31. Retrieve Over Hurdle
Before teaching the RETRIEVE OVER HURDLE exercise, train your dog in the jumping part WITHOUT the dumbbell. Never correct for such things as not jumping, or for poor sits and finishes, while your dog is learning the retrieve part of the exercise.
Take your position in front of a low Solid Hurdle with your dog at your left side. Hold the leash in BOTH hands, as when teaching the heeling exercises. As you step toward the jump, command "Robin, Hup!" and snap the leash over the hurdle AHEAD of the dog. Slacken the leash while the dog is jumping, so you won't throw her off balance when she lands. Command "Come!" and jerk the leash toward you, with praise, to make her jump back. Run backward at the same time, gathering up the leash, so the dog will have room to sit squarely in front. If she isn't sitting straight, correct her, then stand erect. Wait a moment, then lean over and pat her. Patting your dog at this point accustoms her to the body movement she will experience when you lean over to take the dumbbell, which you will do in the regular RETRIEVE OVER HURDLE exercise. Stand up a second time, then command the "finish."
When your dog will jump the hurdle both going and coming, and will sit squarely in front on the return, without corrections, do the exercise while the dog holds the dumbbell. Remember to straighten all crooked sits; and after you take the dumbbell, give it back once or twice to keep the dog from anticipating the finish.
Next comes the period of chasing the dumbbell over the hurdle in play—that is, if your dog can be baited with play. Keep the dog on leash. Get her excited. In a teasing way, toss the dumbbell over a LOW hurdle and see if she will go for it. Give ONE command, and, while she is picking up the dumbbell, give lots of praise. Encourage her to jump back, and use the command "Sit! Stay!" to help her keep the dumbbell in her mouth. After she is sitting straight, pat her, take the dumbbell, and complete the exercise.
After your dog plays this game for awhile, tell her "Stay!" and throw the dumbbell. Wait this time for it to stop rolling, then see if she will start when you give the command. Play combined with obedience in this exercise gets excellent results when you have a dog with a frisky nature. Unfortunately, too many dogs have never learned how to play. For them it is straight obedience.
The next step in teaching RETRIEVE OVER HURDLE is to see that the dog not only waits for you to tell her to get the dumbbell, but also that she starts on the first command. Keep the jump LOW, and have the dog on leash. Assume your position close to the hurdle SO YOU WON'T HAVE TO MOVE YOUR FEET when you make a correction. Tell your dog "Stay!" and place the dumbbell on the opposite side of the jump, close enough that you can reach it by leaning over the hurdle. Hold the leash in both hands, and, WITHOUT MOVING YOUR ARMS, say a quiet "Take it!" "Good Girl!" If she starts, fine! That is what you want. If she remains sitting, correct as you did in the RETRIEVE ON FLAT exercise. Jerk the leash ONCE toward the jump while you are saying "Good Girl!" and after the dog jumps, lean over the hurdle, point to the dumbbell, and encourage her to pick it up.
Dogs frequently leap the hurdle when given the retrieve command, but will start back without the dumbbell. In this case, block the dog so she can't return. Cuff her nose gently with the BACK OF YOUR HAND, then jerk her collar toward the dumbbell, using a more demanding "TAKE THAT!"
When your dog will retrieve successfully over a low hurdle on leash, try it without. If she jumps and picks up the dumbbell, rush forward, pat the top board of the hurdle to encourage her to jump back, then back up quickly, giving her room to land. Straighten all crooked sits, take the dumbbell, wait to see if she anticipates the finish, then let her go to heel position on command.
Your dog must be reliable in the RETRIEVE OVER HURDLE with the jump low, before you raise it to the required full height, which is one and one-half times the height of your dog at the withers. With certain heavy-set breeds, the required height measurement equals the shoulder height. Place a ruler across your dog's shoulder bones, and measure the distance from them to the floor; then study the Obedience rule book to see how high your breed of dog should jump.
In practice, train your dog to jump two or three inches higher than will be expected of her in Obedience Trials. This will make the required height seem child's play in comparison; but never go to extremes or ask your dog to jump unreasonable distances. A bad fall could discourage her from ever jumping again.
As you progress in the RETRIEVE OVER HURDLE EXERCISE, strive for perfection. Give one command, and if the dog doesn't start, put her back on leash and make a correction. Gradually delay the praise until your dog has returned with the dumbbell and is sitting in front. Straighten crooked sits. Even test your dog by throwing the dumbbell so that it lands off to one side of the hurdle. This will tempt her to go around, and if she does, will give you the opportunity to stop her. Only by being called back when she starts around, or by being blocked from running around the end on the return, will your dog learn to jump the hurdle both going and coming.
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