Troubleshooting Your Start Line

Wall-E border whippet

I feel that most dogs with start line issues are lacking full understanding of the criteria. Add in, that some dogs also have issues handling over arousal, and that can be a mixture that causes dogs not holding their start line, bolting out of the leash, creeping, etc. 

Some handlers biggest struggle is the start line. From dogs who are wanting to creep forward, to dogs who will barely let the handler get the leash off before bolting for the course. 

Wall-E and I have been struggling with some start line issues this year, he can only hold himself for so long before he breaks, usually after a certain distance in my lead out. 

For Wall-E I believe his start line issues stem from lack of confidence on the start line skill itself, and he is a young male learning to control his over arousal. So I have moved all of my start line work away from the agility equipment and I am focusing on building his confidence and understanding of the criteria for his start line behavior. 

Wall-E has a pretty good moving wait, but it can be improved, and he definitely doesn’t fully understand the criteria for my Wait cue when we are moving. 

The short video below is a clip from a live training session I did for my Coaching Group on Moving Waits. 

As you can see from the video, he does a really nice wait for the toy that I have thrown, but as soon as I add movement, he loses confidence in the criteria for the wait cue.

Adding movement in my opinion is huge for really working on start line skills. Adding movement brings in an element of adrenaline that they feel in trials. If you are only working on your start lines in a very calm, manner, with very structured sits or downs. It might be time to bring in some movement and really build a positive association with your Wait cue. 

I want to build his confidence for his wait no matter what I am doing, and really reinforce that he is only released on my verbal cue. I will be working on these moving waits away from any agility equipment until he is consistent and confident with waiting while I am moving, leading out, in front of him, behind him, in new places, with other dogs around, distractions, etc. 

Once I know he is confident with the criteria in that setting, I will now start bringing in equipment. When I start to bring an obstacle into his training sessions, I will break everything back down into foundations. 

So lets say with his moving wait, I am able to have him run next to me while I say Wait, with other dogs running nearby, in a new area, with lots of noise from kids playing. 

When I increase the difficulty of adding say, a tunnel, into our training session, I am not going to ask him to do it at the high distraction level. I will go back down to easy steps and build his fluency with waiting in front of the tunnel. As I build his confidence in the skill, then I will start adding layers of difficulty. 

I feel that most dogs with start line issues are lacking full understanding of the criteria. Add in, that some dogs also have issues handling over arousal, and that can be a mixture that causes dogs not holding their start line, bolting out of the leash, creeping, etc. 

If you are having start line issues, I highly recommend taking it back to foundation steps and really work on their understanding of the start line criteria and what you want from them on the start line. 

If you want to learn more about moving waits and start lines, check out the Fluid Motion Coaching Group!

Published by Amanda Nelson

Amanda Nelson is well known for her distance handling skills, and she has been traveling the country and teaching seminars for 20+ years. She has traveled around the world to Australia, Japan, Netherlands, England, Switzerland and the Philippines teaching all levels of agility, with nearly all dog breeds. Amanda focuses on teaching teamwork as well as how to create a strong connection between dog and handler. She works with all styles of handling, from running with your dog to distance handling. Amanda tailors each training session, large or small, to the dog and handler to help bring out the best in the team. Her training techniques consist of a large amounts of targeting, food rewards, and toy rewards. Creating a fun learning environment for the dog encourages a fast, fun, and motivated dog in the agility ring. Amanda uses a combination of Upper Body Cues, Lower Body Cues, and Verbal Cues. This system was derived from the natural cues that most dogs read and pick up quickly. Handlers are taught how to use all of these cues, together, to create a customized handling system that can be tailored to their unique dog. All of these techniques have resulted in Amanda earning numerous titles with her dogs including the MOD SQUAD award, Purple Achievement Cup, and over 40 NADAC Championship titles. She has won the NADAC Championships multiple times, including winning the Super Stakes and Starter Stakes division. She has also been Top Bonus Dog, Top Purple Dog, and Top Dog of the Year several times in NADAC.

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