In the past, I have used many different starting positions with my dogs. Most recently before this weekend, I simply put the dog between my legs, bent over to hold onto their collar, then let go when the time was right.
|Releasing Pallo for a pass|
|Releasing Koira in start|
While this method actually works really well with Pallo, it kind of fails with Koira. Koira gets very excited and barks up into my face, while Pallo hunches down and stares down the lane. The looking up ends up making Koira really unreliable when starting with this method, which I learned after the X-Fidos tournament.
This past weekend, I tried out a new method.
|Releasing Koira in start from my lap|
Instead of standing over Koira, I am kneeling and pulling her back legs up onto my thighs. This gives her a solid launch platform and seems to focus her attention forward down the lane rather than back or up at me. I actually settled on this release method after trying three different ones and having people watch Koira launch from each of them. Then we decided which one she looked the most balanced during, which ended up being the one you see above- her front legs on the ground, back feet up on my thighs, and me holding onto her hips.
It might not mean a whole lot to you if you don't play flyball, but I'll say it anyway. Changing out starting position like this caused Koira to be much faster (good push off) and more consistent (no waiting for her front feet to hit the ground). So much so, in fact, that we had to back up 6+ feet to start this past weekend versus the weekend before.
Of course, after spending a lot of time thinking about starting and releasing positions and methods these past few weeks, I ended up getting quite a few pictures of other peoples' starting techniques.
Down on one knee seemed very popular. I actually tried a down-on-one-knee method for Koira, but didn't like it as much for us. From the pictures, though, many people obviously really like this method.
|Down on one knee, dog pulled back against other leg, with back foot perpendicular to the racing lanes. This is the closest I have to a picture of the one-knee method I tested with Koira|
|Down on one knee, with the dog pulled back against the leg with the knee down.|
|One knee position, dog loaded back against the leg with the knee down, kept in place facing forward by the other knee|
Then, there is this two-knee method. It appears different from the method I use, because the dog is pulled back between the knees with the back feet still on the ground, where as I pull Koira's back feet up onto my thighs.
|Both knees down, dog loaded between the legs with back feet still on the ground|
There are also a number of ways to start your dog while staying standing. I will say that these tend to be easiest on the handler, because you don't have to get up quickly from these. If you have a short dog, though, your back can get sore from leaning over so much.
The first of the standing positions is more of a crouch. The knee isn't actually on the ground, but is certainly bent.
|Somewhere between a one-knee method and a standing method, this crouch is none-the-less quite effective for this team|
And then same thing here, only with the legs a bit straighter. Also, this whippet appears to be pulled back against the leg that is farther back, to give a better launching platform.
|This whippet is obviously very forward focused, and you can see how it is crouching down a bit, anticipating being released to run.|
The straddle method is very popular as well.
|Lacey, the dog here, is super mellow while waiting, but runs really well once released. All her handler has to do is let her hands drop away from Lacey|
|And this dog is obviously incredibly excited and raring to go.|
Last but not least is the side release standing position, with the dog fully off to one side of the handler.
|This little shiba was also very obvious about wanting her turn as well.|
All of these positions can work great depending on the specific dog/handler team. I'm also positive that there are plenty of other release methods that I didn't get a picture of! Some dogs need a really steady launch platform on or against their handler, while others crouch down to the ground or simply dig into the ground with their feet. While there might be a right way for a certain dog and a certain handler, there is definitely not a right way for all dogs and handlers. If you are struggling with how to release your dog, get a training buddy and practice. Try out the different methods while just doing recalls with your dog and see which ones feel the best for you and look the most balanced for your dog. As I found out this past weekend, it can make a huge difference in how your dog runs if you find the right release.