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Line Out Training

Line Out Training

Objective: to teach your dog to hold a gangline tight while you are doing other activities. 

  • Your team should be able to stand with the gangline stretched out while stopped and another team passes.
  • Your team should be able to stand with the gangline stretched out while you do things, like move a dog to a different position on the gangline or while hooking up the team.
  • Your team should be able to stand with the gangline stretched with NO handlers holding the dogs during the last 10 seconds of a countdown to the start of a race.
  •  Control = safety!  Even holding still for a few seconds may make a big difference in not getting dogs or people hurt or gear damaged.

Remember:

  • On the trail, you have no one to help you; during some run, a disaster will happen!
  • If you can’t control your dogs in a line out at while connecting them or starting, you won’t be able to do it during a run.
  • When your dogs are connected in the team, they cannot see you; they need to rely only on voice commands.

You should train ALL dogs in your team to line out, not just your lead dogs.

Line out training is done in many small incremental steps.

  • Only spend a few minutes at a time.
  • Work incrementally building the behavior, one step at a time.
  • Don’t move to the next step until the prior step is solid.
  • Don’t be afraid to go back a couple steps and reinforce behavior before advancing.
  • Repeat training two or more times a day.
  • Repeat several times a week.
  • Do not stress your dogs; stop and try again later.
  • Always end a session on a positive experience.
  • Use the “line out” command and reinforce the behavior.

Start

  • Start with your dog in harness.
  • Attach you dog to a tug line attached to a solid support such as a fence post.
  • Work in an area away from other distractions.
  • Use positive reinforcement, including treats.
  • Facing your dog, have them come toward you to pull the line tight.
  • Have the dog stand in the line out position.
  • Begin to slowly back away; return to correct if the dog moves.
  • Use a leash if needed to direct the dog.
  • Continue until you can back away several feet from the dog and it will stay for a minute or more focusing on you.

Building the line out

  • Once the dog will hold a line out with you facing, work on backing away and then turning around (or turn around and step away).
  • The dog should remain focused on being lined out with you in front.
  • Once the dog will hold a line out with you in front, work on moving away to the side.
  • Once the dog will hold a line out with you on the side, work on moving out of the dog’s sight.
  •  It is OK for the dog to move their head to look for you, but they shouldn’t break the line out.
  • Objective: be able to move away and out of sight for a few minutes.   
  • At your option, you may require the dog to stand or may let it sit or lie down (relaxing is good when stopping for a break on the trail).

Team line out

  • Once individual dogs are solid, switch to using a multi-dog gangline tied to the stationary object.
  • Connect one dog and have it line out.
  • Go away and get the next dog and connect it and have it line out.
  • Repeat until all dogs are connected with the entire gangline stretched.
  • Correct individual behavior until you can get all dogs connected.
  • Dogs side by side should not be interacting; fix those problems.
  • Build incrementally; 2 dogs, 4 dogs, …
  • Do not rush in hooking up all the dogs.
  • Avoid hooking up the dogs in the same order every time; don’t build inadvertent patterns.

 

  • For a four-dog or larger team, you can decide if you want to start by connecting the wheel dogs first and moving forward along the line and connect the leaders last, or start with the leaders first.
  • Note, individual dogs should be able to hold the line out for as long as it takes to harness and connect the entire team before working on team training. 
  • That means that  after all the dogs are on drop cables, you should be able harness one, connect to gangline, repeat and then get ready for your run – check your gear, put on your helmet, get something to drink.
  • Hooking up the team is a controlled process; work at a comfortable pace.
  • Once you can line out the team to the stationary object, move to doing it with your rig or sled. Reward with a run.
  • This is the ultimate goal and if you can achieve it, you won’t need to rely completely on brakes and snub lines to hold the team. The dogs are capable of controlling their bodies—help them learn that “waiting” has rewards.

It’s a beautiful thing to see a 16-dog team standing at the start of a race with no one holding them.  They will learn how to count backwards from 5.

If you can do it, get into the start chute, have your team ready and have someone hold the rig or sled while you visit each dog and praise to reward their behavior.

Success criteria for race situations: have your handlers release the dogs and move to the side of the chute when there are 10 seconds left in the countdown.  At 10 seconds, it’s “your team”.  


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