Back and Forth Jumping Drill
This is one of my favorite jumping exercises! It builds value for keeping the bar up and develops good jumping form. This is one of the exercises I use to teach height jumping to novice dogs, as well as using it as a warm up for experienced dogs. This is one of the final steps in Chip's warm up routine, so he does it before every training session.
This drill works on teaching nice bend and head carriage over the bar. It teaches the dog how to collect to turn tightly from different approaches. Dog learn how to tuck their feet up for tidy jumping. It also helps develop a desire for the dogs to work hard to keep the bar up, because I will begin to only reward for clean jumps.
There are a few ways to teach this drill, but the most important part is establishing the "game" or pattern to the dog. When we sit or stand in the neutral position next to the jump, we want the dog to go back and forth over the jump on their own, with no physical or verbal cues from the handler. I have recently started teaching this a new way which I think helps develop that pattern easier. You'll see in this video using Tesla (the doberman) and Magik (the BC), I teach a pattern of going back and forth to target plates before I even incorporate the jump.
Here is a video of the foundation steps of teaching the two target game, and introduction to the jump.
Step 1 - Two Targets Game - Sit with your back to a wall and two targets in front of you. Have treats in both hands and place a treat on one target. While the dog is eating the treat place a treat with your other hand on the next plate. Keep repeating this pattern. Every few times move the targets farther away from each other. You are trying to work them back towards the wall, right next to your sides. If the dog stays at one plate too long, be patient, wait them out. They need to decide to go look at the other plate on their own. Be careful they aren't just following your hands. For this stage of the game - I try to always have the cookie on the next plate by the time they eat the other one, so they don't see my hands moving to the next plate.
Step 2 - Add a jump wing - Once the game with two targets is established and the dog is going back and forth between them fluently, put a jump wing right in front of you...close enough that the dog is forced to go around it. Keep up with the back and forth to the plate, and after a few reps, push the jump wing out a few inches. The dog will now start to have more of a choice if they are going to go around the wing, or take a short cut. At this stage, I will start to delay the treat on the next plate until I'm certain the dog is making the correct choice of going around the wing. If they cheat and cut the corner, try to not reward. Only reward for them going around the wing. You don't have to get the wing too far away from you, 12" is good for this drill.
Step 3 - Add a jump - Now add the rest of the jump to the wing you were using. Keep it low and help the dog establish the pattern of going back and forth over the bar to the target plates.
Step 4 - Lose the targets - Now keep the same back and forth pattern going, but get rid of the target plates and place the cookies on the ground where the target plates were.
Now I'm going to refer to the steps in this video below. The steps at the beginning of the that I show with Derby is how I used to teach this. It's still possible to teach that way, but I think the dogs pick up the game faster with the two targets.
Step 5 - Raise the bar - If your dog is age appropriate for full height jumping, and they are fluently doing the back and forth pattern, start to raise the bar 2" at a time. At this point I will try to only reward if they jump cleanly and don't knock the bar.
This is a physically exhausting drill, don't do too many repetitions in a row! I would limit to 8-10 jumps per session and make sure they get rest between sessions. You should continue to sit or kneel next to the jump until you get to full height. It is also very important to continue to drop the treats on the ground, do not feed from you hand! Continue raising the bar until you get to full height. Only raise the bar if they are jumping cleanly and doing the pattern efficiently.
Step 6 - Stand up- Once at full height, stand up next to the jump in the same spot you were just sitting. Keep your hands quiet, next to your sides, and drop cookies on the ground to reward. This is important to keep a good "head down" jumping style and not encourage the dog to look at your hands while they're jumping.
Step 7 - Different Approaches - Now we want the dog to learn how to organize themselves when approaching a jump at speed and from different approaches. Start by holding the dog in the collar, toss a cookie a few feet away from the jump, let the dog see the cookie land, then send them to the cookie. While they are eating stand back into the neutral position next to the jump, wait for the dog to come in and jump, then drop the reward. It is harder if you throw the treat farther away, or from harder angle. Behind you is one of the hardest and most important angles to work.
If you notice your dog not turn as well from a certain side or direction, put the jump a few heights lower and try to get success on a lower height. Then work back up to full height.
Step 8 - Stand on take off side - Now you're going to stand on the take off side of the jump, facing the wing, to simulate the position we will be cueing decel and wraps in the future. Still toss the cookie different directions to start, as the dog approaches, stand still facing the wing, the reward the dog on the ground for wrapping the wing.
Don't do too many reps! This is a physically challenging drill. The more your dog builds up strength, the more you can do, but still be careful you aren't over doing it. These will only get worse if they're tired.
Feed all cookies on the ground. Don't feed from hands!
Don't verbally or physically cue the dog to take the jump, we want them to offer it. This is very important to establish in the beginning and will help make step 7 more realistic.
Don't raise the bar too quickly, establishing the back and forth pattern is the first goal.