Have you ever seen a dog rapidly leap over hurtle after hurtle, or deftly plunge through a hoop? It sure looks impressive on TV, especially in those world class agility tournaments. What if I told you this is one of the easiest tricks to teach a dog?
Step One: Lure & Reward
I like to start out from the complete basics here; very simple. If you don’t have actual agility equipment, that is fine; simply grab a lengthy object you can set on the ground (a long stick will do).
At first, your dog is not going to know what is expected of it; you need to ‘teach’ him. So, with the object lying on the ground and your pup on one side, simply ‘lure’ hum over (to step over) the object to you with your treat. Reward him as soon as he crosses the hurtle.
Many trainers like to start with multiple hurtles low to the ground, and guide their dogs, leashed, over. Either way is fine. Repeat this process a few times.
Step Two: Raise the Bar (Slightly)
At this point, you want to raise the bar; teach the dog it needs to step over the bar in order to be rewarded for good dog agility. It depends upon the breed, but usually six inches should do; just enough so the dog actively must ‘step over’ the bar. Again, repeat the same process; luring him over and rewarding upon completion.
Your dog might simply choose to walk around the bar, especially when you raise it to a point requiring actual jumping. The solution is simple; only reward successful attempts. Eventually, your dog will catch on- ‘I must jump over the bar in order to get my treat’. If you are guiding your dog with a lead while moving quickly, they probably won’t have the option of circumventing the pole.
Which brings me to the next part- simply continue to raise the pole, little by little! Don’t go overboard; make sure your dog is comfortable before progressing.
Dog Agility Step Three: Hand Signals
Have you ever seen a handler direct their dogs through agility trials?
Begin adding simple, directional hand signals every time your dog agility training trick is performed! Dogs are extremely good at reading body language and visual cues; they will be able to pick this up quickly. Be sure to be consistent and use the same one every time; eventually, you will no longer need to use vocal commands!