Thursday, November 7, 2013

Training Urban Agility (Dog Parkour) Skills: Gap Jumps

Training Urban Agility Skills: Gap Jumps

Skill: Jumping between objects: Dog jumps between two walls, posts, curbs, etc. without touching the ground in between.
Benefits: Increased muscular strength and proprioception, increased confidence, increased ability to work with distractions
Sports applications:  Agility- Jumping; Obedience-directed jumping, sit, down, stand; Flyball-jumping; Barn Hunt-Straw bale climb.
How to train: Your dog should first be comfortable with the skill of jumping on an object. Now, find a low, sturdy object with another low, sturdy object very close to it (usually start with less than 1ft away, even smaller for little dogs). It should be tall enough that the dogs see it as an obstacle, but not so tall that it is intimidating. Encourage your dog to step between the two objects and reinforce your dog when he is on the second object. Gradually increase the gap distance, the height of the objects or the speed. At first he may simply step between the two. Don’t worry about this, as you increase the distance between the objects and the speed of approach, he will naturally begin jumping between them.
Safety: Always spot your dog, be ready to catch him or provide assistance if needed. Let your dog choose to perform the behavior, and then reward. Make sure your dog has a chance to look at the gap jump before deciding if he can do it. As you get close to the max distance your dog can perform, he may hesitate while considering the distance. Allow him this time, and reinforce whatever decision he ends up making as you want your dog to make smart choices about his physical abilities. Lift your dog down from the wall or find an alternative route down if jumping above dog’s shoulder height.
Advanced Version: Train your dog to jump between small diameter objects! These require quite a bit of precision and will take time. Make sure to start low and spot your dog. Also, be sure it is of a diameter that your dog can balance on when not jumping to it!
Send your dog to jump between specific objects at a distance.
Practice obedience exercises on the objects: sit, down, spin, stand.