16 November 2015

Line Out

Line Out.  It’s kind of a big deal. Often times people are so focused on GOING, flying off down the trail, in our rush to get there, we forget how to get there.  Doesn’t make sense does it?  Neither does skipping the “Line Out” command with your dog.

A properly trained “Line Out” means your dog, in harness, will walk to the end of the gangline and wait.  What is your dog waiting for?   The command to “Hike” to move forward.   You might need to be waiting your turn at the start line of race, you might be needing to turn your GoPro on, you might just be fiddling with your gloves and skis.  Either way, you can certainly see the advantage of a dog who is going to walk out to the end of the line, and wait till you are ready to start pulling! 
Furthermore, a good solid “Line Out” means you have a good chance to check that there are no tangled lines, avoiding injury for both you and your dog!  

How do I teach it? 

Ask a mushing question, get 20 different answers. 
Here is what works for the majority of our students.   We begin by ensuring the dog can only be successful.   A solid skijoring dog is a confident dog.  A confident dog is one who has been set up for success. 
This is going to be a skijoring command, so go ahead and suit up.  Put your belt on, and harness your dog. Beginning in a hallway, or another narrow corridor, walk out the length of your gangline, and include room for your dog’s body as well.  If the total length of your dog’s gangline to their nose is 10 feet, place a target at ten feet, and walk back to the start.  A suitable target might be a small plastic lid. 
Place your dog on the starting line in a “Sit Stay”.   Walk back to the target and place a really juicy reward on it.    Now walk back to your dog, who is hopefully drooling and looking at the treat.    Avoid making eye contact with your dog, and release them from the “Sit Stay”.  Your dog will bound off to the treat, being rewarded!   Repeat this a few times, until your dog gets the idea of running ahead to the end of the line to get the treat.  When your dog is getting the treat, don’t be shy, PRAISE PRAISE!  Eventually you will be replacing the treat with verbal praise. 

Beautiful "Line Out"!  Good Dogs! 

Once your dog is doing this consistently, it’s time to take it up a notch.    Place the target slightly further ahead this time.   Just far enough ahead that your dog has to push against the harness to reach it.    A solid “Line Out” is going to be having the dog put some pressure on the harness. Not enough to pull you, just enough to keep the line tight.  When your dog is doing this well, it’s time to add the command.  Associating the behaviour with the command.  
Burger "Line Out"  Notice he leans into the harness, but is not pulling.

An important note, avoid sending your dog out to the target, and then calling him back.  In the dog’s mind, this might be part of the training, and you certainly don’t want a dog who is going to “Line Out” then come bouncing back to you.  Like some crazy Yo-yo!   After you have asked your dog to “Line Out”, go and collect him, gather up the gangline, and walk him back.   Only repeat this a few times, leave your dog wanting more.   Don’t be a bore! 

Extensions of this activity, are going to see you sending your dog to the target, waiting for a few seconds, and then moving forward.  If your dog can wait patiently at the end of the line while you finish your coffee, bonus points to you! 

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.  Don’t forget what our end game is here.    Walk to the end of the line. Go forward.   Soon enough your dog will be moving forward down the trail, and that is reward!  

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