Jumping and Dancing for Joy

Jumping and Dancing for Joy

In This Chapter

  • Redirecting your dog’s enthusiasm with a cool jumping trick
  • Turning your dog into your dance partner
  • Teaching your dog to jump over, through, and into props

It’s no secret: Dogs love to jump — on guests, counters, family members, each other — it’s all one big game. But for those of you who are less than delighted at your dog’s enthusiasm for standing on two paws, read closely: Your jumper is simply trying to get a little face time. If she could get her paws on some kind of magic device that conveyed her through the world at eyelevel to humans, she’d never need to jump again. She’d be face-to-face with her pack members, seeing what they see and doing what they do.

Well great, you say. I’ve got an emotionally healthy dog. She’s still driving me nuts. That’s why I push her off! And off. And off again. But here’s the difference between dogs and people: When you nudge her off the couch or attempt to repel her two-legged embrace, she likes it. It’s interactive and exciting. You’re encouraging her. While this sounds like quite a predicament, help is only pages away.
The best way to teach your dog when not to jump is to teach her when she can jump. Redirect that enthusiasm, and put it on cue. Jumping tricks give her an appropriate expressive outlet for her in-your-face enthusiasm. Have fun with your dog when she’s jumping, and you’ll see your relationship leap to a whole new level — almost overnight! This chapter shows you how.

Dancing Dog and Other Two-Legged Tricks

Is your dog just as happy on two paws as she is on four? Is she a ham who likes to jump around on her hind legs? A showoff? If you’re answering “Yes, yes, yes,” have I got some tricks for you!


Dancing or standing on two legs is not a trick for growing pups. It can wreak havoc on their growth plates. Wait until your dog is at least 12 months old before starting on this trick.

Basic steps: Getting your dog on two legs

The “Dance” trick can help you in the greeting department, too. When your dog learns to dance on her hind legs on command, you can call up the routine whenever you open your door to guests. Here’s how to teach this trick:
1. Gather some treats and a clicker, if you’re using one.

Give your dog a hearty scratch and lots of praise to loosen her up.

2. Hold a treat at arm’s length just inches above your dog’s nose.
3. The moment she stands on her hind legs, click/praise and reward.

Do this five times, and then stop for the day. Once she connects this sequence, add the cue word “Dance.”

4. Increase the time your dog must balance on her hind legs before you reward her, but don’t go overboard!

Three seconds is a long time for a dog to balance. It takes a while for your dog to build the muscles necessary to stand on two legs.

5. Now you can get fancy: Moving the treat slightly to the left or right will encourage athletic dancers to spin in a circle; bringing the treat forward an inch will encourage your dog to step forward like a human!
As your dog gets familiar with the routine, think up clever sayings to add to your fun, and repeat them whenever you’re practicing. Soon these word cues will prompt your dog into action! Here are a few tricks to try:

Walk like a lady (or a gentleman): For this sequence, back up slowly as you lure your dog to follow you. As your dog catches onto the word cue, you can maneuver to her side to give the impression you’re walking together!

Twirl round and round: To teach your dog to twirl, move the treat in slow circles. Spinning is a true balancing act, so reward quarter spins and progress slowly.

Bucking bronco: Are you a rodeo fan who just can’t afford the lifestyle? Well, while your dog probably won’t fit into a saddle, you can get her to buck like a wild pony any time you like. Cue her with a neighing sound or a command like “Bucking bronco” and lift the treat above her head and slightly forward.

Remember this secret — if you have fun with it, your dog will be in heaven, jumping just to please you. What could be better than that?

May I have this dance? Dancing together

Personally, I love to dance. Now that I’m homebound with young kids, I often indulge my dancing feet right in my living room. It’s a great way to exercise and fun for the whole family — whether they walk on two legs or four. Whatever your personal taste, nothing pleases your dog more than being invited to share your passions!


These are not tricks for impulsively excited or dominant dogs! If yours is assertive, engaging her in this way may send her the wrong message. Better skip this one!

Disco dog

If your dog loves to jam and you’re into disco music, dust off your record collection and clear the floor. You’ll never dance alone again (or be kidded about your Bee Gees infatuation).
As you’re jammin’, your dog will be getting excited and wondering what part she can play in all this fun. Take one of her treats and say “Dance–Disco,” and then simply show her the direction you’d like her to move by inching the treat to the left or right. Review moves like weaving and spinning taught in the “Crazy Eights” and “Chase your Tail” tricks in Chapter Adding Drama with Clever Tricks, and put them to music! Reward even her simplest efforts. Soon you’ll notice that your dog is movin’ to the groovin’.

The two-step

Are you a country music buff? Well, here’s the dance for you — the canine two-step. Hold a bent arm out just above your dog’s head and encourage your dog to jump up and rest her front paws on it. When your dog is in the proper dancing position, up on her hind legs, ask a helper to bait your dog forward with a treat and move together paw-in-arm!
It takes a few weeks for your dog to build the muscles necessary to walk on two legs. Don’t overdo it! Build her stamina gradually, and stop the moment she gets down. Think of your dog as an athlete. Work her out slowly.


If your dog’s a diehard jumper who just can’t seem to keep her paws off you, rethink this paw-in-arm dancing routine. Sure, it’s fun, but you won’t be able to get your little Casanova to stop.

Trying four-paw and no-paw dance moves

Talk about a clever canine! These next moves involve little motion, are fun to work on together, and look oh-so-groovy once they’re mastered.

Doing the moon dance

In the moon dance, your dog will bow down on her two front legs and shimmy backwards. This step requires a good understanding of the “Back” and “Bow” commands (see Chapters Encouraging Self-Control before You Launch into Lessons and Engaging Favorites).
1. Tell your dog to “Bow” and “Stay.”
2. Luring your dog with a biscuit, command “Back.”


Most dogs will pop up and scoot back from a standing pose. To prevent this, hold your hand over your dog’s shoulder blades.

3. Treat your dog for the proper move.

If you’re using a clicker, this is the perfect moment to introduce it. Click the moment she nails the motion, then reward your dog immediately.

Soon you’ll be paying respect to the late Michael Jackson in tandem!

Break dancing

A year ago, I was trying to teach Beauty, my Bulldog student, the “Down” command. Whenever she heard “Down,” she’d flip over, belly up, and twist around like a silly worm. Because it was too hard to be serious with such a funny-looking dog, I started saying “Break dance” whenever she’d start her routine. Before long, dear Beauty was break dancing on command.
There’s a prerequisite to teaching your dog this command: She must feel comfortable on her back, with her feet in the air. Follow these steps:
1. Encourage your dog into the proper “Break dance” position by sitting on the floor and scratching her belly.


Small dogs need more security when learning to break dance, although they’re able to roll around on the floor like the big guys once they learn. Initially, sit down and straighten your legs in front of you. Now place your dog belly up between your legs. Sandwich your dog between your calves, and she’ll feel very safe indeed.

2. As soon as those paws are airborne, start waving your hands above her feet and say “Break dance.”

She won’t know what you’re doing at first, but stick with it. Soon she’ll be imitating your movement.

3. Immediately reinforce your dog with enthusiastic praise and treats.

As soon as she catches on, it will be hard to get her to stop!

4. Now give her the “Break dance” command from a standing position, wiggling your fingers above her belly.

Pushing a cart or carriage

While pushing a cart involves little dancing, it requires lots of coordination and excites dogs who are more comfortable on two paws than four. Sound like someone you know?
You can use a baby carriage or a shopping cart for this trick. Got a small dog? Go to your local toy store: They make these for mini people and small dogs too! The height should allow your dog to stand comfortably upright. This is a sequence trick involving “Up, up” and walking forward.
1. Let your dog smell and sleep on a soft hand towel, and then wrap the towel around the bar she will put her front paws on to push the cart.

Secure it with strong tape.

2. Secure the cart to a wall so it won’t move when your dog first stands on it.
3. Using treats and enthusiasm, encourage your dog to place her front paws on the bar with “Up, up.”

Repeat this until your dog is clear on your direction and excited to see the prop.

4. Now stand in front of the prop and hold it securely; bait your dog forward with a biscuit as you command “Forward.”

If your dog follows you, ask a friend to help and stay at your dog’s side.

When teaching your dog to push the cart or carriage on her own, practice on a carpet or grassy surface — a fast-moving cart is hard to keep up with!


Place objects in the cart to weigh it down. Nothing could be scarier than having the cart tip back on your dog as she’s learning to push it.

Leaping Up and Over

There’s no better outlet for happy, athletic dogs than jumping. Of course, if you don’t direct this activity, your dog’s jumping will frustrate you, but teaching jumping tricks satisfies everyone on so many levels. You get to spend time together, collaborating and learning activities that bring a smile to your face and a wag to your dog’s tail.


As you practice these tricks, remember jumping is an athletic activity. Warm up with gentle routines and watch your dog for any signs of discomfort, such as limping or refusals (unwillingness to take a jump). Dogs get thirsty too, especially when exercising, so have a bowl of water close at hand. Make sure all the jumps are lined up so that your dog can easily clear them and her landing space is level and open. Dogs should be able to take three full strides after each jump.

Clearing bars, poles, and broomsticks

Structured jumping must start somewhere, so try this: Get a broom, a bar, or a pole. In a carpeted area, balance it on two objects of equal height (paper towel rolls or cereal boxes work nicely). Make sure it’s secure enough so that it can’t be easily knocked over but will yield if your dog bumps into it.
To determine how high to place the pole to start, measure the height between your dog’s paw and her shoulder. Divide this in half. That’s how high your training jump should be.


To make sure your dog has enough runway, clear space for five strides coming up to the jump and four strides after she’s cleared it. Zoom!

Now you’re ready to begin:
1. Place your dog on a short leash for control, and then let her sniff the jump.

Verbally discourage any test-chewing by saying “No.”

2. Bring your dog to a point several feet from the jump. Say “Over” before you move toward the jump.
3. Jog up lightly to the obstacle and jump just ahead of your dog.
4. If your dog refuses to follow you over the jump, stay calm. Walk over the jump several times while your dog watches, and then try to walk over it together.


When practicing your jumping tricks, don’t look at your dog if she refuses to jump. Focus on and praise your dog when she’s cooperating!

5. Pick up the pace, with both of you jumping the pole.

Move at your dog’s natural gait, not too fast and not too slow.

6. When you see your dog taking the jump with pride, stop yourself just before the jump and let your dog jump alone.

Be sure to reward with a jackpot of treats and praise.

7. Gradually train your dog to take the jump alone by stopping your own approach farther and farther back from the jump.

The goal is for your dog to take the jump when you merely point to the intended obstacle and say “Over.”

After your dog learns how to jump properly, you can raise the jump to a height that’s appropriate for your dog.


Never raise a jump higher than 11⁄2 times your dog’s height, and note that many dogs are comfortable jumping only at lower heights.

Practice your jumps whenever you come across a natural obstacle, such as a railing or a fallen branch — opportunities abound. If you and your dog are really addicted, read about agility training in Part IV of this book!

Jumping over the kids

Kids make good natural obstacles (as any parent will tell you) for the jump trick. And although children don’t exactly get into the “Sit,” “Stay,” and “Come” exercises, they do like to join in fun tricks with their dog.
For the “Over the Kids” trick, your dog must be confident enough to take the jump solo. Have the kids sit and watch you as you practice “Over” with the broom so that the dog gets used to performing around the children. The next step depends on how many kids you have:

One kid: Ask your child to lay face down under or alongside the broom-jump. Take your dog and let her sniff the new setup. Say “Ep, ep” if she gets too excited and lead her back five strides. Say “Over,” run toward the jump, and encourage her to leap over the new obstacle. Praise lots when your dog clears your kid! Good dog!

Next, have your child raise his or her back toward the ceiling until it’s at broom level. When your dog’s clearing both the broom and your child confidently, remove the broom. Ta-da!

More than one kid: Always start the “Over the Kids” jump with one child, as described in the preceding bullet. If you want to add children, first let the dog jump over them one at a time, just to get used to each child. Next, line the kids out face down next to each other, on either side of the broom jump. One at a time they should raise their backs to a height that’s comfortable for your dog.


Be realistic: Don’t add so many kids that your dog is forced to step over them like rocks across a stream, and if you have a big weighty dog and small kids, be realistic — a big dog can only jump so far, and you don’t want an early landing!

Jump rope

Jumping rope with your dog is quite a spectacle. This takes a little doing to teach — sequencing staying, jumping up, rhythm, and awareness — but with a little patience you’ll most certainly wow any crowd!
First your dog needs to get the hang of the “Jump” command. When being taught to jump up in the air, she may get confused and try to jump on you. To teach your dog the new definition — “no paws on me” — you can use the flat of your hand or a square of cardboard. While your dog’s standing, hold your prop above her head. When she sniffs it curiously, reward her immediately!
As she catches on to the new game — “bump the prop with my nose” — attach a word cue such as “Jump” to direct her off your body. Now hold the prop up so that your dog must jump to hit or bump it. Jump, dog, jump!


You can use this prop in tricks like jumping rope or to shape better behavior like door greetings when your dog is uber-excited — though she may still jump, at least she’s not jumping on anyone!

If your dog touches your body or anyone else’s while jumping, say “No,” and withdraw the treat. Look up at the ceiling for 10–20 seconds (to show her the fun ends for a while); then start again.
Next, secure a piece of carpet to the floor, making sure it doesn’t slip. Tell your dog to “Stand” and “Stay” on the carpet. Have her do a few practice jumps.
Then do the following:
1. Introduce a 7-foot nylon/cotton weave jumping rope.

Let your dog sniff it so that it doesn’t startle her. Jiggle it to familiarize her with the motion.

2. Secure one end of the rope to a doorknob or immovable object at your hip level; encourage your dog to jump and try to sneak the rope beneath her.

Don’t circle the rope over her head yet because this might startle her. Reward your dog for jumping whether or not she clears the rope.

3. Now work on your timing, helping your dog get accustomed to the rope’s motions. Don’t swing it over her head yet!

As your dog’s enthusiasm grows, reward only her successful jumps.

4. Once you’ve got this down pat, begin full over-the-head swings encouraging one, two, then three jumps in a row.

To infinity and beyond!

Once your dog is a master, you can practice jumping rope together. Watch your knees and focus on the timing.

Jumping Through

Jumping through something is a natural progression from “Over” and really adds zing to any trick routine. (Make sure your dog is really comfortable with “Over” before you try “Through.”) In this section, you find out how to train your dog to jump through a hoop or your arms.

Through the hoop

For humans, living your life jumping through hoops can be a drag — but for dogs, it’s just fun. For this trick, dig up a hula hoop from the corner of your basement or get one from your local variety store. Though its place on the toy store aisle isn’t as prominent as those of electronic pastimes, you can still find a hula hoop if you look hard enough.


If your hoop rattles when you shake it, cut a little hole in the plastic and dump the beads. This sound frightens some dogs.

Then do the following:
1. Set up your original jumping pole across a threshold or between two pieces of furniture. Center the hoop next to the broom. Ask a helper to hold it or brace it between two heavy books.
2. Let your dog sniff the hoop.
3. Instruct your dog “Over” as you move toward the obstacle. If your dog refuses, toss food or a toy through the hoop.


If your dog still refuses to jump through the hoop, let her watch as you climb through cheerfully. You can also stand on one side of the hoop, toss a cherished treat through to the other side, and lead your dog through calmly.

4. After your dog cooperates, start adding the command “Through” to “Over” as you start for the jump, like this: “Over–Through.”
5. Hold or prop the hoop higher, so that the bottom of the hoop is even with the height of the pole positioned at a familiar, comfortable jumping height for your dog.

At this point, your dog might hesitate because the hoop looks, well, like a hoop, not like a level jump. If this is the case, approach the hoop slowly and let your dog walk through it a couple of times. Use food and/or toys to encourage her.

When you feel that your dog is ready, have her try the hoop alone by following these steps:
1. Vary your locations to get your dog used to hoop-jumping in various areas. Prop or hold the hoop securely on the floor.
2. Instruct “Through” as the two of you trot up to the hoop. Let your dog go through the hoop alone.
3. Praise her joyously and encourage her to jump back through the hoop toward you by running backward yourself.

Clap, sing, praise, treat — let your dog know what a star she is!

4. Progressively raise the hoop to a height appropriate for your dog.

Performing in front of a crowd

You and your dog will have so much fun practicing and perfecting your jumping routines that you’ll want to show off. Whether you’ve got an audience of one or a dozen, here are some good things to remember: 

Warm-ups are a must. If you’re going to be practicing jumps and other athletic feats, warm your dog up before you begin.

Everyone gets a little nervous when variables change. Take your dog on a tour of her new surroundings before you start, letting her sniff out unfamiliar people and places.

If you’re using props, practice at home first. If your routine will require your dog to work away from you, review and practice with targeting discs (see Chapter Prepping for Training — Mentally and Physically).

Once she’s comfortable with this routine in a restricted area, start working her in more open areas. Keep your praise and energy high; this display is a real crowd-pleaser.

Through your arms!

This is one trick you can take everywhere. No props required! Just create a circle with your arms and teach your dog to jump through them.


If you’re truly daring, you can try the trick with a large dog, but let me warn you: Watch out for your nose. One of my brightest students, a chipper chocolate Lab, had mastered every trick I knew, so I decided to give this trick a try. Of course, once he figured out what I wanted, he was eager to give it his all. Unfortunately, one day my nose got in the way and there was blood everywhere. Poor boy — he thought he had killed me.

Approach this trick as with the hoop (see the preceding section), but use your arms instead. Here’s how to work up to this trick:
1. Start the early lessons with warm-up hoop jumps.
2. Place your dog in a “Stay” on one side of a doorway, and lay a broomstick across the floor (as you do for the “Over” command I describe earlier in “Clearing bars, poles, and broomsticks”).
3. Kneel next to the doorway with one elbow on the floor. Encourage your dog to jump over your arm to reach the treat.

You might get some face licks, so don’t be too surprised.


Lean your head and body away from your arms when practicing this trick. If your dog does bonk you by accident, don’t respond; otherwise, she won’t want to practice this one again.

4. Once she’s mastered this, repeat the initial steps, placing your other arm above to create a hoop shape.

To make your arm circle, hold a scarf or piece of rope between your hands. This trick is easier to do if you have an extra person around to lure your dog through your arms with a treat as you say “Through.”

5. Shower your dog with ecstatic and uplifting praise.

What a great team you make!

6. Progressively hold your arms higher and slowly work away from the restrictions of the doorway, as shown in Figure 8-1.


Gauge your praise. Some dogs get overly excited when concentrating on hard tricks. If your enthusiasm causes your dog to lose focus or get wild, tone it down. For your dog, just being with you may be encouragement enough.

Figure 8-1: This dog has mastered jumping through her owner’s arms.

Jumping Into

Dogs, being dogs, love to jump into things. In fact, sometimes the real trick is getting them to jump out. The hardest decision for me was where to start this section. Here, I explain how to get your dog to jump into your lap, into your arms, and into (and out of) a box.

Into your lap

Dogs love laps. Getting them to jump there, however, is a stunt that is somewhat restricted by size.


Avoid this trick if your dog weighs more than you do or weighs less than 5 pounds. Small dogs have big hearts but short legs; leaping more than twice their height could seriously injure them. Be wise.

Here’s how to teach this trick:
1. Sit on the floor with your legs extended. Wave a favorite treat or toy in your hand and pat your lap; call your dog, saying “In my lap.”

The first time you try this, the dog may run over and stop short or put two paws up. Pat your legs again and help her onto your lap.

2. Now raise yourself into a low chair and repeat this sequence.

Praise and offer a treat.

Is your dog earthbound in disbelief? The next time she approaches, gently grasp her collar under her chin and ease her up. Reward that. Soon she’ll be leaping at your invitation.

The hand signal for the lap trick is simple: Pat your lap.


Of course, once you teach your dog to jump into your lap she may never want to leave. If your dog jumps up without permission, just tell her “not now” and encourage her to settle down at your side or in her comfort station (for details on setting up comfort stations for your dog, see Chapter Minding Manners and Trying Out Some Tricks).

Into your arms

One of my favorite pals is Buddy, a large-boned Yorkshire Terrier and a champion into-your-arms jumper. Open your arms and call to him, and he’ll be up giving you a kiss before you can blink. If you watch freestyle and Frisbee routines, you’ll notice this move a lot — it’s the ultimate canine hug for a job well done!

1. Start out by kneeling in front of your dog.

If your dog is small, you can begin this trick by placing her in a chair or on a table.

2. Encourage your dog with “Up, up” as you pat your thighs.

3. Either lure your dog up or scoop your dog’s rear as you say “Come up!”

Wrapping your arms around her body, praise her warmly and highlight your closeness with a kiss!

4. Next, leave your dog in a “Stay” and kneel 5 feet away. Call her with “Come up” as you tap your thighs and open your arms encouragingly.

Initially she may stand there looking at you as though you’ve lost your mind. Go back and practice the first directed move; then encourage her as you guide her up and say “Come up!”

Praise like mad when she ends up in your arms — whether you had to help her or not.

5. After your dog catches on to the run and jump, begin to rise slowly to a standing position.

Figure 8-2 shows the final result you’re looking for. Soon your dog will jump into your arms for the sheer delight of a kiss. But if you have trouble encouraging your dog to jump toward your face, try placing a treat between your lips. It works every time!

To signal jumping into your arms, bend your knees and pat your thighs.
Figure 8-2: You eventually want to be standing up fully when your dog jumps into your arms.

Into a box

This is a fun routine that can be the start or finish to many sequenced tricks, such as “Hide and Seek” (see Chapter Minding Manners and Trying Out Some Tricks) and “Elevator up,” which I describe shortly. To teach your dog, pick a cardboard box that your dog can sit snuggly in (too small and she’ll be too cramped to be comfortable; too large and she’ll fidget) Cut one of the sides down so that initially your dog can step into the box without effort. Then do the following:
1. Initially let your dog sniff the box.

Make sure the box is on a non-slip surface.

2. Guide her into the box with a treat or toy. Command “Box” as you point to direct your dog where to go.
3. Instruct her to “Sit” and/or “Down–Stay” for ten seconds.

Gradually increase the time up to two minutes.

4. Now get a similar box and cut the side down only halfway. Then use another box with just a few inches cut down and signal your dog in and out of the box with the lure.

Reward all cooperation.


Each time your release your dog, use a special cue such as “Out of the box.”

Once your dog eagerly jumps into and out of the box, you can decorate your box or graduate to a basket or chest. Now use your box to play “Hide and Seek” or as part of a routine like “Elevator up,” where you lift the dog up as she stays in the box, asking silly questions like “Is this doggy for sale?” “Where’s Lassie?”
by Sarah Hodgson