May 04, 2006

Start line stays

At class last night we worked on tyres and tunnels, neither of which Dusty has any problem with, and on tightening turns, and we did some start-line stay practice.

With Thommo I do a stand stay. This seemed to be the position he was most comfortable with, probably as a result of playing Ready, Set, Go games where he would be standing beside me, and of many hours of him standing and waiting while a threw a ball, then gave the OK to fetch.

With Dusty I'm using a down stay at the start, again because this seems to be a default behaviour for her, and one the first stay we learned as she needed to do a down stay in the presence of sheep to get her Herding Instinct Certificate. I guess I could insist on a sit-stay with either of them, and work to reinforce it and proof it. But why not start from a position they are already comfortable with.

There is some debate over what is the fastest start. Nancy Geyes recommends a sit-stay, saying that she finds it easier to teach a reliable, square, sit-stay, than a stay in a stand or down position. Chris Zink says that dogs that are left standing at the line first trot and then have to shift into a canter before jumping (jumping is an extension of the canter). This wastes some time and also makes it more difficult for the dogs to judge the correct take-off point. In contrast, dogs that are left sitting go straight into a canter and are ready to jump without having to shift into a different gait.

This may be true where the dog stands flat footed, or lies down belly on the ground, but my dogs wait in a sort of crouch: Thommo in a stand slightly lowered, Dusty in a down slightly raised. Most herding dogs adopt this sort of pose in a wait.

Greg Derrett advocates a standing start. He also says to have a routine which incorporates the dog's natural behaviour. He brings the dog to the start line then stands them with a gentle scruff.

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