Leap Dog!

Got 2 dogs? Teach them this fun trick!

When you have 2 dogs, they tend to get really good at obedience, learning to lie ‘down’ patiently while the other dog is trained, and they get really good at listening for their name, so that they know when it is finally their turn! Sometimes though, it is nice to teach a trick that the two of them can do together.

Because this trick involves one dog jumping over another, you’ll need to assess your dogs’ suitability in either role. Some pairs of dogs won’t be safe attempting this trick, such as Great Dane Danny and his little sister, Chloe the Chihuahua. My dogs are well suited because I have a sturdy, tough mastiff to hold steady on the bottom while my lighter, agile, athletic boxer floats effortlessly over his back.

Teach Your Dogs to ‘Leap Dog!’

Prerequisite training cues for jumper: ‘jump’

Prerequisite training cues for bottom dog: ‘down,’ and ‘stand’

You’ll need to teach at least one dog to jump on cue over something like a log, or a broom set between 2 chairs (or stacks of books for small dogs). Begin with low, easy jumps, marking with ‘yes!’ or a clicker, and rewarding any jump that clears the bar with extra enthusiasm. It is important that your jumper gets good at jumping high into the air before you advance to jumping over a dog.

Optional: Place your bottom dog under your bar jump in a ‘down’ for a few reps to give them the right idea.

Step 1) Bottom dog eats during the jump

Your bottom dog will hold a ‘down’ position while your jumper leaps over their back. In your regular obedience training, your dog will likely lie down with legs outstretched to the side so that they are comfortable staying for long periods. For ‘leap dog’ purposes, a prone or sphinx style  ‘down’ position is preferred, with the legs tucked under the body, so that your jumper will not accidentally land on a foot, tail, or an exposed private part. If your dog always seems to leave it all hanging out, so to speak, try doing a few quick puppy push-ups: ‘sit, stand, down, sit, stand, down, sit, down,’ encouraging your dog to respond to the next cue the very moment they complete the last. Your dog will stop flopping over and instead crouch ‘down’ like a sphinx, poised and ready to ‘stand.’ While your dog is crouched ‘down’ perfectly, feed them a treat to keep them still while you cue your other dog to ‘jump’ over their back.

Letting your bottom dog eat during the jump will ensure that they don’t pop up at the wrong moment should they be startled by the flying dog overhead. They will also learn to love this new ‘dinner and a show’ trick you’ve come up with. You can begin using the ‘leap dog!’ cue once they have the hang of it, but continue using your ‘jump’ hand signal. I use a flick of the wrist, but feel free to make up your own hand signal. Signals that gesture in the direction of the movement you expect are best.

Step 2) Bottom dog eats after the jump

Now you’ll begin rewarding your bottom dog after the jump. You will stand up straight and encourage your bottom dog to hold a ‘down’ position, placing a handful of treats between their paws for the first few reps so that they keep busy eating while you cue your jumper to ‘leap dog!’ Saying ‘yes!’ as they jump, and dropping more treats between the bottom dog’s paws afterward.

When it comes to reinforcing these behaviours, make sure to reward your bottom dog plenty! Their job may not be as glamorous, but it is important that they learn to love holding still while the other dog has all the fun jumping. You can begin fading treats with your jumper almost immediately, because jumping itself is so fun, and you’ll want to mark and reward only the highest jumps.

Step 3) Bottom dog stands

Have your bottom dog ‘stand,’ and feed them while you cue your jumper to ‘leap dog!’ Feed your bottom dog during the jump at first so that they continue loving this trick, even if they get a toe nail in the back a few times during the learning phase.

Bonus Step 4) Give your cue from a distance

Cue your bottom dog to stand and step back a step a foot or two before cueing ‘leap dog!’ Step forward immediately to reward or to remind them what to do if they struggle. If either dog advances toward you, you’ll need to work on giving cues from a distance with your jumper, and pedestal train your bottom dog. Most dogs will want to move forward as they stand, and your jumper will likely try to jump in front of you. Watch in the video as Doug tries to figure out how to jump over Roscoe’s back while I stand a few feet away, he looks back and forth between my cue and Roscoe’s back before finally attempting the jump. You’ll notice me giving them plenty of treats the first time they figure out how to do this trick at a distance, it is tricky stuff!