In the last issue of ACTIVE DOG we focused on teaching the flyball box. In this issue we will talk about hurdling. In a flyball competition dogs race relay style over four hurdles to a flyball box, retrieve a ball and return back over the four hurdles to the handler. The height of the hurdles is set and determined by the smallest dog in the team, and so short dogs are valuable members of the team!
"Jumping is not recommended for growing puppies as it places pressure on developing joints that can result in injury."
Step One: Teaching the word "over"
Begin with your dog standing on one side of the hurdle - it is helpful to have a friend hold your dog by the collar - show your dog a food treat or its favourite toy and encourage it to jump over the hurdle. As it jumps praise and reward it. Repeat this step until your dog is jumping fluently. Introduce the cue "over" as your dog jumps. When your dog is at competition level you will be giving it this cue from a distance.
Step Two:Hurdling in sequence
Place two hurdles in sequence. Have a friend hold your dog by the collar behind the first hurdle. You need to stand facing your dog in front of the second hurdle. Lean over the second hurdle and show your dog a food treat, or toy, as you encourage it to jump over both hurdles in sequence. Praise and reward your dog as it completes the second hurdle. Over several training sessions build your dog's skill level so that it is jumping over all four hurdles. If your dog misses a hurdle simply go back a step in your training plan.
Step Three: Increasing your dog's speed
Record the time it takes your dog to jump four hurdles in sequence. If your dog completes the four hurdles in a faster time give it a "jackpot" reward. Remember, when we reward desirable behaviours they increase in intensity, frequency and duration. So if you reward your dog's best performances you will get more of it!
Step Four:Linking the flyball box with the hurdles
Now it is time to put the box and hurdles together. Line the four hurdles up in sequence in front of the flyball box. Stand with your dog behind the hurdle that is closest to the flyball box. Give your dog the cues "over" and "fetch". As it retrieves the ball from the box, encourage your dog to jump back over the hurdle. Praise and reward it when it gives you the ball. Over several training sessions increase the number of hurdles that your dog is negotiating before the flyball box. If your dog misses a hurdle or drops the ball, don't worry - just go back a step in your training plan. Flyball is a fun sport for dogs and handlers alike. If you're interested in the sport we suggest you contact the Australian Flyball Association on (02) 6288 6611, or visit their website at www.flyball.org.au