Retrieve Over the High Jump

Your dog knows how to jump, and he knows how to retrieve. Let’s put it together. The hard part about the retrieve over the high jump is getting back and forth between the jump standards, especially considering the unpredictability of where the dumbbell will land. Now, we can and WILL practice our dumbbell throws so that we land the damn thing as accurately as possible,  but we will still train for the chance of a bad throw. So we will systematically show the dog the picture of returning over the jump from pretty much every possible angle.

Phase 1 – Recall over the jump, varying angles

We are going to back chain the return over the jump to build confidence and motivation.

1. To start, we are going to put the jump really, really low. Pretty much as low as it can go, so bar on the ground. I usually start this game with a displaceable agility-style jump, and then transfer it to a high jump later.

2. If possible, find someone to help you by restraining your dog, otherwise you can leave the dog on a wait, or toss a treat to set them up. Since I’m training alone, I usually toss a treat. Sit-stays are fine, but will reduce your dog’s drive in the exercise.

3. We are going to play a little around the clock game. Consider the jump as the middle of the clock. You will be standing at 6. Start the dog at the 12. We are going to work an arc around the jump, with the initial radius at about 4-5 ft from the jump.

4. Call your dog, as he passes between the standards, mark and reward by tossing the treat or toy between your legs (if practical).

5. Repeat, this time start the dog at the 1, then do it at the 11. You are still standing on the 6.

6. Keep working the dog around the clock 2 and 10, then 9:30 and 2:30. These times are approximate, you might use even smaller increments than that. If at any time the dog goes around the jump, just make the distance shorter. Resist the urge to prompt the dog over the jump.

7. Go back to 12, and repeat the same game, this time starting the dog 6-8 ft from the jump.

8. Keep working back and forth on your arc, gradually increasing the distance from the jump, with the bar on the ground.

9. Now, let’s work on putting the bar up. Since we are increasing the height, and therefore the jumping effort required, go back to very close distances and start again. Gradually increase the height of the jump, and then the distance while working your way back and forth. Ideally, the dog never goes around the jump during this game, because he has built such a huge reinforcement history for finding his way between the standards, no matter what angle he starts from.

Phase 2 – Add the dumbbell

1. Set the jump very low again.

2. Place the dog in a sit or down, facing the jump. If you have someone available to restrain the dog, instead of using a sit or down, that’s even better. Place the dumbbell right in front of the dog.

3. Return to the other side of the jump and cue the dog to bring the dumbbell.

4. Click as the dog crosses the jump, and reward by tossing between your legs.

Phase 3 – Add the Turn

Remember the game we used to work on the fast pick up and turn with the dumbbell? We are going to use that one again, only this time with the jump in the middle.

1. Starting at 12 again, very close and very low, set the dog up in a down facing away from you with the dumbbell ahead of him.

2. Return to the other side of the jump and cue the dog to bring the dumbbell. As his nose breaks the plane of the jump, mark and reward by tossing the treat/toy between your legs. He can/should drop the dumbbell as soon as you click.

3. Work your way around the clock the same as before, first increasing the angle, then the distance, then the height individually as before.

Phase 4 – Place the dumbbell

We are still splitting here, so we are going to place the dumbbell again, rather than throw it (which brings us to the unpredictability problem again). Remember our pick up game, we are going to use it here, just layering in the jump in the middle. See, there’s a method to my madness.

1. Follow the same pattern as before. Low height, very close, set the dumbbell at 12.

2. Restrain your dog on the opposite side of the jump and send him for the dumbbell. He should go out over the jump, pick up the dumbbell, and as his nose breaks the plane of the jump, mark and reward by throwing between your legs.

3. Repeat, following the same pattern as before.