Teaching a solid startline stay for dog agility

startline stay in agility

This article is an extracted version of our premium tips article on startline stays by OneMind Dogs Instructor Stephanie Williams.

Startlines are an important skill help agility teams start their agility runs off in the strongest way possible. When you know you can trust your dog to stay put until you give a release cue, you’ll be much more confident from the get-go.

Training a dog to stay at a startline is part of our agility foundations program. In this post, we’ll cover what you need to do to get your dog staying and releasing only on command at the startline.

What does an agility startline stay look like? 

When training your dog to have a solid startline stay, you should know exactly what his criteria is. In other words, what does it look like in your mind?

For example:

  • The dog should remain on the spot, in position, and keep all of his paws still no matter what is going on around him, until the handler says a release word.

Once you have determined your criteria, be consistent! 

If your startline is a sit-stay, always make sure the dog sits, and doesn’t lift his bum! If the dog moves even a little bit, go back and reset them.

Letting your dog push the criteria, even a little bit, is a quick way to lose your consistent startline stay. If the dog breaks and you allow them to continue on the course, it will be twice as hard to train a solid startline stay in the future. Dogs quickly learn that at training they must stay but in competition they can do whatever they like, as the handler is often more concerned about getting a clear round than about maintaining criteria.

Getting started with startlines for agility

Most puppies and young dogs will more easily learn a sit-stay, but you can teach a down-stay or stand-stay if you’d prefer that. The first phase of training a startline is to teach the dog the position (such as sit), then to add movement, distance and distraction to the behavior. Click here to watch a free webinar and get more great tips about training and maintaining the startline stay.

Adding movement, distractions and distance to the startline stay

Once your dog can sit still for a few seconds, it’s time to add distractions, movement and distance. It’s important for your dog to understand that he should continue to stay until you say the release word, no matter what’s going on around him. This means running on the spot, fake-handling the first obstacle, other dogs running past, throwing toys etc.

Once you’ve introduced simple distractions, it’s time to progress to more challenging proofing. Get some tips in this fun video from OneMind Dogs Coach Niki Drage. This video is for stopped contacts, but the concept is exactly the same as startline stay proofing.

My dog keeps breaking his startline stay in agility. What can I do? 

The answer is to go back to foundations and maintain criteria, always! 

Go back to rewarding your dog in position, adding distractions and distance, and check that you have clear criteria. Don’t let your dog push past the criteria in any situation.

Get more tips in the full version of this article, and send in training videos for expert help from our coaches, by becoming a member of OneMind Dogs Premium!

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