Last night I took Zipper to class. I'm still limping and I cannot take any running steps. I can now walk faster than I could even a couple of days ago, but I am nowhere near my usual speed.
Fortunately Barb, the instructor, decided that my disability gave her a good chance to help us work on startline stays and startline sequences. We worked on whether to run or lead out, and if we did lead out, how certain sequences are best handled through a lead out.
Dogs who need motivation rarely benefit from a leadout and usually do better when you run with them. Dogs who are ballistic often need you to be able to lead out, so you can properly position yourself to help the dog get instruction on where he needs to go. But many people lead out incorrectly. If you lead out past a jump, particularly a spread jump, the dog is going to be accelerating and extending over that jump. If you then have a sharp turn, you may jam the dog or even cause the dog to go around your back. At the very least you're likely to get a wide, inefficient turn. A lead out should always help inform the dog of any change in direction and help shape his line.
In all of our sequences, we practiced both doing a lead out and not doing a lead out, and handling the sequence both ways. Or, at least most people did. I only did lead outs because I am really unable to run.
Zipper is just starting to learn the startline stay. For him, I will usually drop and go, but I want the startline stay as an option. With me leaving him on a stay and leading out, he was a bit sluggish off the line. So we practiced sending him to a bait plate. But I learned very quickly that lack of motion on my part means lack of motion on his part. He was wandering and slow and did not want to move out ahead of me on his own. This is bad news in the short term, as I continue to recover from this calf-muscle tear. But it's great news in the long term, because it indicates he's learned to key his speed and momentum to my speed. That means I can use acceleration and deceleration to shape his line and get sharper turns. But it also means that later, if I want to do FAST and Gamblers, I'll need to teach a cue to have him move out ahead of me at speed.
After working on his startline stay in that first sequence, I decided I didn't want to press him on that, so I had Barb hold his collar while I led out. She whispered revving words to him while I led out, and he rocketed off the line. So I've also learned that for now, restrained recalls are great, and I need to start playing the ready-set-go game with him.
It was great to be able to work even if just a little bit.