Start-line Stay Games

[private] So, what can you do to get your Start-line stay back or better yet prevent it from leaving in the first place?

One of my best kept secrets to reliable and constant stays at the start lines is “Reward/play and test your dog” for good behaviors during practice. The more you play these games and test your dog’s knowledge of the stay, the stronger and more consistent your dog’s Start-line Stay will be. All the “Start Line Stay Games” can be played with your dog either in a sit, stand, or down. This way you can do them at the actual start line, on the table, on contacts, etc.

REMEMBER: you can use the same games for stays on the table or contacts too.  

Questions? Click to Email

PDF Files to help your training!

Problem Solving Start-line Stay PDF

Stand Points to Remember Start-line Stay PDF

Training Log Start-line Stay PDF

I developed these games so that while your dog is on a stay, your dog will stay focused on you and remain in an active state and in position until your give your dog his release word. Don’t have a release word??? Then the first thing you need to do is to determine what word or phrase you will use to release your dog from the stay.


I developed four games that I use to reward my dogs for their start line stays.

1. Go Back
2. Throw back
3. Send Back
4. Release forward


The “Go Back Game” is where I go back and reinforce my dog.  I walk or run back to my dog and either  feed him treats (not letting him move until verbally released) or  release my dog for a game of tug or go get a tossed toy or treat (also see Building Blocks – Stays for additional ideas and information.).  Every time my dog is rewarded, I use the opportunity to release my dog from his STAY and restart the start-line stay games again.  WARNING!!!  WATCH that your dog does not release himself as you are pulling out your toy/treat or walking/runny back to him!  Your dog should stay until  you give him your verbal release word.

The “Throw Back Game” is simply throwing a toy or visible treat back to my dog. I do accompany the throw back with a “get it” release (see Games – Get it Games for additional ideas and information).  The Throw Back can and should be done at anytime and any distance from your dog. For example, if I ever I plan to take a four obstacle lead-out on a course, then I MUST practice and reward my dog at any place between the first to the forth obstacle during training. The first time I leave my dog I will reward as I pass the first obstacle.  The next time I leave my dog I will go past the second or third obstacle before I reward my dog.  Over many training sessions and repetitions I will randomly reward my dog from the various distances from the start line through the fourth (4th) obstacle.

The “Send Back Game” is game where I pre-place  a toy or treats behind my dog before I leave him on the start line. To start teaching this game, I put my dog on a stay.  As I am leaving my dog, I stop and turn to face him while saying “get it”.   My “get it” is a release phrase that tells my dog he can get up and go get the toy/treat.  I start close to my dog to make sure he understands the concept before I add any distance.  The release phrase “get it”  is a common way of releasing my dog to a toy or treat also see Games – Get it Games for additional ideas and information).  Once my dog understands the game, I can  leave my dog and then release him to the toy/treat from various distances.

The “Release Forward Game” is releasing my dog to the first obstacle.  This is typically what people do when training and showing. Over time releasing forward quickly becomes the reward of the highest value. Releasing my dog forward to the first obstacle MUST be balanced with rewarding my dog’s stay. The balance between rewarding my dog’s stay  or releasing him forward depends on my dog’s temperament and desire to perform obstacles.  I take special care to play games with my dog while he is on a Start-line Stay a lot in order to balance the value of both staying and driving forward.  If my dog has lots of drive, I will reward the start line more using the first three games than I will release my dog forward (the last game).

End Goal – To build an active solid start line stay. Where your dog stays focused on you and remains in place until given a release word.   REMEMBER: you can use the same games for stays on the table and contacts too. 

Are you interested in learning more?
Check out Building Blocks section.
It is FREE and is loaded with valuable information!

Points to Remember
1. Balance your Start Line Stay games according to your dog’s temperament. A high energy dog that lacks self-control will need more stay work and more games while on a stay.  On the other hand, a low drive dog that needs motivation will need to be encouraged to drive off of the stay.

2. Vary which games you play.  After all variety is the SPICE of LIFE.  Mix up what you do and what you use as well as the distance from your dog. Keep it interesting!

3. Don’t be afraid to test your dog. The worse that will happen is that your dog is wrong. Simply tell him he is wrong and place him back in the stay.  Lead out again and play a game if your dog is correct.  Wrong is good! It is a great time to show your dog how to be right!

4. Be consistent with your release word.  Don’t use “ok” one time and then “free” the next.  Determine what your release word is going to be then use it consistently to release your dog.

5. Have Fun and Let there be Stays!

Before progressing –

  • Remain in position until released?
  • Stay in an active focused state while you leave?
  • Understand all the games?
PDF Files to help your training!

Problem Solving Start-line Stay PDF

Stand Points to Remember Start-line Stay PDF

Training Log Start-line Stay PDF

Enjoy teaching and playing the Start Line Games with your dog!

Questions? Click to Email

[/private] Here are a few really great “dog” items I use in everyday life and in training. Click on the link or image and it will take you to affiliate Amazon.

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