DEAR OLD TRAINER: My sister Madison and I saw a guy at the park and he held out his arm and his dog jumped over it and then he held his arms in a circle and his dog jumped through it. We have Lucy a Jack Russell dog and want to teach her to jump like that except we don’t know if little dogs can do it and we don’t know how to teach it.
Kate, Menlo Park, Calif.
A: Lucy was born knowing how to jump and will love it when you and Madison teach her to do it on command.
It’s an easy trick to teach and all you need is a hula hoop. Put two chairs a foot apart and put the bottom of the hoop on the floor so Lucy has to step over it when she walks between the chairs. Stand on one side of the chairs with Lucy on the other and call her to you.
As you call her, say the word you want to use as the jump command. I use “hoop” with my dogs, but use whatever sounds good to you. When Lucy walks through to you, pet her and praise her, then stand on the other side and call her through the opposite direction.
Do this several times, then raise the hoop an inch off the ground and repeat the command. The point is to teach her that when she goes through the hoop she gets loved on. Be patient, no matter how long it takes.
Dogs get bored quickly so practice a few minutes and take a break. Do it again later in the day and raise the hoop another inch. Continue to raise it a little each time you come back to the exercise until it is too high to step over but low enough Lucy can’t walk under it.
At some point Lucy will think, “hey, why don’t I jump instead of walk.” When she does, give her even more love and praise and tell her what a great dog she is.
Once she is jumping, move the exercise outside and do away with the chairs. Dogs love this trick so you can train her several times a day. Raise the hoop a few inches a day. Lucy will soon be an expert and you can add the final part of the trick.
Put one arm a few inches along the top of the hoop, the other along the bottom. Make sure to keep your head out of the way. Give Lucy the command. When she jumps through it, extend your arms a little each time until they are fully extended on the hoop as Lucy jumps through. She now knows the trick so quit using the hoop.
Lucy doesn’t care if the hoop is there or not so just hold your arms out, give the command, and she will jump through them. You can now add any variation as long as you give her a target and say the command. She will jump over one arm, jump over a log or a bench, even learn to skip rope if you show her how to do it and swing the rope nice and slow.
Keep in mind the praise and love you give Lucy is the most important part of teaching any trick.
A trainer for more than 30 years, Jack Haskins has rescued, trained and placed more than 2,500 dogs. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.