A common question the new Agility handler asks is how many jumps should be practiced with at home. Although there is no “right” answer, many Agility trainers agree that having at least four jumps is important.
As a dog and handler team advances through Agility levels, increasingly difficult course layouts will be encountered. The basis for many advanced maneuvers is four single jumps set up in a box configuration, where the dog is expected to run through the arrangement as a “threadle” or as 270o turns. Not only will you be able to hone your handling skills with four jumps, but your dog will learn efficiency and collection on the course. Additionally, exposing your dog to these configurations as early as possible will place him ahead of the learning curve. The box layout can also help develop your dog’s close-quarters handling skills, allowing you to practice layering. You can also work on distance handling by staying inside the box and sending your dog away from you. With a little bit of imagination, four jumps can easily be used to simulate nearly every situation encountered during an Agility trial.
If acquiring more jumps is in your budget, consider doubling the number of obstacles in your training arsenal. Having eight jumps provides you the option of either enlarging your box for practicing more difficult maneuvers, or even setting up two separate boxes and working on a number of skills and drills, even from a distance. Furthermore, eight jumps can help better simulate a typical course, which is essential for practicing speed and precision.
A second reason to consider purchasing more than four jumps is to be able to build a double or triple jump. Simply place two or three single jumps close to one another to build an expanded jump. A useful drill is to have your dog run a given box configuration, and then finish with the extended jump to build endurance and strength. The more creative you are with your course design, the better chance you will have that your dog will not encounter anything unusual during competition that may result in a fault.
For the ultimate at-home training facility, obtaining sixteen jumps would allow for optimum drills and handling practice, not to mention convenience. The ability to have separate box and course set ups, along with extended jumps, could prove to be an essential resource for helping your dog prepare for even the most difficult courses and challenges.