Photo by Devon Dogs

Agility Struggles – Fixing That Wobbly Startline

Is your dog’s startline wait a little iffy? Are they literally on the edge of breaking before the release? Does your dog rush you to release them? This week we’ll be sharing some of our top tips on fixing that wobbly start line. 

1. The Generalisation Game

Dogs are super clever (as we all know), so clever in fact that they can quite quickly pair stuff together when things are done in such a predictable way. This goes for a lot of things, but for sure environment is up there towards the top!

If you only ever practice your start line waits when your dog is in front of agility equipment, chances are they know what’s next so the start line wait starts to fall apart as your dog anticipates what is next – getting released over the first obstacle!

So, to help make things unpredictable take your ‘start line’ wait and apply it to lots of different areas within your dog’s daily life. Doorways, cars, beds, out and about on walks. Basically, apply the game to every day life in lots of different places, in lots of creative ways. We call this BOUNDARY GAMES!

2. Don’t Over Do It

When you’re practicing a sequence or skill at class, or at home ask yourself; is a startline wait really needed?

Here at Devon Dogs, we like to keep things really random by sometimes starting our dogs in a startline wait, or on a bed. Sometimes we start them in a restrain (by holding onto the back of a harness but only if they are comfortable with this), or we send them around a cone or barrel and then begin the sequence or skill in motion.

Mix up the muffins, don’t saturate your startline!

3. Bring your Boundary!

As you know we love boundary games! We for sure use lots of different objects, places and spaces for boundary games, even ourselves (MIDDLE!), but for agility class and practicing at home we simply love to release our dogs from their raised bed (we love the HI K9 raised beds).

This keeps things super clear in terms of criteria for our dogs as they are either on the boundary or they aren’t making things less ambiguous for them. Also a boundary really does suck a dog in if they have lots of value for it, making it much easier for them to succeed as they know what you want when a boundary is present.

4. Be Aware of the Vulture!

What does your dog look like when they are on the startline? What is your perfect picture? Is your dog in a sit, down or stand?

Have in your mind what you want the picture to be. For us, whether they are in a sit, down or stand isn’t the crucial thing to consider – that’s up to you – for us the question is, is there stillness from your dog or are they shifting weight forward or shuffling or moving between positions (without being cued), but still staying put?

Here’s the thing, those little movements are like a domino effect, notice them! Those little movements develop and grow into bigger movements, and bigger movements and then there is no longer a startline wait! Be observant of your dog! To fix this struggle we will always go back to boundary games! We cannot express how much boundary games in general will help with your startline!

5. Under Pressure

So our last tip is something for you to consider the next time you are at a competition.

  1. When you set your dog up on the startline what’s going on around you?
  2. How close is the first obstacle to the edge of the ring?
  3. Are the ring party quite close?
  4. Is there lots of distractions right by the first obstacle… lots of hustle and bustle?

Notice this. This can be a lot of pressure for some dogs and so they’d rather not wait because they feel overwhelmed. If we are in this type of situation we don’t leave our dogs hanging. We set them up, jog out and release them PDQ. There’s no testing the startline wait in these situations, there’s no long lead outs. Its a get going type scenario.

Read more of our Thursday Training Tips HERE. And check out the Devon Dogs Schedule of Events HERE.

Do you have a training issue you want to tackle? Come and stay with us in our cottage style apartments, right in the heart of Dartmoor, and make the most of our fantastic training facilities onsite.

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