A GREAT FOUNDATION is not only about creating an Agility dog capable of reaching her full potential; a lot of this key training transfers across to essential life skills. Take Start Line training for example and the importance of remaining in position when asked:
If you talk to many of the best animal trainers in the world outside of agility, they will tell you that placement of reward is key in the understanding and drive required for any cued behaviour. If I want my dog to remain happily and confidently in a STAY, then rewarding him while he maintains this position is paramount to success. If I want him to move out of the stay, he is then cued to do so, and THEN rewarded for the release.
Lumping behaviours together is one of the dangerous traits people have when training and will eventually lead to failure. It may seem easier to just reward only the Release instead of taking the time to reward both the STAY and RELEASE behaviors, but this only gives you a false sense that you have a fast explosive start. If the Stay behaviour is only rewarded after the dog is released or gets up, the STAY behaviour will weaken and at some point will cease to exist. Rewarding only the release out of positions will strengthen the behaviour of moving, but with consideration of the four quadrants of Operant Conditioning, it also equals NEGATIVELY PUNISHING the stay! This is then likely to lead to you POSITIVELY PUNISHING the dog when he eventually starts breaking his stay.
We want both the position and the release to be strong. Just think about the importance in everyday life of my dog understanding and wanting to hold position. If I am opening a car door or the front door to my home, I want my dog to respond to my stay cue and actually want to remain in position due to the money he has earned here. I do not want him to think about running or moving – this is a matter of safety!
So, keep in mind that any and all cues that are given where your dog responds correctly, should be rewarded immediately, and placement of reward should be one of your main goals. This, and only this, is what will keep your dog driven, full of confidence, and happy to respond to all cues!