Okay I got this note in email. I’ll keep the sender private, but it’s a fun note, nonetheless. I figure since I’m going to sit down and give a thoughtful answer, I’ll call it work for my blog too.
“In the seminar that you gave in Chatham, IL in Sept. you talked about the sit at the start line. I wasn’t at that seminar so I don’t know what was said. One of the participants in the seminar is now saying that you said that a sit at the start line is not good. I’m pretty sure what you actually said but I would sure like you to put it in writing so I can read it to my class. Any help would be ‘Greatly’ appreciated.”
This seems like a good place to put it in writing. But I’m not completely sure what the person quoting me was trying to say that I said. You know how it is about being quoted! Anyhow…
Is it a question of whether I like a sit? Well, it’s true that a stand-stay at the start-line allows the dog to begin faster than any other position; so the handler should opt for a stand-stay rather than a sit-stay. I could probably demonstrate this with 9 out of 10 dogs (providing a dog has ever learned a stand-stay.)
Also, the dog may start with less enthusiasm when doing any kind of stay at the start-line while the handler leads out; and it may take the dog awhile before getting up to working speed. This is probably true maybe 1 out of 10 or more dogs in agility. If I recognize this in a dog and handler team, I’ll advise that handler never to do a lead-out unless faced with a dire technical challenge downfield.
Only about one in three courses demands a lead-out at all… and yet 90% of handlers will take a lead-out on 100% of courses whether the course demands a lead-out or not. It’s rather like the gent who wears belt and suspenders… just a little insecurity about losing his drawers.
And I believe that—as executed—the lead-out is a poor tool for a lot of agility enthusiasts. Often it is just plain lazy; And just as often the handler doesn’t understand how to do his job when releasing the dog from the stay.
Does that sound like I don’t like a sit stay? Sorry.
Absolutely, start-line stays are an important part of the start-line foundation. I would be nuts to suggest otherwise. But it’s not the only item on the list.
The well-rounded student of the game should be treated to a wide variety of topics in the exploration of the start-line foundation. Here’s a list for you:
- Getting the dog excited and connected at the line
- Taking a Sit-stay lead-out
- Taking a Down-stay lead-out
- Taking a Stand-stay lead-out
- Finding your dog’s fastest start
- Measuring the dog’s best approach distance to the opening jump
- Finding the opening line (squaring your dog to the course)
- Taking a Sling-shot start
- Taking a lateral-path lead-out
- Measuring the adequacy of a lead-out
- Determining when a lead-out is necessary
I really couldn’t resist drawing a picture for the discussion. There’s no way I can approach the entire Start-Line Foundation in one discussion. This is one illustration for a discussion of measuring the adequacy of a lead-out (one item in the list).
Note in the illustration a long line of three hurdles introduced into a four-jump pinwheel out of which the dog dismounts in a wrapping turn into the weave poles. Is that a fair description?
The red figures of the handler represent a flawed lead-out. The handler leads out so far that he can’t possibly move well. And further, the handler has fundamentally missed the fact that going into the pinwheel he doesn’t want to be ahead of the dog, he wants to be behind. I know this sounds a little backwards… but just think about it. The farther ahead the dog gets into the pinwheel the farther ahead is the handler when it closes. And the handler wants to be ahead in order to be in position for the tricky turn out of the pinwheel and into the weave poles.
Note that the blue figures represent a rational lead-out in this sequence. The first one (the one nearer to jump #1) is probably where I would lead out for my girl hazard… who jumps 8”. The blue figure is where I might begin with… oh, the fastest dog on the planet. Remember, I want him to get ahead.
The green figures, by the way, represent my lead-out range if I were to enter the pinwheel from the tandem position. Note that it’s slightly forward of the blue figures because… to do the Tandem entering the pinwheel the must arrive at jump #4 at precisely the same instant as the dog… which requires more of a lead-out. Frankly I probably would not attack the pinwheel from the Tandem position because the Tandem is an accelerating movement. The problem with accelerating the dog is that this pinwheel features two wrong-course options and… there’s still the niggling problem of the handler being forward of the dog for the turn after jump #7.