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
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
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
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
1. The guide
walks over the board with the dog Heeling on a short
2. Continue with
the command Over and keep on going. Repeat several times.
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
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
to walk around
A short distance
between the obstacle and the guide will cause the dog
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
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
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.
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
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
lesson No. 6, and goes into the original position close to the guide's
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