Leading out at the Start Line

agility-2So you’re confident that your dog will stay at the starting line, so you go way up to the first or second obstacle and then call to your dog with the “go” command.  Good to do?  Possibly. If your dog is trembling with excitement to break his stay and run like a lightning bolt, you need to get ahead as far as you can!  But for some dogs who are more hesitant, it may be better (even if they have a reliable stay), for you to stay by their side and play with them until it’s time to run.  Then unclip your leash and go.  While you may have to run faster because you didn’t get a head-start, you may find your dog more revved up and less apt to be poky in the initial start-up. 

Now usually, a slow dog at start-up is caused by a lack of drive.  In home or class sequencing, it is important to reward your dog (through effective motivational methods) in the right balance.  People often reward their dogs too often, or not often enough.  Too often, and you get a dog one who is always looking to you for a reward after every obstacle (not to mention possibly fat and full before you even finish your practice session).  Too little, and you will have an umotivated dog who forgets the whole reason why he loves agility to begin with.  The right balance is important, and it is a balance that should continually be adjusted at home practice to produce the optimum drive.

For more information, read “Motivating Your Dog” blog entry.

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7 Comments on “Leading out at the Start Line

  1. I lead out in practice alot more than at trials, if the dog doesn’t take that first jump and you are 3-4 jumps down the line you just donated your entry fee to the school of “Lessons Learnt by Mistakes”.

  2. i lead out depending on the first few obstacles of a course. if it’s a tire or a tunnel i’ll usually stay with him to be sure he does it. if it’s a regular jump, i’ll lead out a little, but not too far. go too far and they’re going o fast to get to you that they drop bars.

  3. go4it, stress at the starting line is a common problem. We’ll deal with it more in following blogs. But meanwhile, playing with (and being alongside) your dog right up to the point of take-off will help. Early in my agility competitive career I used to wonder why so many seasoned competitors wouldn’t go ahead. Some did, but others didn’t. I can see now that many of them were in tune with their dogs, and that is actually why they stayed by their side. Sometimes even if you normally lead out, your dog may have an off-day, and you may want to think about switching gears for a particular run. Just many of the wonderful, always-evolving facets of the agility-dance!

    • Oh, almost forgot. To answer Pam’s question, the instructions on how to make a picture show up for your comments if found in the FAQ’s page. The link is at the top of the blog. It’s really easy, and it’s universally applied to all your comments in all blogs/websites/etc that use these little images (called “avitars”).

  4. Hi, I don’t remember. But I followed the instructions that were somewhere on this website.

    Oh, that’s not my dog. Found the pic somewhere on my computer. But it sort of looks like her! She is always smiling (to me anyway!).

  5. That’s a funny picture of your dog. How did you get a picture to show up next to your comment?

  6. Wow, I like this advice. I think I’ve been afraid of my dog getting ahead of me, so I lead out as far ahead as I can. While it helps me, my dog doesn’t have a fast start-up. I do need to work on motivating her better. She gets stressed out at trials.