I entitled this post Start Line “Fun” because for many of you, that is what is lacking. It has become more like Start Line “Hell” than Start Line Fun.  If you are trying to trick, intimidated or “force” your dog to wait for a release at the start line, I promise, it is unlikely to work long term . . .  if it works at all!

Think about your own life. Are you more likely to become great at things you “MUST” do but absolutely hate doing, or those that tasks that you enjoy. Rather than thinking of “training” your dog to wait at the start line, I suggest that you come up with ways to inspire your dog to wait for your release.

I think start line stays (as much or more than anywhere else) are a place that your really get to see a dog’s great ability to shape their handler’s behaviour.  It really is a crack up.

Confidently leading out in the finals class at the USDAA Nationals.

Take an agility handler with a dog with a rock solid start line. They leave their dog possibly giving a single “wait” or  “stay” cue, walks to position, watching their dog or at least occasionally glancing back as they lead out. Once in position, they may take one final glance at the course that lies ahead, praises the dog, takes a nice deep breath to fill their lungs before the run and then calmly releases the dog from the start line.

Now lets examine the handler with a dog with a suspect start line performance. The dog has shaped the following responses in this less confident handler

  1. The handler will have his back to the first jump as he lines his dog up, preventing the dog from getting a clear view of the course (like the dog doesn’t know what is upcoming) as he asks the dog to sit.
  2. He will back away from the dog rather than turn and walk away.
  3. He holds up and outstretched arm and an open palm while repeating things like “s-t-a-a-a-y . . . s-t-a-a-a-y . . . s-t-a-a-ay” or “you better wait, mister, and I mean it, WAIT!!, YOU WAIT, AH AH, W-A-A-I-T!”
  4. He starts to sprint out to where he would like to lead out.
  5. His breathing is shallow and he never quite reaches his exact lead out position nor does he actually come to a complete stop.
  6. As soon as he thinks he has pushed his dog’s patience enough, he quickly spins back at his now already breaking dog and frantically screams “OKAY” to a dog that is already sailing over the first jump.

Sound familiar? Dogs are awesome. I laugh not at you, but rather in awe of the magnificence of dogs. Who says they are dumb?

Just a reminder, you have the larger brain, it is you that is supposed to be doing the shaping.

Sorry if I am sounding like a broken record. If you have not dusted off Crate Games yet be sure to do so. Trust me it is the key to regaining your start line. Play the games giving attention to your dog’s paws, are they moving?  I mean ever. They just should not be if you want to have a brilliant start line.  Know your criteria and never waiver from it. Crate Games are not just for when it is convenient, it is forever. Anytime you release the dog from a crate or any control position.  Start to become of a student of your dog’s compliance in and out of the crate.

It is rare that a start line problem doesn’t have its origin somewhere else in your everyday life.

More later.  Today I am grateful for an awesome time here in Florida. Pedicure, fascial, KickBoxing, yoga, and some killer morning workouts. What fun.