22 November 2013

Line-Out


I confess. I never really learned how to properly line my dogs out.  It never really mattered.  I pretty much only ran one dog teams, I would bunch the rope up, start skiing, my dogs were barking and screaming and off we would go!  It was fun!  The noise was exciting, and I loved how excited my dogs were!

But after watching a friend's video, in which his border collies all went to the end of the gangline, waited while he hooked them up, and then went and pulled.

There was no screaming, no jumping dogs, everything seemed in control! 

Control!  That's what I was missing.

So I set about to teach my dogs a good and solid line out command.  I talked to various people, read some books (Book Reviews).  Just like anything in dog training, you ask one question, and you get 20 answers.

Here is what worked for me.

We worked on this with each dog alone, and then in pairs and larger groups as we ran with them.    First off, we made sure we were on a trail the dogs knew.  Putting the dogs in harness, we wore our cani-cross belts, and standing up straight, looked down the trail.

Some dogs, will be like Belle, who can be the calm one picked it up right away.   She walked out, and stood there, wating our next command.  She knew this trail, and wanted to go!   If you have a dog like this, you are lucky!  They are easy to train, and calm dogs who think and act, rather than leap around like morons.  Once we had the behaviour of her walking out, and waiting, we increased out time before giving the command to "HIKE".   We use treats in much of our dog training.  But in some instances, the reward can be something other than a treat.  In skijoring, the reward is getting to take off down the trail!  So we let her!

Burger was easy to teach line out to, he didn't have any bad commands, and we hadn't tried to teach him any other way before.  We taught him much the same way as Belle, taking him out on his own, and letting him walk to the end of the gangline, before we called "Line Out".  As he got that down, we have been increasing his time that he waits at the end of the gangline before we let him walk on.   He's young, and easily distracted, so when he lines out, we don't talk to him, or distract him.   We keep the amount of time we are asking him to "Line Out" short.

Riv, well, she is a different dog.  Calm in the house, she cranks it up when in harness.  She is very excitable, and can easily rile up a whole pack of dogs in a barking frenzy. Perhaps you have heard us on the trail. LOL.   With Riv, we started her working in the house, putting her in a sit, with her back to us.  Then we asked her to "Walk on", something she already knew how to do, and then told her to "Sit" as she walked away.  Once we had this behaviour of sitting with her back to us, we simply asked her to "Stay".  Making the switch to mushing was easy with this one, just putting her in a "Sit and Stay" and walking away behind her to hook her up the rig.   Once we had this behaviour, we put a label on it, calling it "Line Out".  She will now line out, and we are still working on her holding it.   We will increase our time slowly.

There are as many ways of training "Line Out" as there are mushers and dogs.  Everyone has something that works for them.   The end result should always be the same.  You have a dog who is at the end of the line, and waits for your command to tell them to go.  This reduces tangles, and stops yoru dog, or you, being jerked around when the line goes tight.

Do you have a line out command?  How did you train it?