The Dog Agility Start-Line-Stay and Motivation

unmotivated agility dogThere can sometimes be a debate over the use of a start-line-stay, but there doesn’t need to be. We love our sport because as a team we find what works best for us and our dogs, individually. What works for one team may not for another and the sls is no exception.

Handlers with fast dogs that are hard to keep up with, for whatever reason, find the sls a necessity in order to keep up with their dog. However, some dogs lose motivation waiting in a stay and need to be played with and excited up to the moment of starting the run. Sometimes the course will determine what works best which is why we support having both options available for your team.

We also want to suggest that a slow dog at start-up could be caused by a lack of drive. This could be for several reasons, anxiety due to new surroundings, pain your dog may be having running a course hard, lack of confidence in some or all obstacles or just plain lack of motivation on the handler’s part.

One of the easiest ways to increase drive in your dog is to be generous with rewards at home or using better treats/toys in your training. Having said that, sometimes a lack of motivation comes from the over delivery of treats and toys to the point they no longer hold value to your dog. Be sure your dog only gets the best treats when they perform well or when teaching a new cue. Then fade it out and only use it for extra nice performances. When it comes to toys, be sure your dog does not have access to the “wonder toy” except during training and always stop play when the dog is revved up.

Too much and your reward loses value and your dog loses motivation. Too little, and you will have an unmotivated 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.