The Agility Tire Jump: How to Train
If you already have the bar jump down, that would make this a bit easier. Even if you don’t, this behavior is still trainable.
This is another one of those “looks so easy” obstacles, until you see how creative a dog can get to avoid going through that opening. Like running at top speed, toward the tire and then at the last possible second, put on the brakes. Then stand there just looking at it before just walking away. Or the funny one where the dog also starts out looking good, only to duck under at the end. Then there are those dogs who decide to take the easy way out and just run around the tire, as if they have no idea what is supposed to happen when they see the tire.
I am assuming that you have some basic obedience instilled in Spot. If not, we can work around it, but I would suggest that the first thing you start training is “The Big Five Obedience Commands: Come, Sit, Stay, Down, and Heel .” Having those foundation skills firmly in place will make all avenues of dog training and dog ownership in general, 100% more pleasurable.
In case you have not read the “Operant Conditioning ” article on this site, it would be an added benefit to your understanding of this behavior, or dog training in general.
As with all training, we start off in small easy to master steps, and continue to build up on that until we have the finished product.
Start with the bottom of the tire on lowered all the way down, so it is resting on the ground and Spot is within a breath’s distance from the opening. If Spot knows what “stay” means, leave him on a stay. If he is not that fluent to understand stay, have someone hold him in front of the opening of the tire. Now, you go around to the other side of the tire and call him to you. Say “Spot, come tire” (or whatever word you prefer. Some people don’t like to use “tire,” because there are too many other obstacles that start with T.) In view of his close proximity to the tire, there really are not many options for Spot at this point:
1) He just steps through the opening to be met with joyous good dog, praise and a click and high value treat, or
2) He just stands there looking at you through the opening, as if to say, how do you expect me to come to you with this dumb tire in the way? If that is his response, you take the initiative and coax or lure him through with those high value treats you are holding and when he does walk through, he gets the same joyous praise with click and high value treat, as if he did it on his own.
If he starts to fight or tries to run around or away from the tire
If this is your puppy, you have an extra step. Somehow the tire has spooked him. So let’s get our treats and clicker out and desensitize him to the tire itself before we try talking him through. Quickly this is how it’s done; start clicking and treating for looking at the tire, then click and treat as we get progressively close to the tire. Now that we are close to the tire, we start doing the click and treats, with our hand in the opening of the tire. Then from here we can start either calling him or luring with his treat, through the opening of the tire, as explained.
With enough practice, he will show you how good he is at the recall through the tire from the very front of the tire. He demonstrates this skill to you by coming to you from all angles, and at all distances from him.
So far this is while in directly in front of the tire. Now, let’s work on some distance from the tire. Start backing him up so he has approximately four to six feet to go before he gets to the tire to get to you. Then, as before, we do the same with various angles and distances from the tire saying, “Spot, come tire,” now that he is good at that step.
This is where it does get a bit trickier. The new goal is for him to go through the tire with both you and him on the same side.
Again, both of you are facing the tire, two maybe three feet, away. We are switching the command to simply, “go tire.” If he goes for it and moves through the tire, thank the agility gods and run around the tire to do some serious praise, and click-treat. If he just looks at you like, “what are you talking about,” move away to the side of the tire and point and tap on the tire to see if that gives Spot a clue. If he still doesn’t get the hint, break out the big guns and throw his favorite toy or treat into the opening, still saying, “go tire.” It is important to mention at this point, that you better fade out the tossing of items as quickly as possible, or the treat/toy will become the signal (dogs are very visual) to go through the tire. (If that happens, he isn’t going anywhere with seeing that toy first. NOT GOOD.) So work on getting him through the tire before you through the toy, just make sure that the moment he is through, the reinforcement (toy, treat, whatever) presents itself.
Now we work slowly on progressing our distance so we can send Spot out from almost anywhere.
Now is when it starts to get fun. We are going to build up the height placement of the tire. Slowly, (always slowly, for starting anything) raise the tire about six inches, and then a few more, until you get to where it’s needed.
Just a couple more things to mention. Firstly, a lot of people like to raise that tire height a couple of inches more than will be necessary for the competition level. Also, as you progress raising the bar (to coin a phrase, tire) you might run into some resistance as it gets higher, so backing up a couple of steps, while doing the “come Spot, tire” and “go tire,” should fix the issue. And as you progress, (if your dog is clever enough) to a lot of dogs it becomes apparent that they can save time and energy, just by going under the tire. If yours is one of those smart guys, fix it with blocking the underneath with some sort of barricade (i.e. Chicken Wire, some short posts, regular wire stretched across from standard to standard, use anything to stop him from cheating.)
It should go without saying, that if you are training a puppy, that tire isn’t going anywhere in terms of height, until those puppy bones and muscles are built up and strong enough to take the exercise.
With enough practice from all angles and distances, along with adequate exposure, Spot will become a champ at this in no time.