You must not use this method on dogs who have not learned to jump reliably since the line doesn't bounce off the uprights the way a bar does and pulling a set of uprights down round his ears can put a dog off for a while.

If the dog is dropping a leg due to turning in the jump, this is a training issue unless the reason that the dog is turning is to look at you when you give him directions in which case it is handler error.
(Tony Dickinson)

If your dog is jumping too early and knocking the bar, you may be concerned about picking up speed. Should you just slow the dog down so it doesn't happen and achieve a clean run?

Well, the best advice is not to slow the dog down but to fix the problem. Unfortunately you cannot do this quickly unless it is the first of the problems below (and maybe not then!).

  1. One cause of the dog jumping early is that she is 'racing' you . The answer is simple! You run the course behind the dog. Of course you need a motivated dog for this to work, but if your dog is not so motivated but still 'racing', you might be able to control the early take off by being very careful about how far ahead you run - too little and you go slow, too far and you knock jumps.
  2. Another cause of jumping problems is that the dog is scared of the jump and is trying to get it over with or that the dog has never been taught to jump properly, or has forgotten the lessons in the excitement of competition and slipped into bad habits. There are several fixes for this. If you click and treat use the technique to teach the dog the correct method of jumping. Otherwise set up a jumping chute and work the dog over spread jumps to encourage the dog to take off at the correct point. You will need to both send the dog on through the chute and to recall the dog through the chute so that she learns to judge the jumps the dog self and not rely on mum for cues as to when to jump.
  3. This brings us to the final cause that I will deal with. If you are giving the dog a cue to jump either dog a verbal command or a hand or body signal you could well be causing the dog to jump too soon yourself! Try running silent - tape your mouth or something if need be - don't make a sound and rely on your body language to guide the dog and let the dog work out when to jump - they are far better at it than we are when we let them make the decision.

That is not an exhaustive list of possible problems and certainly not an exhaustive list of fixes.
(Tony Dickinson)

Stuart Mah shared a method of curing knocked poles that has worked for some Border Collies in our club. This method produced great results for a serious bar knocker!

While standing fairly close to a jump call your dog to jump, as it begins to lift give its fanny/rear legs a firm "goose" while saying "get up", or your jump command. You can call the dog around to perform the jump again and do the same procedure. Dogs accustomed to playing games with their owners viewed it as just one more game to play. You'll have to determine whether or not your dog is up to playing this game, or play more with the dog so that it accepts games during practice. Last option strongly suggested!

When you can, find places in practice in which you can perform this procedure during a sequence. Border Collies and other keen dogs who run flat seem to feel that speed is what they need to produce regardless of accuracy. This technique just ups the ante on them and results in fewer knocked bars while maintaining speed.

(Katie Greer)

If you hare having problems with your dog stopping dead in front of a single bar jump when there is no wing. What you need to do is improvise a wingless jump. Add something to it. Aluminum foil works ok, give it a 10" wing. use the jump as you normally would ( in a small sequence) the next time roll up a inch or so to make it smaller. Thus each time you practice it gets smaller till there is no wing at all. Note: Don't do this all in one night, maybe a week or two.

Same can be done with the bar, and not the wing. Leave enough hanging on the bar so your dog can see it, You can use wrapping paper here, tape it so there is 6-8 inches or whatever the dog will see and jump. Gradually roll it up as above till there is nothing left of the paper.
(Scot Bartley)

Jumping early is a very common problem in Belgians and BC's - often in dogs that are fast and who like to work at a distance.
The reason that the dogs do this is because they don't know their preferred take-off spot and they choose to take off further back from the jump as their means of avoiding the jump. Other dogs, like Goldens for example, would respond to the same problem by going up closer to the jump and popping over it.

An excellent solution is to lay three poles in front of the jump at a distance apart that is equal to the dog's stride at a comfortable canter. You will have to try out a variety of spacing to get it exactly right. You can't measure the dog's length of body or leg length and extrapolate it exactly to stride length as the incredible variation in angulation between different breeds of dogs and different individuals in that breed make their stride lengths vary greatly. But as a thumb rule, you might start off with a distance between the poles of about 1 1/2 times the dog's height at the withers. Remember, you want to give him a comfortable stride length, not the stride length that he would be using if he were running free. You would like to slow him down a bit to give him time to think as he approaches the jump.

The distance between the closest pole and the jump will be greater than the distance between the poles on the ground and it will depend on how flat a trajectory is appropriate for the dog over that jump - lower jump, flatter trajectory. You want the dog to land on the ground between the last pole and the jump. Where he lands will be his preferred take-off spot. So now, by moving the poles closer to the jump gradually, and by setting up his stride ahead of the jump (this is what the three poles do), you can gradually move him so that his preferred take-off spot is a little closer to the jump than he is currently choosing. Then you gradually make the farthest pole smaller, then the middle pole smaller, and you gradually fade away the poles starting from the farthest one, until it is just a line of corn starch on the ground. By this time, the dog has learned a comfortable take-off spot and has learned that it is OK to approach the jump.
(Chris Zink DVM, PhD)


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