Your dogs understanding of their release word is just as important as their understanding of the word stay.
“Stay” means “freeze” do not move a muscle.
“OK” means get up fast and come to me or the first obstacle. If your dog will not move until you move, then he does not understand his verbal release. Reward your dogs’ VERBAL release until he flies out of the stay.
“Ready, steady, Ok” games help your dog to understand the principles of stay until released, then hit the gas pedal and go!
A reliable stay with a slow start is NOT what you are looking for!
At least 60 % of your stays at the first jump in practice should be rewarded on the spot where the dog is staying, without allowing the dog to jump. Only 40% of the time should you allow the dog to stay and then actually jump (if your dog is not solid on his stays)
Don’t start competing until you have a great stay, anywhere anytime.
Don’t go down the “Slippery Slope” of allowing the dog to move just a “little” out of position, or scooch his butt a short distance, or drop from a sit into a down, walk forward slightly, or fidget with his front feet. Stay means do not move an inch from the position I left you in. If you let the dog move just a little, the big move of totally breaking stays is not far behind!
Some dogs are much better when the handler gives the sit and stay command, and immediately leaves the dogs side with confidence, marching away without looking back at the dog. What I call “Sit Stay March Away”, looking as confident as you possibly can, believing your dog knows his job and will accomplish it.
Keeping eye contact with your dog works better with some teams. Leave with confidence, walk away briskly, but look over your shoulder to confirm your dog stays in position. In practice if the dog moves at all, the handler can then immediately return and reposition the dog, walk away, return and praise, then begin again. Discover which way your dog is the most reliable, and bravely carry out the technique every time.
When practicing “Sit Stay March Away” during agility classes, have your classmates tell you if the dog moves so that you can immediately return.
Do not repeat your stay or positions commands after you leave the dog. It will only help reinforce in the dogs mind that you are not in control and you do not believe they will stay.
Experiment with clicking or praising while you are at a distance on your leadout but have a classmate go in and deliver the reward to the dog on the start line during class. That way you can keep your lead out position, and praise your dog without returning to it’s side each time.
I prefer a Sit-Stay for a start position. I find it easier to teach a reliable, square, sit-stay, than a stand or down position. Since I usually use “Sit Stay March Away”, techniques with my dogs, when I turn and see that a front foot is no longer squarely oriented, I know that my dog moved a little or a lot, and I can keep a close eye on them in practice for a while, and go back and reward my stays frequently. If the dog moves a little in a stand or down position sometimes the handler is unaware of the move when they turn and face the dog.
Lay the leash down in front of your dog during practice as a guideline for both you and the dog. If you turn back and part of the dog is “across the line” you know that your dog has moved.
When using the practice jump before you go into the ring, do not “rehearse” the start line behavior. Have your dog do a stay, then walk to the other side of the jump, then return to your dog and reward him for staying, WITHOUT allowing him to depart and jump. What you want the dog to remember is the “stay”, not the jumping.
If you want to practice at the jump, just approach the jump and do it in motion with your dog, not from a stay.
Practice as many stays as you have time for, outside the ring, but as close as possible to where you enter and go to jump number one. C/T or P/R (praise/reward) MANY stays outside the ring.
Be consistent! Lack of consistency from the handler is the number one reason that dogs do not hold stays. If you let the dog break occasionally, then you have taught him NOT to stay!
Power Paws Agility
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