So if you are a regular reader of my little blog here you probably know mum has had a couple of pre-occupations lately… getting my bum over bars and more recently start line stays. So after taking in lots of advice we put it into practice at the weekend trial and couldn’t be happier with the result… so here is a summary of what we learnt.
3 Options Of What To Do:
- Option 1: That’s Life and Enjoy the Run: Yep the dog breaks. Manage as best you can and be prepared to sprint at the start. We have plenty of friends that take this approach and that is cool as this is fun after all.
- Option 2: Sling Shot Start: Being honest we only tried this once without really training it. It didn’t go well with the angle sending me on an immediate off course and DQ but I have seen it work for plenty of teams.
- Option 3: Playing Hardball – Walking Off Course: It sounds harsh and that was the reason mum had spent the best part of 6mths umming and ahhing whether she was prepared to make the tough call. It is a punishment which mum doesn’t believe in (positive reinforcement much better) but given I was doing my stays everywhere but agility trials mum thought it may be what we need to change the behaviour. Mum found listening to this podcast from the Bad Dog Agility guys helpful amongst all the other advice.
Get It Early: We have written a bit about recently not knowing what we don’t know. This has often meant how important some of the little things are.. like start line stays. Yep we had them when we started out. After about 6mths of trialling my excitement to get out there and run increased that I started to break my stays. Mum wasn’t happy but she kept doing what she had always done at the start as she wasn’t sure the best way to get our start line stays back. Now that we have tackled it she wishes she had got in there when it 1st started and dealt with it then.
Change It Up: Rather than continuing to just do the start line set up the same… mix it up. For us that meant a drop position rather than a sit (that was purely mum hoping it would slow me down more) and also mum NOT touching my collar. Holding my collar had become part of the routine and on releasing my collar I would bolt. Mum took holding the collar out of the equation. Mum went in being in charge. She put me in a drop with my lead still on. Asked the lead steward if we would wait until the dog prior was out of the ring (just in case I did break) and then removed the lead confidently without holding my collar. She also used the word “wait” rather than “stay” as she left as previously mum had used “stay”.
Practice Everywhere: A big part of this start line stay stuff is me learning self control. An agility run is something I really want to do but we exactly practice at agility trials (and well they aren’t on everyday). Instead we found other things that I like and practiced our start line behaviour at these times too. This included at meal time, with tennis balls and toys and being let off lead when we went for walks. Even just getting a treat mum would put me into the start stay position, put the treat just beyond my nose, step back and then give me the break command. So many opportunities to practice.
Reinforce Right Before: Yep we went through a heap of treats just before we went into the ring. We went up to the ring a bit before our run. Being close to the course but not in the way of others lining up before us we practiced our start line stay position and TREATED. TREATED. TREATED. Treated in that start line stay position… and for about every 6 rewards in that position I was given the “break” command and treated for that too.
Have A Friend: Mum was lucky enough to have an agility friend who was facing the same issue with start line stays. They made a deal. Walking off the course without running the course is tough. You have trained, entered, walked the course, waited our go… you want to run as much as we do. Mum and our friend made the agreement and mum found it really helped to know she was also accountable to someone else… she had made a deal and she needed to stay true to her word. It also works nicely to have someone to celebrate with too.
By no means is this a definitive list but this is what has helped us. Here is a video we did of my “broken” starts and here is a video of the starts from the weekend. Thankfully all the prep work paid off and mum didn’t have to walk me off course and instead we had a great day.