Showing Your Dog
At the Start Line
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. (Chris Zink)
The further away you can sit your dog at the start line, the better. He will have more room to get his momentum going in order to clear the first jump. Some dogs will still hit the bar; this may be because the dog is so excited to get to you (when you lead out), that it gets reckless in its first jump or two if you have him sitting too far away. So, try both ways and see what works best for you. (Debbie Spence)
A big tip from Hilary Tomlinson (UK) is to actually decide how far away your dog needs to be from the first fence and pace it out and start him/her from the same distance every time. So how do you decide where to start from? This is not easy! Basically it is trial and error needing either a video camera, a knowledgeable friend or a sandy practice area. The aim is to have the dog get up and take one stride before jumping - if he needs to put in an extra small stride he will be unbalanced and if he tries to jump from the sit he will likely crash the jump. If you video or watch from the side you can 'tune' the distance from the first fence until it is just right. If it is sandy you can rake the approach area smooth and then look at the dog's footprints in the sand.
Other tips were to insist on having enough room for the start. Ask people to move out of the way - don't be shy about it! If you can leave the dog on the start it opens up new vistas in how you run the first part of the course. Do a lot of exercises with blocking wrong routes and positioning to gain a good flow round the second, third, fourth and fifth jumps, which all depend on a rock steady wait at the start line. (Tony Dickinson)
The decision to lead out or not lead out is very much a personalized thing regarding the personality of the dog and the course of the day. It takes a bit of experience for some handlers to determine which action they'll choose. Even then the dogs can surprise you depending upon the challenges presented.
Most handlers prefer to lead out past the first jump at least, so they aren't stuck trying to get around the wing of the first jump. In most cases, pulling the dog to the correct path is much more successful than blocking the incorrect path, but that can vary with the dog.
If your dog is bad about staying at the start, you may need to run with him. Some soft dogs perform better when you run with them. Some dogs are so quick you have a much better chance at keeping up later on if you start ahead of them. Some dogs will need revving up while others come with their own pre-charged batteries. Just be aware that a long lead out can sometimes be a problem. The anticipation may be too much for the dog and you don't want your dog crashing though anything on his way to meet up with you.
There are several things to consider when making your choice. Experiment with your dog in practice to determine what works best for you and your particular dog. Get your dog excited and prepared to run in which ever method you decide to use. Leave your dog sometimes and run with them others. Keep track of what happens in all cases for future use on trial courses.
Does your dog run faster from the start if recalled to you? Will the dog knock the first bar in its excitement to get TO you...if not how far can you go out, or need to go out? Does your dog zone out if left alone at the start? What is your dog's attitude that day, happy and up, or tentative? If you run with your dog will it run around the first jump to go with you? What is the first obstacle and will the dog perform it from any distance, or do you need to be closer?
What you decide to do at the start line varies with each course you meet, and with each dog you run. Always analyzing your dog's mood and ability will give you greater success.
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