Do you have a jumping puppy on your hands? While most dogs are capable of jumping several times their own height, it doesn’t mean they always should.
Puppies shouldn’t be asked to jump in extreme or competitive situations until they’re at least 12-15 months old (or older for giant/slow-maturing breeds). This is because puppy growth plates aren’t closed until at least 12 months of age and jumping on open growth plates can cause long term damage. Additionally, young dogs don’t have the benefit of muscle to cushion the impact of a jump, as adult dogs have. Therefore, it’s also important to limit your young dogs jumping in day to day activities, like jumping on beds, over baby gates, and out of the car.
Teaching Dogs to Jump Safely
While dogs must be at least 15 months of age to compete in Agility, there is no reason to wait to introduce your dog to the sport. Even young puppies can benefit from age-appropriate agility training and preparation.
The best way to approach training a puppy for Agility is to follow the motto “low and slow.” If you have any concerns about what your puppy can handle, speak to your veterinarian.
Dogs that jump in competitions such as Agility, Obedience, or Flyball, are taught the proper form to jump efficiently so as to cause the least stress possible on their joints. This is done through exercises like jump grids and conditioning.
Jump grids are lines of jumps set at different angles and distances that dogs learn to negotiate at speed. Dogs start jump grids with jump heights very low, or even with jump bars on the ground, and gradually work up to their full jump height as they get stronger and more confident.
Conditioning exercises can be as simple as hiking in the woods and jumping over sticks and logs or as complex as concentrated strength and balance exercises using canine fitness equipment.
So when you enroll in a beginning agility class or try agility at an AKC My Dog Can Do That! event, keep in mind that your dog won’t be jumping maximum height jumps. Not because the trainers doubt his ability, but because it’s much safer to teach him the proper way to jump first.