May 8, 2013

Teaching a Focused Start Line Stay

Have you ever seen a dog sitting at the start line, looking around or sniffing the ground as the handler leads out? One of the reasons this might happen is that over the dog’s career, rewards have been given mostly in one of 2 situations: a release to an obstacle (after a lead out) or a reward at the startline (after the handler walks away and walks back to the dog). With this kind of reinforcement history, the dog learns that if they don’t receive an immediate reward for sitting, no reward or release is coming until the handler stops leading out. At that point, the dog will suddenly pay close attention, because the handler will either release them to an obstacle, or come back to reward them with a treat or toy.

You can prevent this “checking out” behavior by convincing your dogs that a reward or release can come at any point during the lead out.

To create an intense, focused start line stay, make sure you reward your start line stays often, and from many different points along the lead out, both while moving and while still. A clear verbal release independent of body language is usually best for most teams.

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  • I am working with a 8 month old Toy Aussie. His stay at the start was great but suddenly he has been breaking it shortly after I walk away. I NEVER scold but just send him back to the same place & ask again. He eventually gets it but during the whole return to start he is getting very unmotivated:-( He even stops wanting anything to do with it. How can I help him stay motivated but not reward a bad start? He has always had great drive but with repeated restarts he loses it.

    Thanks Stacy & Puppy Kibo:-)

  • Great post! Our problem is stress. The looking around only happens at trials. I guess the more we practice, the better he will focus and the stress level will be lowered? Any suggestions would be appreciated.
    Brigitte & the poodle boys

    • Slowly increase the level of distraction in practice until it matches a trial. Add people, kids, other dogs running around, with multiple toys on the ground. By proofing to a higher level at practice, the trial environment will hopefully be less distracting or stressful for him.

    • We are dealing with same – stress esp if contacts that he has struggled with in past are on course, I’m trying to find a way to communicate we are doing this this together (doing a trial of games to gain confidence). He gets bitey and growly and won’t sit. So I have him stand stay (eventually) and just gooo so we are not practicing unwanted behavior and holding everyone up ;( looking for ways to support him 🥰

  • that’s great, 2 weeks of training, and my dog keep his focus on me now. It’s an hunting dog so it was difficult for him, but it’s much better with you’r exercice. Thanx a lot

    • Yes verbal release and NO physical movement tied to the verbal…if you move when releasing eventually (quickly) the physical cue/movement overrides the verbal.

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