Dogs are naturally athletic creatures thanks to descending from wolves who had to hunt for their food. Unlike wolves, however, some dogs are natural swimmers. Others are fleet of foot, and still others have a penchant for soaring into the air to catch an object or scale an obstacle. On average, jumping dogs can clear one to three times their own height, but with careful training, they can sometimes exceed that.
Jumping athletics for dogs
Six-foot fences are usually tall enough to hold in most domestic dogs. Dogs who escape over them usually use momentum to scramble to the top and pull themselves over. The officially recorded vertical jump world record for the highest leap-and-scramble over a wall without ribs or other traction devices is 12 feet 2.25 inches.
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However, there are some dogs who can sail right over without ever touching the top. Feather, a female brindle-colored greyhound, is one such dog. She holds the Guinness world record for the highest jump for a dog at 6 feet 2 inches. The former record holder, Cinderella, is also a brindle female greyhound.
Greyhounds aren't the only high-jumping dogs. Spitfire the whippet can run down a dock and gain the elevation to snatch a target suspended 8 feet 6 inches higher than the dock in an air retrieve event, making it the highest jump to water. The Belgian Malinois, a familiar canine breed used in the military and law enforcement, is reported to be able to leap 8 feet into the air and vault over 30-foot walls.
Dogs who love to jump
Papillons, for example, warrant special notice. Although they might only stand 8 to 10 inches high, they can leap 2 to 4 feet into the air. Jack Russell terriers are 10 to 15 inches in height, but they can clear nearly five times that much. Shelties, border collies, and other athletic herding breeds are also notoriously high jumpers.
On average, larger dog breeds can clear a 6-foot wall if they're sufficiently motivated. Be sure to combine training with a secure fence that is 6 feet or taller if you keep breeds such as pit bulls, whippets, or even German shepherds.
Teaching your dog to jump
If you think your dog has the potential to compete in dog jump events, or even if you just want to bond with your pooch, you can train your dog for jumping. Wait until your dog is at least 12 months old (even longer for giant breeds), as growth plates can be damaged by jumping until dogs are fully mature.
Start by teaching your dog to go to a mark. Put a sturdy bag with treats at the mark and point with your hand. Reward him when he goes to the mark by giving him a treat from the bag. Teach him to go out quickly and run back to you with the bag in his mouth. Go further away and in different directions from the mark so he learns to go where your hand points. Then, teach him to go to the stanchion and sit and wait.
You can teach the send part of the equation to young puppies. When they are old enough, you can teach dogs to run and jump over a small hurdle. Keep increasing the height as your dog learns. Be sure to keep everything a game in order to keep your dog engaged in the process.
- Guinness World Records: Highest Jump by a Dog
- Guinness World Records: Highest Jump by a Dog, Leap and Scramble
- YouTube: ESPN - Meet Spitfire, ‘the Michael Jordan of Dogs’
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- Dogs 'N Stuff: 15 Dog Breeds That Can Jump High
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- American Kennel Club: Is It Safe for Puppies to Jump?
- American Kennel Club: Secrets to Teaching Directed Jumping