Tire Jump

Topics: Contruction  |  Training  |  Trouble-Shooting


For a dog that has begun avoiding the tire jump, give him a little break from it for a couple weeks. Also start at ground zero with regard to re-training--pretend that you have never introduced your dog to the tire jump. Make what could be called a "tire in a stand" to train with. Pick up a used tire (most motorcycle stores and garages will give them to you for free because they have to pay $5/tire to dispose of them) and wrap just the bottom of it with tape so that the dog cannot catch his foot in it.
Using whatever wood or PVC scraps you have around the house, make a stand for the tire. The basic idea is that you don't want the tire to have a frame, you just want a ring that you can set on the ground. For example, make a "T" shaped fixture out of 2x4's for each side of the tire and then bolt the sides of the tire to the long part of the T. The short part of the T sits on the ground and supports the tire. It doesn't have to be pretty--just functional.

Use a piece of food to entice the dog through the tire. Don't use whatever command you have been using for the tire jump--in fact, you may want to consider coming up with a new command for it. When a dog has had a very adverse reaction to an obstacle and is not correctly performing that obstacle, it can be beneficial to start all over with a new command that has no previous negative associations.

Repeat the exercise until the dog is not at all hesitant about going through the tire--if your dog is having any trouble, however, you may want to do a tunnel or something the dog really likes in between repetitions. Little by little, you want to work on sending the dog to the tire stand from further and further away and from different angles. You may want to experiment with putting a target on the other side of the tire stand--close up to the exit of the tire so the dog isn't tempted to go around the stand. By removing the frame from the picture, you are setting up a situation where the dog can have a lot of success. You are also teaching the dog to aim at a circle (without worrying about height at this point)--the ultimate goal of the tire jump.

Another exercise to work on, is to set the tire stand in the middle of a large area. Think of the tire as the middle of a clock. Starting with the dog in the 6 o'clock position to the tire (just a few feet away), send the dog through the stand. Work on being able to send the dog through the tire from each position on the clock (so you are essentially change the approach angle each time). Then work on increasing the distance between the dog and the tire and then working your way around the clock again.

To make the transition to the actual tire jump, use the same "clock" exercise. Start with the tire very low (only 1 or 2 inches off the ground) since you are now adding the frame as a level of complexity. It's best to have a helper to hold the dog on leash and help guide him through the tire if necessary. You want the dog to have as much success as possible and you want to try to avoid allowing him to go between the tire and the frame. So for example, the helper stands with the dog on leash at the 6 o'clock position (only a couple of feet away from the tire) and you stand on the other side of the tire at the 12 o'clock position. Call the dog through the tire towards you...if necessary, hold a treat out through the center of the tire so the dog sees it and focuses his attention on the middle of the tire. Take it slow and take nothing for granted...always make the exercise simpler then you think it needs to be. Your dog needs to have a lot of success to improve his attitude about the tire. (Monica Percival)

Tire Jump Problems: This is a common problem for a lot of people and as usual there is no one easy quick fix. Some people suggest putting plexi-glass under the tire jump and others suggest that you never change tire jump height. While these methods may work for some dogs, they are shortcuts that really don't solve the underlying problem. The problem is that the dog doesn't feel secure or confident enough to work the tire and doesn't understand its objective.

Whether it be one time or two times that your dog is doing the tire before it refuses it is still really the same problem. What you may be seeing is the "straw that breaks the camel's back syndrome". All of us can only handle so much stress before we have to take a break and get relief. It's the same with our dogs and quite often you'll see them shut down or refuse at their weakest obstacle. It's their way of telling us that they can't handle any more stress.

Since agility is a timed sport a lot of people seem to get in the habit of trying to beat the clock in their training. Some dogs can handle it and others can't. The tire is one of those things (along with contacts) that if there's a problem it just can't be handled with hurried training. Lower the tire and use lots of praise and cookies. Be careful not to over work it, but keep it in the flow of your runs. Don't be in a hurry to raise it and when you do raise it do so only 1/2" to 1" at a time. There's no law that says that it has to be raised to the next jump height level in one step. It may take some time for your dog to really build up its confidence with the tire.

As for never changing the tire height once you get there, look at what Dr. Chris Zink says. In her new book she'll be showing all of us how to train our dogs to be intelligent jumpers. That means that the dogs learns to look at a jump and determine what height they'll have to clear and what style of jumping to use for each jump obstacle. A thinking dog is good to have out there on the agility course!

Some of the ideas that Chris is suggesting are that you mix the jump heights in training. Randomize the heights and the dog has to watch more carefully. It also helps take care of the problem of "what if a height is incorrect while out there on a titling run?". It then becomes something that your dog can handle on its own, leaving you to concentrate on the rest of the run. For those of you competing in different agility venues at different jump heights this would be a great asset.(Penny Winegartner)

Another trick for tire problems is to put two long screws in the uprights so that a bar can rest at the height where the dog needs to jump. When training, use a command like "Jump Tire" to encourage the dog to actually jump up. Having the bar there will also help them get the idea of jumping. Just take it slow and don't get frustrated. (Jo Ann Mather)

Many dogs want to jump the entire tire and assembly. It doesn't matter how low the tire, in fact the lower it is the worse the problem may be. Crashing the tire may not make the dog shy away completely from the tire or take it more sensibly.

This is not a unique problem at all. If you dog is doing this, your dog is normal. The fact that the dog is not avoiding or going around the tire shows that he understands that he is supposed to do "something", he's just not sure what.

Remember that our dogs are always learning; the problem is that they are not always learning what we as handlers/trainers think we are teaching them. So while you "thought" you were teaching him to "go through the circular opening", he was learning to "do something when you get to this contraption. He also learned that a lot of times your body will be surrounded by various plastic bits."

To correct this problem, first teach the tire the totally out of the context of tire-in-the-frame. This is probably easier to do using a "real" car tire (take it off of the car first) since they are sturdier and hold their shape. If it makes you feel better, you can wrap duct tape around the tire so that there is no chance of the dog getting a foot caught in the inner part of the tire. Training on a tire that is smaller than regulation helps the dog understand better what to do, unless you are training a very large dog.

Prop up the tire so that it is sitting on the ground in the middle of your yard. Now he needs to learn to go through the circle part. By letting the dog experiment with all kinds of variations to see which one gets him the reward really helps "the right way" stick in their brains. There are a bunch of ways to teach this, a couple of which are:

1. "The Clicker Way" -- First, your dog needs to be conditioned to the clicker. Then you, your dog, the clicker, and treats all go out to the propped up tire in your back yard. This is all done off leash. Help your dog to go through the tire. If he does, click then treat. If he goes around or over or anything but through, say "wrong" in a neutral tone of voice and bring him back to try again. Make sure you work on different angles, sides of your body, coming towards you, going away from you, etc.

2. "The John Rogerson Way" -- This is so named because John Rogerson demonstrated jump training at a seminar this way. Have your dog on a buckle collar and a leash. Have a friend hold onto the leash one side of the tire. You go to the other side and call your dog. The leash is just to restrain the dog if it chooses wrong, "NOT" to correct the dog. If your dog goes through the tire, your friend should turn loose of the leash and you will give the dog a big reward (maybe reward your friend, too!) If the dog tries any other variation, the friend simply restrains the dog so that he cannot pass the plane of the tire, while you keep encouraging him to come, until he tries the correct variation (going through the middle) which get him the big reward. At no time do you tell your dog "no"; let him figure out what works.

The next step for either method is to raise the tire up. Use ropes to suspend the tire between your house and your neighbor's house, your fence and a tree in the middle of your yard, etc. Something to give the appearance of a tire magically suspended in mid-air. Just make sure it's safe. Then go through the same steps as above. When you are sure that he understands to go through the middle, then you can switch back to the tire in the frame, and again go through the same steps.

Try putting plastic ring gating so it covers the left and right sides of the opening hoping to more clearly define where he was to jump. This will work well for some dogs, but some dogs, instead of learning to "jump through the opening" learn "don't jump through the barrier." There's a big difference between the two concepts. With the latter one, with the barrier gone, there is no longer any reason not to jump through that space.

Above all, take your time re-training this. It will take a lot of repetitions to help your dog understand to go through the middle of the tire and to not worry about what's surrounding it. Be patient. It will pay off.

(Felicia Whalen)


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