Monday, February 1, 2010

Just Right- Using Back Line Pressure

When it comes to back-line pressure, it is like the story of the three bears.  You have to find the amount that is "juuussst right."

Too much and the dog will spin or will learn to move forward slowly.  If the person handling the back line is too close, the dog may become worried about who is chasing them and become more concerned with that person and interacting with them, than moving forward.  Too little pressure and it defeats the purpose of using the line at all.

The equipment you use can play a role, as well.  Using a harness allows the dog to pull with its head lowered, while having back line pressure on a collar causes the head to be pulled up.  Therefore, depending on your target you may wish to adjust equipment.  A dog that is very collar aware and doesn't feel confident pulling against a collar or one with an especially slender neck may benefit from using a harness, at least until the behavior has been established.

Now that you have the correct amount of pressure and the correct equipment, you need to be aware of when to release the pressure. The key to back line pressure is to "pop!" the release so that the dog drives strongly forward to the grip at the last moment.  Release too late and the dog is likely to slam into the handler or decoy.  Release too soon, and you lose the purpose of the drag line.  Generally you will release the pressure about two feet from the intended target, when the dog is fully engaged in forward motion. 

If the dog starts to slow or is not committed, do not release the drag line.  Instead, let the handler or decoy escape, excite and perform the behavior again.  Only reward the behavior you desire.  There is nothing wrong with frustrating the dog and dragging him away to work another time without a bite at all.