Wednesday, December 12, 2012


We got a new puppy! I have been planning to add another whippet pretty much as soon as Pax came home. I've had a blast with Pax in everything we've tried together...although I do get tired of his obsession to be on my lap at all times. We have especially been enjoying racing and lure coursing. Pax gives it his all and is a solid "B" dog, but of course my competitive self wants a faster dog. I am really happy with her so far. She is confident, smart and biddable. The only issue we are working through at the moment are distractions. She doesn't have the focus to work through any distractions...some of that will come with time. She is a natural retriever and she doesn't tug like Pax, but I have no doubt I can get her there. We FINALLY decided on a name!  "SPY"

Pax hasn't made too much progress since his flyball break started. Retraining a dog is frustrating. I HIGHLY recommend not debuting a dog until everything is just how you want it and if you see something wrong, pull the dog right away. I was so excited and anxious to get him going, I didn't realize all this. Especially with a whippet. They take longer to train than border collies usually. I plan to take close to 2 years to train the new baby unless it takes longer. My goals for Pax are to get 3 strides off the box to the first jump and a less wide box turn. I'll keep updating his progress..if there is any!

The yearly big break from dog sports is coming up so Im planning on doing general obedience training with everyone and keeping them conditioned with chuck-it and hikes in the woods.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Can-Am is always memorable.

Remember when I went to CanAm in 2010? That trip was very memorable. The moral of that story was don't take a 5 month old baby most of the way across the country unless you are A) with the other parent of the child or B) able to sit next to the child. I listened to lots of crying that I was unable to do anything about, which was basically torture for me. On the other hand, when Finley wasn't crying, which was actually most of the time...the road trip was awesome. It was relaxing and beautiful and a special treat to go and run Ezri and Indigo with my Canine Mutiny friends!

Ben and I  decided to go back this year, but since Ben would basically fail out of veterinary school if he missed Thursday or Monday, he decided to skip it..sort of at the last minute. Joe decided he also wouldn't go, so we canceled our van rental and Sue and I decided to take my small SUV. We did have enough time before CanAm to make sure Dave was comfortable running Indigo and that I could run Goose. Indigo will run for anyone and is easy to pass and Goose is..well..he means well.

Sue and I loaded up Pax, Indigo, Goose, Stingray and Mustang along with crates, flyball gear, food, cooler etc. The car was very full! We left on Tuesday afternoon, so that we would have plenty of time to get there and no long days of driving. The drive there was very uneventful and we got pretty good at unpacking and repacking. We got there on Thursday afternoon and just hung out and took it easy that night. We decided (unlike many of the other teams racing for the CanAm) to run our dogs on Friday. They are in really good physical condition and are used to a lot more running that we had planned for them. I'm really happy we chose to do that because they did not run well on Friday and had that been Saturday (the day that determines if you make it to the CanAm), we wouldn't have made it!

Pax ran pretty well in his very first race on Friday and then not so great for the rest of the weekend. He will be taking a break until the Spring for some retraining and his performance at CanAm shows that he really needs it! So for Indigo and Goose's team we didn't really have a plan going into Saturday. We just ran the best we could and tried to win races, but still push for a good time. We didn't expect to make it into the finals with so many teams running 15.5 and below lately. We were very pleasantly surprised with our times on Saturday. We ran right around 16.0 and below and our 15.7 ended up putting us in the 3rd seed going into the CanAm. So, Canine Mutiny and 7 other teams accepted spots for the CanAm on Sunday.

Our first race was against Rocket Relay's B team. We won that race, but it wasn't easy and ended up being decided by an awesome rerun by Stingray, our height dog! That put us in a position to be racing Rocket Relay's A team for the next elimination. They are the team that won last year, so we knew we would have a hard time beating them. We took them to 4 heats and lost. This put Rocket Relay and Spring Loaded as the two teams racing for first and second place and us and Animal Inn racing for third and forth place.

Eventhough we lost one race, we were still excited to race for third place! The race started out pretty messy. I unfortunately had to rerun Goose in an earlier race against Rocket Relay and between that and all the cheering and yelling, he got a case of the reruns. Stingray needed to rerun and everyone was yelling "GO GO GO". Well of course Goose thought they were talking to him, so he also reran at the same time. She actually would have run clean if she didn't have a big border collie running full speed at her, which made her drop her ball. Ugh GOOSE! By the time we were on the 5th heat that would decide the race, I was fully aware that Goose was out of his mind. We ran that heat clean and as I saw Indigo in 4th come across the finish just barely before the other dog, I knew we won it. At that same moment, my very confused Goose thought again that with all the cheering, he should probably go run again. This time I was prepared and there was not a chance I was going to let him lose this race for us. So clearly the best thing to do was to DIVE for him just as he was fully accelerating away from me. My arm was fully extended as I flew and ended up grabbing him by the tip of his tail and stopping him (he has an appointment at the chiropractor already). We won the race by very little! No one has ever been as excited for third place as we were. I got up and tried to give everyone high-fives, but by arm wouldn't move!

I somehow managed to put Indigo and Goose away in their xpen and go to watch the Spring Loaded vs Rocket Relay race. And then the pain set in. It was, by far the most excrutiating pain I've ever experienced. It was like being eletrocuted with every slight motion of my arm. I was so freaked out that I couldn't move it and in so much pain that I lost it. My amazing teammates and flyball friends helped me with everything and I went to the emergency room. I got xrays, which probably sounded like I was being tortured because I was literally screaming as I was forced to put my arm in the most incredibly painful positions. Anyway, nothing was broken so they gave me some pain meds and sent me on my way. I managed to make it home because of my awesome teammates, especially Sue. It turns out I have a rotater cuff injury and have just started a minimum of 6 weeks of physical therapy. Oh yeah and Goose bit me in the face on Saturday at some point as well.

My second CanAm was certainly an experience I will always remember. It was so much fun and exciting and so very painful. Although, I'm not sure if I'm brave enough to go back!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

whippet fun

Pax and I had an awesome day yesterday. We went to a one day Sprint race meet hosted by the NEWC (new england whippet club). After our first meet, I almost gave up on Spring racing with him. His high drive can only get him so far. He just doesn't have the muscle or stride length to keep up with some of these whippets. Seriously the thigh muscles on some of these dogs are amazing.

There is still plenty of competition here in New England, but I think Pax does well enough to make it worth while and wow does he LOVE IT! He is crazy for flyball, but out of his mind for racing. At the last two meets he was 7th and 6th place, which I am very happy with. I think his stamina and again huge amount of drive actually help. He seems to do better than some of the other dogs in the 3rd and 4th programs.

Racing is much slower moving than flyball and especially with just one whippet.. but the locations cannot be beat. Yesterday we were in Western Mass on a gorgeous piece of property. I love being outside all day surrounded by this amazing scenery, watching the incredible speed of the dogs. Pax has a lure coursing trial in a few weeks and it would be very convenient if he would get 1st place..that isn't too much to ask right?

Monday, August 27, 2012

a new striding training method

Unfortunately for Pax, he is my practice dog for training striding. His natural flyball striding isn't great, as I may have mentioned many times. Had I started him differently, I have no doubt that I wouldn't be having this much trouble now.

The only way I can get the striding I want ( 3 strides in and 3 strides out between the box and last jump) is by putting gutters at 5' and 10' from the box. I wonder if a dog that has already run for a year or more can change their striding with gutters? It hasn't had any sort of permanent effect on Pax.

Last weekend I tried something a little bit different. I slowly moved the last jump away from the box slowly and kept sending him and videoing his striding. At 15.5' he still took 2 steps in and 2 steps out, same at 16'. At 16.5-17.5 he took two big strides and one little stutter step and still mostly 2 strides out. Then I moved it to 18', which is the limit for where I would be willing to move it. And that's where he took 3 strides in and 3 out. This seems a little bit ridiculous because dogs much bigger than him easily take 3 strides in 15' and I believe that with more space Pax stretched out even more. I figure his striding can't get much worse than it already is, so my plan is to leave the jump at 18' and than very slowly over time move it back in and hopefully taking 3 steps will be so ingrained by then that I won't need gutters.

To do this training, I really can't also be running him in tournaments. So Pax, is getting the big "P-WORD"...PULLED after Canam, which we already committed to. It may not help, but I would always regret not trying and I still have my Indigo to run.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

blah blah blah

I feel like Pax has been the main topic of my posting lately. He's just such a project! Indigo is a finished product in my opinion for flyball. She is cured of ball spitting and she is consistently running to her potential, considering her training. She is running on the A team in flyball. and possibly the most consistent dog on that team. Goose is still spitting his ball, but thats because his trainer sometimes slacks on working with him. Otherwise he he running really well too!

Ben has stopped doing agility with Indigo and Pax, which is sad considering the amount of training that she had. He just isn't the type to go out and practice a few times a week and so agility really isn't the best sport for Ben. Also with starting Vet school, time is an issue as well.

With everything that is going on in our lives outside of dog sports, we've decided to focus on flyball and whippet racing/lure coursing for now. When things calm down I'd love to find a place to take Goose herding just because he loves it so much.

Speaking of lots of craziness in our lives right now, the last thing we need is for our dogs to get Skunked. So of course one day last week just as we were about to go to bed, we let the dogs out one more time and sure enough our entire house starting smelling like the nastiest onion smell. We step outside and Pax puked and couldn't open his eyes after getting sprayed in the face. Goose got it all over and Indigo even managed to pick some up too. After consulting with the internet and our facebook friends, Ben ran out to the store to pick up Hydrogen Peroxide and we make a mixture with that, baking soda and dish soap. We applied it to the dogs without water and let it sit on them for 30 minutes. Then we washed them off. By this point it was 1 am and Finley was fully asleep. The stuff worked really well. We put them in their crates and aired out the house all night long. The next day I took everyone to the groomer for a deskunk treatment. Luckily, everything we did helped a lot and now only Pax's neck stinks.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

ball on the wall

We had a tournament this past weekend and tried Pax running full time on the A team. He's our fastest dog in theory, but his times are very inconsistent because of his striding. I got a few 3.8s out of him in last, but mostly 3.9s -4.0. His box turn was consistently wide despite the extra work I've been doing with him.

I know it just hasn't been enough time and he's been rewarded many times by going wide. I also know that the root of the problem is not just the turn itself, but the way he approaches the box. His approach doesn't allow him to collect himself to make a tight turn. However, I know he CAN do a tight turn with his striding into the box because when I put a prop there, his turn is lovely. While I continue to work on his striding, I'm also focusing on getting him to bend more (I posted about this last week) and rotate better. His wall work has been nice, so I've advanced him to getting the ball off the wall.

I started this last night and this morning. I thought it looked pretty good for his first time getting the ball off the ball. I'll do a lot more of this and then start working the actual box.


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Ball Spitting

Here is a question from a reader about training a 4 month old border collie:  

Question: .........I'm pretty sure he's going to be a spitter, as he very much prefers the tug over the ball (which is good), but how can I work with him down the road in bringing the ball? Ive started doing exchanges from ball to tug because i did that in the past, and he spits as soon as he sees the tug. he knows the 2 toy game as well. Or is it too early to worry about that? Anyways, any suggestions you have for me would be wonderful.


First of all, I wouldn't worry too much about a future in ball spitting at 4 months. At 4 months the things I focus on are:

1. TUG DRIVE especially with distractions (balls, other dogs, people running etc)
2. flat recalls against lots of different types of dogs
3. opposing recalls or introduction to passing through the stanchions
4. introduction to box work - "over & back" over a gutter or low jump
5. body awareness exercises or introduction to gutters if you plan to use them
6. introduction to clicker training and being handled by people if that's an issue
7. toy exchange
8. basic retrieve to the hand, not necessarily a ball and not a big focus.
9. Impulse control games

Between 5-7 months is when I would suggest revisiting the ball work. Here is a combination of the steps I did with Pax and Indigo.  With Pax to prevent ball spitting and with Indigo to fix it. This is in addition to playing tug with the ball and using the tennis ball as a reward in everyday life.

1.  Clicker train to put the ball in my hand. In a small space with the dog on leash (if needed), toss the ball a very short distance. Shape him putting it in your hand. Start with a click for picking up the ball then for bringing it toward you and then eventually click the second the ball makes contact with your hand. Practice this a lot!

2. Throw a ball further in a large space with no leash and have him bring it to my hand, building up to him bringing it while I'm running away with my hand out.  There is no tug involved yet.

3.  Same as # 2 but with dead ball. If he does 4 in a row correctly, take out the tug play a short exciting game of tug with him.

4. With a tug in hand, throw a ball and then turn and run with the tug hidden in front of you as you are running. Look back to see if the dog has the ball as he approaches you. If he has it and is within 2 feet of you, give him the tug. If he spit it, ask him to go get it and bring it to you and then give him the tug. If he spits it no where near you, you need to move back a few steps.  Ideally you will be able to send him to a dead ball run away with a hidden tug and then when he presents you the ball, give him the tug.

5. Using a low value tug at first and eventually moving to his favorite tug, try #4, but drag the tug instead of hiding it. It's important that you look back to see when the dog drops the ball. If it's early (more than 2 feet from you), immediately pull up the tug. Ask the dog to go get the ball and bring it to you and then give him the tug. Again, if it's too hard make it easier and slowly raise the criteria.

The mistakes I made in 5 years of training Indigo to hold her ball: hiding the tug as a permanent solution, facing her instead of running away, and most importantly rewarding her in tournaments when she didn't carry it within 2 feet of me, but did carry it barely over the line.

Here is a video of Indigo from a few days ago. I am just getting to the point of dragging the tug. The first few I was still hiding it and then I tried dragging it. On the last two she made me laugh because she tried to get the tug while the ball was still in her mouth!

Friday, July 6, 2012


Pax has been racing in flyball for almost a year now and has made lots of progress. He's more confident, has better striding and just started passing with no issues. It's nice to have him in 4th because his box turn is very variable. You couldn't pass into him easily as he is coming off the box because often he goes wide.

We tried to figure out what causes him to go wide. We thought maybe it was when he gets tired, but it's variable throughout the day. It definitely has to do with the way he collects himself between the 4th jump and the box.  Also he hits the box too far to the left and isn't able to bend his body easily.

I'm still working on his striding into the box, but I'm focusing on improving his flexibility so he can bend more easily. I want to be able to practice his box turn without using the upright of a box prop to keep his head in. Most dogs with this problem only have a tight turn when the prop is in, so that doesn't really help fix the problem.

This week I've been doing wall work and experimenting with some agility jumping. He already knew some basics from his classes with Ben, so getting him around the jump was easy. I need to work on calling him sooner so he starts bending mid-jump and we plan to add some serpentine jumps for more bending skills. For the agility jumping I'm purposely working on both sides event hough he turns to the left. Please excuse my "agility handling" or lack of. I'm not an agility person!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Enhance Performance in Dogs with Herbs

At a recent flyball tournament we got some sample bottles of a product called AgilityPro which contains: American Ginseng, Ashwagandha, Siberian Ginseng, Codonopsis pilosule, and Astragalus. I knew the uses of these herbs in humans. I know from personal experience that they are useful during times of stress. I found Ashwagandha to be very useful while I was in graduate school. I wrote this little article and based on what I found regarding their use in dogs, I am going to start giving a similar product to my dogs. 

All of these wonderful benefits I am about to tell you about are not based from personal experience. It's based on studies in humans and reports of success from horse and canine vets. I'd love to know if anyone has used a performance enhancing supplement in their dogs and how it works!

When talking about good qualities of a performance dog people tend to say things about "no self preservation" and "giving 110%" despite pain, stress or fatigue. We also know that we need to decide when it's time to force rest to prevent injuries or accidents, which can lead to a shortened career in the long term.  Hard working canine athletes may benefit from some assistance in handling the physical and mental stress brought on by their work. Many of the sports and daily work that our dogs perform are very taxing on the body.

The herbs in Agility Pro and other similar products are known as ADAPTOGENS which literally translates from Greek “to produce an adjustment "

They are used by humans for adrenal gland support / stress management. These herbs have a non-specific activity, increasing the resistance of the entire body. They work to help the entire system gain balance or homeostasis, helping to normalize body system functions affected by stress.  Many of these herbs improve endurance, work capacity under stress, and recovery after strenuous activity.  Interestingly most of the adaptogenic herbs tend to grow in challenging environments and survive despite the conditions.

Based on studies in humans and animals the following benefits might be seen in a performance dog.
  • Fewer injuries and faster recovery due to a faster rate of tissue repair
  • Delays the onset of fatigue during exercise
  • Improved performance and endurance
  • Increased learning, memory, focus and accuracy when tired or stressed
  • Skeletal muscle & strength
  • Immune system protection from long-term or intense stress
  • Glucose movement into muscle cells
  • Higher levels of ATP in muscle cells
  • Utilization of lipids for energy production
  • Mitochondrial efficiency for energy
  • Protects digestive function
  • Protects against oxidative damage
  • Calming for anxiety, depression, nervousness, irritability, or aggression
  • Reduces stress during performance and traveling.  

These herbs will not enhance performance beyond natural ability like an anabolic steroid or stimulants, but will support the body and help the dog reach natural potential. During events or conditioning you may see improvements in endurance and delayed exhaustion, which can prevent injuries related to fatigue and a lack of focus and concentration.  
After strenuous activity adaptogens will help with muscle repair via protein synthesis. The time needed for the body to recover from high-intensity training or extended periods of stress is greatly reduced. In dogs that are well conditioned and mentally sound, you may not see improvements until the dog is faced with a difficult situation or is tired.
It is best to choose a product with a combination of adaptogenic herbs. For example, the benefits may be seen immediately with Rhodiola and Schizandra, whereas Panax ginseng and Ashwagandha needs to build up in the system. 
After discussing with your vet, try giving one dose per day or more if there is major stress. If the goal is overall stress relief vs improved performance, it may need to build up in the system for 2–4 weeks before you see results. Many people will give their performance dogs a lower dose at home and then increase it just before and during an event. 


Aralia mandshurica: Protects the body from environmental toxins and infection; protects the stomach lining and intestines, improving absorption.

Codonopsis pilosule: Works in a similar way to Panax Ginseng, but is milder and less expensive

Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus): Prevents exhaustion from physical and mental stress; fat & glucose metabolism; may increase the numbers of mitochondria, increasing exercise capacity; ability to withstand adverse conditions (heat, noise, increases in workload and physical exertion);  physical and mental performance and quality; memory, mental alertness and work output.

Panax ginseng:  Increases blood flow to the brain, improves libido and reproductive performance, stamina and energy levels; ability to withstand stress, improve work performance and quality, and enhance mental function.  

Rhaponticum carthamoides: Helps build and maintain lean muscle mass improves fertility and prevents impotence, prevents fatigue, and improves recovery from long illness.

Rhodiola rosea: Increases the blood supply to the muscles and brain, and increased protein synthesis; immune support, resistance to fatigue, improves mood & attention especially with not enough sleep; useful for acute stress; helps with depression and time spent in recovery; increases endurance, mental and physical strength; heart rate recovery after intense exercise; lipid metabolism

Schisandra chinensis: Helps during times of stress and fatigue; anti-imflammatory; stimulates central nervous system and use of oxygen in the cells; enhances mental coordination and physical endurance, improves vision especially at night; reduces stress via the adrenal gland; suppresses excessive stomach acid production and protects against stomach ulcers.

Ashwagandha: improves immune function relaxation & sleep, anti-inflammatory and immune boosting; adrenal support, lowers blood pressure; improves thyroid function (increases energy, digestive function and mood): alertness and memory, promotes a feeling of well-being; anxiety and irritability.  

Astragalus: useful during weakness ; recovery following an illness or prolonged stress; boosts vitality.; enhances immune function by increasing natural killer cell activity, increasing T cell activity, and enhancing macrophage activity.

While adaptogens may offer many benefits, there are also a lot of things they can't do. Please use feed quality diet, allow for rest, regular conditioning and veterinary/chiropractic care.

This product seems to be the best one in terms of variety of adaptogenic herbs. It contains: Eleutherococcus senticosus,Rhodiola rosea, Schizandra chinensis, Aralia mandschurica, Rhaponticum carthamoides. I am going to order it and see how it works and will report back! 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Burn Out

Back to Indigo. Her right front leg has been off for awhile. It's hard to tell with a dog that already has an unusual gait and shows no pain. A few times during chuck-it she wouldn't bear weight on it, but then a few hours later she seemed fine. And then last weekend she seemed to have a slight limp. We pulled her on Sunday and since then she's been to the chiropractor and has been only swimming for exercise. As usual she seems totally fine now, but we are taking it easy for at least a full week. We really need her to be sound for the Coconut Classic next weekend in PA.

We have this weekend off and are looking forward to the break. I think dogs experience burnout and benefit from a break. I don't think one week is really enough, but it's better than tournaments every weekend. I think it gets a little boring for them! We decided to skip U-FLI nationals for a number of reasons this year - we couldn't find flights that would work, Ben starts school Monday morning after and we just don't have it in us to do another really long trip right now. We will probably skip a few other tournaments too.

Despite the dogs being a little burnt out this past weekend, Finley had her best tournament yet. She was fully involved as much as she could. She helped the dogs get wrapped and carried our tugs for us. She came in to watch all of our races and cheered us on. She had the most fun helping with Chase. She was in charge of calling him and giving him treats in the runback. Our plan is to start teaching her to run a dog in practice and then hopefully as soon as she is old enough she will be ready to go. And then we'll have to find a dog for her to run!

I saw this box prop and I like it instead of Plexi glass

Finley enjoys putting vetwrap on the dogs

Friday, June 8, 2012


My dogs lives have recently changed for the better. They are living it up! I thought they had it good before, but I was very wrong.

First of all we have been going to lots of flyball tournaments. We've gone to 2 since we got here a month ago. We have another next week and then a week off and then another! With all this additional competition, I've been conditioning them more. This week we've played lots of chuck-it, went on a 7 mile hike And......

Yesterday they had a chuck-it session in the morning before it got hot and then a power jumping session right before dinner. We've been using power jumping to get the dogs, especially Pax to go for the ball full speed. I mentioned this in my last post. I love this because it's a way to get him to think less. He does do much thinking when he is running for a chuck-it ball, so incorporated it into flyball training. You need a lot of space for this drill.

Again it works like this....Someone releases them ideally from the same place you would when sending on a full run. Just as the person releases, someone is on the other end with a chuck-it and throws it away from the jumps, so the dog can see it. It's amazing to see how fast they can actually go over those jumps. This drill was helpful for all of our dogs to increase confidence and drive. We also used it for Goose to carry his ball. When Goose goes to get his ball he also has to carry it back over all the jumps.


I think all this conditioning and training has been paying off because I was very happy with my dogs performance last weekend. Goose didn't spit his ball once and even started showing some signs of ball obsession (it's a fine balance!), Pax ran faster than ever before going TO the box and had some great times despite a wide box, and Indigo ran well in the pack too.

Pax ran well in singles and we were so close to a 3.6 on the clock!

The dogs are also feeling great because they have been going to the chiropractor. On Wednesday they went to their 2 of 6 weekly appointments to get them realigned. They were all really out, but I was happy that they held what she did on Week 1. This chiropractor is using Applied Kinesiology, which I don't know much about. I know it's not well accepted in traditional medicine at all, but I really just care about results, so we will see. In Applied Kinesiology they can also determine food allergies. Pax has chronic diarrhea,  or poops like 6 times a day and has the worst gas! I've started an elimination diet for him in addition to the probiotics and digestive enzymes. I decided to start with Venison instead of Lamb. According to the chiropractor, he was allergic to Lamb AND Venison! I'm going to try the Venison anyway and then put him on RAW as soon as we get our chest freezer and move into our own house!

We are off to another LOCAL flyball tournament this weekend!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


The dogs are adjusting well to life in New England. Our friends house has a big grassy yard and a pool, which is a huge improvement from our tiny yard and very few swimming options. Between our two families, all of our faster competition dogs are jumping 10" in flyball, so we've been doing power jumping in the yard and then swimming to cool off and get more exercise. We also do some hikes and chuck-it sessions.

We took our three dogs to a chiropractor today that knows sport dogs. She was really great compared to our other experiences. I've always thought Indigo didn't seem right, but when I've taken her for adjustments they always look at me like I'm crazy. That's because the sport dog and pet dog are way different. Our three dogs were all off. Indigo's pelvis was crooked, Goose's head/neck was off and Pax's whole left side needed work.

We had a tournament two weeks ago in Seekonk, MA. Our Division 1 team didn't have much competition, which sucks. I'd rather lose to good competition than win easily. It was actually a good thing though because Goose's ball spitting problem got a lot worse. He spit the ball in almost every race. We had to pull him a lot and use Pax and Mustang, both running full time on the multi-team. We won multi and regular, but really need to fix Goose's little problem quickly.

We came up with a fun game to work on ball spitting - We set up powerjumps and then send Goose back and forth between us, but he has a carry a ball over all the jumps and then as a reward he gets to play ball. We've also been using the outdoor jumps to work on Pax's speed to to the box (my on-going challenge). I have Ben start him like he's sending him for a full run, but instead of a box at the end of the's me with a chuck-it. As soon as Ben releases him I throw the chuck-it. Wow! He can run fast for a moving ball. The jumps barely interfere with his full speed running.

Otherwise the dogs are doing well. I'm experimenting with Pax's food to see if he has a food allergy because it's not normal for a dog to have such nasty gas. Right now he's on Lamb only. Also the ticks are awful here. I'm getting used to pulling them off the dogs on a daily basis. If we go into the woods it's pretty much guaranteed that they'll all have several ticks.

We have ANOTHER tournament this weekend and then next weekend too! This weekend is Navon, Ontario. We are leaving tomorrow night and driving to the Albany area so that we don't have to do eight hours all in one day. It's U-FLI and we are running two teams and lots of singles and we'll have Fin with us.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Big Changes

A lot has happened in the past few weeks. We left our house in Seattle on April 20th and took two vehicles across the country. Ben drove the truck and trailer (our temporary home) and I drove the little car. When we got to Reno, we traded cars with Ben's parents and ended up with a Ford Escape. It's not quite big enough for our family, but the dogs have a lot more room in the back and it's 4WD.

We stopped at dog parks and rest areas along the way to run the dogs. We had some long days, but everything went smoothly overall. We found a flyball tournament in Iowa to run with some friends and give the dogs a chance to stretch their legs. Indigo and Goose ran very well on their pick-up teams. Pax ran in singles and on a team, with the highlight being a doubles run with Indigo of 7.641. This makes them the 21st fastest doubles of all time and 6th for the year. Pax and Goose both ran singles as well. With Pax's best time being 3.820 and Goose 3.810, making them the 6th and 7th fastest singles for the year. We are planning another U-FLI tournament in June in Ontario and then the Tournament of Champions in August in Nebraska.

To continue our really crazy flyball schedule, we got to Massachusetts on May 3rd and then our new flyball team, Canine Mutiny hosted a tournament in Greenfield, MA. Indigo and Goose are on the Regular 1 team in 3rd and 4th position and Pax runs in start on the Multibreed team. The regular team had a best time of 15.8 and the Multi team ran in the mid 17 second range.  Running on consistent 4 dog teams is new for us and really nice. It was a little bit chaotic to get here and then immediately host a tournament, but it was pretty low key and it was easy to take our trailer because it was already packed with all our stuff.  It was all fun and games until a Norovirus type "stomach flu" passed around to at least 14 people including me. I showed my dedication by running Indy and then immediately going back to the trailer where the bathroom was close. Ben ran Pax for me and I may have lost my dog after that because Ben had a good time with him and was way better at getting the tug back from him!

Here is our schedule for the rest of the summer:

May 13th - ASFA lure coursing trial Granville, MA
May 19th-20th NAFA flyball Seekonk, MA
June 2-3 U-FLI Ontario
June 9-10 NAFA flyball Littleton, MA
June 23-24 Coconut Classic PA
July 21-22 NAFA flyball Foxboro, MA
August 11-12 NAFA flyball Henrietta, NY
August 24-26th U-FLI Tournament of Champions Nebraska
September 1-2 NAFA flyball Foxboro, MA
September 6-7th ASFA lure coursing Griswold, CT
September 22-23 NAFA flyball Greenfield, MA?
October 12-14th Can-Am NAFA flyball nationals

I also need to find some straight and oval track races for Pax, but our schedule is looking very full this year!

The dogs are very much enjoying their new location! We either play chuck-it or go hiking everyday. Ben has even taken them on bike rides on the rail trail!

This post has already been very long, but I just wanted to add some training thoughts about Pax in flyball. He is a never ending challenge for me. My most recent thought is that he is thinking too much on the way down to the box and in general. When we play chuck-it and he is chasing the ball he runs with reckless abandon...that's what I'm looking for. Here are my ideas to fix this problem:

1. head to head racing with the lanes close together against a fast dog and start him after so he has to catch up.
2. chase recalls where he is chasing a dog that is faster than him
3. set up flyball jumps outside and have someone release him as if he is going down to the box, but instead of having a box there, someone will be there with a chuck-it and as he starts down the jumps throw it. This way he will get used to running full speed down the jumps. Eventually we'd fade the movement...not sure exactly how that would work.
4. Power jumping with someone on both sides of the jumps sending him back and forth.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Three in Three out

We went to the NW U-FLI qualifer in Victoria this past weekend and had so much fun! Our friend Sue, from our new team in Massachusetts came out with her borderjack Stingray. We ran as a regular U-FLI team with Stingray, Pax, Indigo, Goose, Ezri and Havoc from Total Anarchy on Saturday. This is the fastest lineup we've ever put together and it was amazing how well the dogs did passing eachother. We ran many times in the high 15s, two 15.6's and even a 15.4 with a dropped ball. A 15.6 or faster is required for Division 1 at the championships. I was not expecting to run this time and was sort of hoping to be in Division 2, but I guess we are faster than I thought!

Poor Paxy wasn't in any of the record breaking lineups and didn't get any amazing times in singles. He did run a 3.79 and lots of 3.8s in start, but I know he could do a lot more. His striding still sucks. I've been spending a lot of time watching striding into the box and on the return. Pax takes two strides in and two out usually. He will take 3 out if he has a wide box turn. The nicest box turns come from dogs that take 3 strides in and 3 out. With only two strides in the dog is not set up well to have great control and power during the box turn.

Last weekend I decided to try putting gutters at 5 feet and 11 feet from the box during warmup. He is stutter stepping at first, but you can see him getting used to it after a few and it even had some effect during his runs!  HERE IS THE VIDEO. Right now his time from the line to the box is in the 1.6 range and from the box back to the line is in the 2.2 range. My goal is to get his "go out" time in the 1.5-1.6 range and his return around 2.0. The return includes the box, which is where he is losing a lot of time. You can see HERE when going head to head that Pax is ahead or even until the forth jump and then he gets behind on the box and up until the 5th jump and then he smokes Goose over the jumps on the way back. He should be beating Goose!

I'm going to try calling him earlier to help him set up for the way back. I still believe a lot of his problem is confidence. I have to find a balance between letting him get more miles of running flyball and allowing him to run with his striding the way it is! I'm going to continue full course snap offs and start box work with gutters to force 3 strides in and 3 out.

Indigo is an example of a dog that needed more confidence. She never ran faster than 3.9 for the first year of racing. She hit 3.8 after about a year and then shortly after that ran 3.7s. She ran her best time with a pass of 3.80 just this past weekend. She is now 5 years old. She takes 2 strides in and 3 out very consistently and probably would have been faster with 3 in. At this point in her career, it's impossible to fix her striding and it might be too late to fix Pax's, as it gets ingrained quickly.

For the next puppy I train, I'd like to teach striding from the beginning, so it's not a process of fixing it later, but training it and not moving on to the next step until it's right. I'll save the topic of teaching a puppy striding for my next post!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Kings Tournament

We went to our last NAFA tournament in British Columbia for awhile at least. It was very strange that we won't see most of our NW flyball friends for awhile. I'm hoping some of them come to Can-Am or U-FLI championships this year. We dragged some of our teammates all over the place looking for The Swiss Chalet so Ben could get some of their amazing chicken. It was pretty amazing.

We ran our Division 1 team in Open so that we could run with Amy & Georgia who are also leaving. We were running between 18.5-16.7 with wide passes and beating the other teams in the division as long as we ran clean. We won Open both days. One thing I'll miss is all the dog food we win at tournaments! We have quite a stash in our trailer right now.

I ran Pax in start and Indy when Pax wasn't in. Pax did better and better as the weekend went on. I think his best time was 3.83. His box turns were wide in the beginning of the day. I worked with him during warmups on the box and over-rotated him to remind him not to go wide. He's become less reliable with ball holding and was flagged twice during the weekend. I think I need to go back to wall work with him to get his body used to rotating off the box more.  Based on the video I've seen so far, his striding actually looks better. He also needs passing work, but I already knew that. Overall I'm happy with how he did and had a good time running him!

you can see in this video that Pax is going wide. I need to work my handling to get him to come off the box to the tug in the right spot

I was excited to run Indy again! I haven't run her in a very long time. Jeff does a good job with her, but I missed my girl. I found a solution to get her to hold her ball that is very reliable, but works the best when I run her.

Goose did well overall, but we have some things to work on with him as well. Over the last few tournaments, he started spitting his ball more and more frequently. If Ben doesn't give him the tug, he reruns himself, which caused one moderate crash and one almost crash.  Also I don't know if we will ever get him to take 3 strides off the box, but he definitely should.

Our plan for the next two weeks is to get some weight off the border collies and do a lot of conditioning. We dont' do enough endurance training with them and it shows. We don't live in the best situation now to make that happen, but we'll do what we can to get them in better shape.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Different Way to Teach a Box Turn

There are many ways to teach a box turn, some work better than others. I've tried several different methods over the years and am still open to trying new things. My favorite methods are either the wall to a ramp and straight to the box OR the chute, to chute with ball, to box with board, to box with ball. Either way I like to start with lots of "over and backs". The choice to do train a wall turn is usually determined by how much someone is going to be doing at home. If the handler doesn't do much training at home, I have a really hard time training the wall only once a week. Also some people are turned off by the wall because of perceived safety issues.

I wish I had video of Indy learning her box turn. I had no idea what I was doing at the time. We used a square board the size of the front of the box (training board) and taught her to hop on that (with the board on someones lap) and get a ball. Somehow she has an excellent box turn now. I later used the wall and various up close box work drills to speed her up. Some dogs are very forgiving. Here is the earliest video I have of her of her turn. 

I recently had a reader ask me this question about an 11 month old border collie in training....

We have slowly been introducing the different stages of flyball.  She has a really good box turn and will return to the handler over all 4 jumps. We introduced the ball and she did a good job 2-3 times. One time she hit the box prop and since then will not go to the box if there is a ball in it or if she does she will lean forward and try and steal the ball (won't jump on the box). So we have been having her run to the box and do her box turn then back to the handler.

This is one method that I have to say I don't think it great. I think "hit its" are okay in moderation to get the dog used to the box, but not to the point that they start to build muscle memory for a box turn with no ball. It doesn't really count as a box turn until there is a ball involved. Without a ball, the body positioning is completely different.  I also don't like the idea of building up to full runs without the introduction of a box turn with the ball. With the full run you are introducing speed and striding and it will be off if the dog is just hitting off the box without catching a ball. 

In this video you can see that Pax's head isn't going anywhere near where it should be to catch a ball. This is teaching the basic body movement, but shouldn't be done too much and especially not directly on the box. 

For the particular dog mentioned above I would probably work with a chute with a ball velcroed to get her comfortable with grabbing the ball without having to worry about it coming at her. Once she got this part, I would introduce the ball on the box, but I'd rest it on the ledge with a board leaning up on the box or jam the thrusters so the ball can't pop out. I'd also work on dead ball retrieves over the box prop and general ball catching practice.

If the issue is with the sound of the box, it would help to bring the box home and desensitize the dog to the sound by click/treat when the box is triggered.

The other methods I've seen to teach a box turn have not been successful for the most part from my observation. I especially don't like the introduction of the box before the dog has the body motion with the use of lots of a box props to get all four feet up. These are the dogs that lose their turn with no props. As I've mentioned before I'd like to try shaping a box turn with a clicker, but I'll probably have to experiment on my own dog to try that!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Lure Coursing Problems

Well I made the mistake of taking Pax lure coursing in the same field with a similar course two weeks in a row. This is pretty much asking for trouble. A whippet that is moderately smart (Pax is very smart, smarter than Goose), remembers the course and cuts corners. The judges like to see a hound stay with the lure. This particular field is especially bad because there are clear boundaries and it's pretty obvious which way the lure is going. It's ideal if they don't know because either it's a new field to them or it's so large that the course can be very different each time.

There was one other whippet at this ASFA trial, who had never coursed in this field. Pax did fairly well overall and was well matched with the other racing bred whippet, but it was inevidible that he would try to outsmart the lure. He got 2nd place of 2 whippets. Interestingly, you can course the other sighthounds (Ibizians, IW, Silken Windhounds, Basenjis, Ridgebacks, Greyhounds etc) at the same field with similar course over and over and they don't usually cut corners.

Next weekend we are taking Pax for his first NAWRA race meet. This is straight racing. No turns. The winner is very obvious. I know this type of racing will be challenging for him because he doesn't have the height advantage, but he is extremely keen. We will see how far that gets him.

photo by Amy Vandenberg


I'm always thinking about dog I would like to get in the future that would be good for different purposes. For flyball I think about breeds that would be fun for Finley to run someday. I think a small dog would be best for her to handle. While, I am mostly set on whippets and border collies, there are certainly some little dogs that I like. Based on our recent experience with fostering an Italian Greyhound, I can safely say that this breed is not on the list. It's amazing how much they aren't like whippets. Little Santos will make a great pet for someone I'm sure, but he isn't for us!  

When we buy a house in Massachusetts, we will be looking for something that will give us the option to have some farm animals. I think it would be most useful to get a terrier that would be good at keeping rodents away as well as a good house pet and flyball dog. Perhaps a Patterdale terrier? I haven't met one yet, as they aren't common in the US. It seems that they are similar to a JRT, but more common in the UK. They are supposedly amazing working dogs and super cute.  Watch for me on the next episode of Animal Hoarders.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Dog Centered Weekend

Last weekend we spent most of the day Saturday in Auburn at the Cascade Coursing Club hosted CAT (coursing ability test). I wanted to see how the border collies would do and although I was hesitant to run course Pax on the type of lure they use (continuous loop), I entered him too since he was there. The border collies both did well. They stayed with the lure the whole time and were fast until the end when they got tired. We didn't stay long enough to see the results, but we guessed that Pax won...which wasn't really fair because the test is supposed to be for non-sighthounds. We have to enter the border collies two more times to get the CAT title on them.

I enjoy this sport because it's really great conditioning for the dogs and requires no training. I did notice all my dogs slow down at the end, which means they need endurance work! We do something with them 6 days a week, but we need a new conditioning plan for them.

Here is what we do now:
Monday - chuck-it + free running at the field 45 minutes
Tuesday- day off
Wednesday- dog park free running 45 minutes + agility for Pax & Indigo
Thursday - dog park free running 30 minutes 
Friday - chuck-it + free running at the field 45 minutes
Saturday - usually dog park 1 hr
Sunday - herding for Goose and flyball for Indigo or Goose and Pax

We need to add more sessions and keep running them longer. We also need to add swimming and free running on the trails following the mountain bike. Some long hikes wouldn't hurt either. I usually run at the gym on the treadmill, but could start taking them with me and run outside.  I also need to get balance balls and start working on strengthening exercises. We have a swim appointment for the three of them on Thursday, so we are off to a good start on their new exercise plan!


Last weekend was especially dog activity filled! On Sunday morning I went herding with Goose and had a really good session. His natural talent is amazing. Diane surprised us with some light trial sheep to increase the challenge for us. Goose and I went in to work them and they all scattered and it was a huge mess. I was surprised since he always does so well. These sheep were so much harder! This made me realize that I need to work on his lie down and give him more instructions to keep a good enough distance from the sheep so they stay calm. After we worked a bit on widening his outrun and an immediate lie down (rather than 3 seconds later), we had those sheep totally under control. It was a very rewarding lesson.


The way it's been lately is that on Sunday, I rush home, grab my flyball stuff and run out to get to flyball practice in time. Last weekend was no different...I dropped Goose of and grabbed Pax and Indigo. Indigo doesn't really need practice anymore, but I do bring her to help with training and for lineup practice. Pax is getting so much better, although I need to start having other people run him because I need to see how his box turn and striding look. The work I've been doing with him has payed off. His times have come down a bit at practice. We was running all 3.7s and 3.6s at practice. We will see if that holds up at a tournament with no gutters.

Pax's passing and speed to the box Improved!

Speaking of gutters. I am proud to say that we finally fixed my most challenging gutter problem!

Georgias striding has been off for awhile, but everytime I put in the standard gutters that help most dogs, she jumps them! She needs to take three strides after hitting the box before jump 5 and to not take off so early for the box. Mission accomplished with lots of tweaking.

Georgias striding solution

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Spring Fever

We have been working on planning Spring events for the dogs. Here's what we've got so far..some of the dates are tentative

Feb 18th AKC coursing ability test in Auburn, WA
March 4th AFSA lure coursing Auburn, WA
March 24-25th NAFA tournament BC
April 7-8th UFLI Victoria, BC
April 28-29th UFLI Amana, IA
May 5-6th NAFA tournament Greenfield,MA
May 19-20th NAFA Seekonk, MA
June 22-23rd NAFA Coconut Classic  PA
July 7-8th Starkville, NY ASFA lure coursing
August 11th-12th UFLI Richmond ON
August 18th-19th Rocket Relay ON
 Oct 12-14th Indianapolis, IN CanAm

Ben is taking a break from agility until he finds a new trainer in Massachusetts and will probably just focus on Indigo and less on Pax. We are mostly doing flyball and lure coursing this year.

 We will be driving across the country in April. We will drop our daughter Finley in Reno with her grandparents and then Ben and I and our three dogs will drive across the country. We plan to stop at one flyball tournament that is on the way in Iowa. It's always fun to play flyball in a new place. Indigo and Goose will run on pickup teams.

 I've been going sheep herding a lot lately with Goose and feeling bad that I haven't taken him more. He is so good at it and it's been lots of fun. Our instructor, Diane from Deltabluez Stockdogs thinks that we have the potential to enter a novice trial. If we get sheep someday I'd like to be more serious with sheep herding, but now it seems very unachievable. Either way, Goose and I have fun on Sunday mornings going out to the farm together.  It's a pretty drive and I always treat myself to coffee and a scone from Caffe Ladro, my favorite coffee. They give out biscuits so Goose doesn't mind making the stop.

Sometimes I'll take Indigo for the ride. She knows the farm and has no interest in working the sheep. She is a true performance bred border collie. She runs out of the car, past the gate that leads to the fields, finds a stick and brings it to me to throw and crouches, waiting for it. This usually involves the pond and me throwing the stick into the pond. I did bring Pax once, but quickly realized that whippets and small farm animals aren't the best combination. Lets just say I can tell he would be a good hunter!

 We finished our recallers class and I actually really enjoyed it and found it to be extremely valuable. I plan to continue to use lots of Susan Garretts games and may even take the her online puppy class. I'll keep taking her courses, but I draw the line at a certain amount of money. I certainly wouldn't pay $5000 for any training class.

This weekend we are going to attempt to go to the AKC CAT with the three dogs...even though it's kind of a joke for Pax to do this type of lure coursing. I really want to do it with the border collies and I can't just leave him at home! On Sunday we will hopefully go herding and to flyball practice.

Speaking of flyball, I have a new favorite drill! It's something I've done a lot with Pax, but I need to do it more.... I'm going to try to do it at every practice until the next tournament in March. The things he needs work on are passing into another dog, speed TO the box, tighter, more controlled turn. This drill accomplishes everything I need to work on. Here is a video of us working on it last week at practice  .  The first dog does a full run and then I have someone release Pax from where I would normally pass him, but I am standing up at the box and calling him. Because I am calling him, he is focusing less on the pass and is running faster to me/the box. As he hits the box and run into the middle of the lane and pull him off quickly, not giving him an opportunity to go wide. I can really see the difference in this video. After March, I plan to run him in singles a few times but not on a team until he gets used to his new teammates and figures out his striding.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

ball obsession - my challenge

I enjoy taking dogs for training. I find that I have the most success when I can do 2-3 sessions everyday, especially when working on big problems. Right now we have Jitter, a ball obsessed border collie. He pretty much has no off switch unless he is in his crate and is very antsy. He came to me with not a lot of self control, but is well socialized and willing to work. He is actually fun to train and training him became more enjoyable when he realized that he can't get away with cheap shots! He has started to trust me and is way more focused than when we started. It's fun to watch his border collie mind work!

 This arrangement works out well for both his owners and me, as I needed to test some of the new ball obsession games on him. We are making progress, but it's slow. Very slow. And we have setbacks. He is extremely ball obsessed. The worst I've ever seen. I've had him for about a week and a half and I've been focusing on the following:

-  impulse control with everything in life including balls
- recall, my ultimate goal is to recall him past tennis balls on the ground
- ball to hand. I'm working on the "hand" command.
- I will throw a ball while he stays, if he gets up during my throw I go and pick up the ball and start over. He isn't allowed to get his ball until I say "get your ball". Before I release him to get his ball, he has to tug and then when he gets the ball he has to put it in my hand immediately.
- I made up another game, which I really like. First I play some tug with him. Then I have him stay and put a ball and a tug about equal distance from him on the ground. Then I say "go get your tug!" He obviously has two choices at this point. If he picks the ball, I pick up both toys and the whole game starts over. If he does immediately go for the tug, I pick it up and play with him and then sometimes I'll while we are tugging I'll say "get your ball", which then immediately HAS to be put in my hand for a click/treat.
- Premack!!!  I'll put a ball on the ground and then offer him either the ball or the cheese in my hand. If he does well with that, I'll wait longer and longer before giving him the cheese (lower the rate of reinforcement). This game has been advanced to choosing to wait for a cheese reward while being released to go chase a rolling ball. I've also done this with a tug instead of cheese. I'll put a ball on the ground nearby and then play really exciting tug and while we are tugging I'll say "OK go get your ball". If he doesn't go for his ball, the tug game gets even more exciting.

The challenges are when he steals the ball because I trusted him too much and then chomps on it. When this happens, I feel like we take a few steps backward. Also I can't get him to immediately come to me with the ball without relying on a leash about 1/2 the time. I STILL cannot get him to spit the ball for a tug, regardless of how crazy rabid pony I am. He just stands there chomping on the ball, which is extremely frustrating. I only have him for a few more days before I take my next dog for board/train and my focus will be RECALL, ball to hand, and hopefully get some ball tug exchange. 

I also have realized that Jitter would really benefit from some mat work. When left loose in the house he paces, looking for tennis balls. I think he would be a lot less obsessive if he learned how to relax.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

border collie visitors

We have Imp Ben staying with us right now. He belongs to Diane our herding instructor. He is from Bobby Dalziel's Joe X Pippa.  He is a lovely dog with a great temperament. He's learned our house rules quickly and is fitting in very well. He hasn't had a single accident in the house and is quiet all night...what more could I ask for from a puppy?!  Goose enjoys him. They must relate to each other with some sort of sheep herding connection. Ben has been to the grocery store and the park and did great with both. He is also learning how to wait before leaving his crate and he already knew "lie down and learned "sit" quickly. We may have to bring him back soon though because we are taking Jitter from our flyball team for some training and I don't think we are quite ready to handle 5 dogs right now. There might be a bit of an overlap though, so we will see how that goes.

My Thoughts on Ball Obsession in Flyball

In flyball we obviously want the tug to be the highest value thing..the ultimate reward for a job done well. The ball on the other hand is something we want them to be willing to put in their mouth in order to get the big reward. We don't want them to savor the moment of getting the ball out of the box, but rather the box should be something that they want to get away from as quickly as possible. Dogs that tend to spit balls early are faster than those that chomp on the ball all the way back and don't spit for the tug. I will never understand why some people YELL at their dog to drop the ball and TUG! Or those that wave the tug in the dogs face while the dog is chomping the ball until it's time to run again. The dog in these examples did not get a reward.

New people to flyball often think of flyball as a sport that is great for dogs that love tennis balls. I think it's more of a sport that is great for dogs that thrive in overstimulating environments, love to be with their handler and willing to work hard to tug.

The key parts of starting out a puppy are building tug drive, building value for being with their handler and dealing with very distracting things. Until you have a dog that can tug with enthusiasm in the presence of balls rolling, dogs running, people running, loud noises and other flyball craziness, you are not ready to introduce other parts of flyball, especially the ball retrieve. In training for flyball I find the ball to be an afterthought in the early stages of training. It doesn't hurt to do flat recalls with a puppy with balls rolling everywhere as a prevention for ball obsession.

This early training needs to be happening at home as well. Lots of tug building activities and most importantly lots of time spend interacting with the handler. I don't agree with the idea that tennis balls should be restricted. It doesn't make logical sense to me as a method to reduce the value, but I do think that the dog shouldn't be encouraged to find value in chomping any toy including a tennis ball my himself.

If your dog is already obsessed with tennis balls. It might be hard to fix, but at least you know that your dog finds SOMETHING valuable and has drive. It's just for the wrong thing. I've come to realize that it's not helpful to use "leave it" with balls on the ground because people don't tend to train a solid enough leave it so that the dog WANTS to leave it. It's more of a replacement for "NO". I haven't found that pool noodles are helpful.

Here are some ideas:

1. Teach a SOLID recalls. Extremely solid. You should be able to bet $100 that every time you call your dog he will come to you in all situations. With the ultimate challenge being his ability to recall to you past a ball on the ground or several balls being scattered on the ground. 

2. Teach a solid "drop it" command using the technique HERE . This will help with the dog to drop the ball quickly and possibly go for the tug (depending on tug drive). It doesn't help with balls in the run back though. Also to teach "drop it", when the dog brings the ball to you (if he doesn't bring it train him in a small enough area on a leash so that he does) grab him by the collar and put your hand on the ball without tugging and wait patiently. As soon as he releases it, throw it again as a reward. Repeat

3. Toy exchange game. Take out 2-4 toys (no balls to start) and spread them around the training area with no other distractions to start. Pick up one and start flipping it around and act like it's the coolest thing ever. As soon as your dog comes over and starts playing with it and tugging drop it and run to the next and do the same thing. Keep switching to the next toy so that your dog learns that the most fun toy is the one that you have.  Eventually add balls into the mix when your dog is reliably going for the toy that you have rather than the ones on the ground.

4. Use the ball as a reward in your training.  Instead of keeping balls away from the ball obsessed dog, use a ball as a reward for the behavior that you eventually want - enthusiastic tugging. With the dog on a leash and a ball in your pocket, tug with the dog with no balls in his view. When he is tugging to the level of enthusiasm that you want (this shouldn't take more than 30 seconds), say "OK" or other release word and place the ball on the ground for him to get.

Refer to # 2 on this list to get the ball back from him. Put the ball back in your pocket or hide it with easy access and repeat. If the dog tugs for 3 seconds and then looks for the ball, he doesn't get it. ou decide when he gets it.

You can advance this game by releasing him to a ball you throw or several balls to choose from and eventually without a leash. Eventually you will find that when you say "OK" and throw the ball, he will chose the tug over the ball. It takes time though.

If the dog is already doing box work, you can play the same game. Require that your dog tugs with you and then release him to get the ball from the box when you are happy with his tugging. In this situation tugging after the ball would be ideal too. Make sure he can't reward himself with the ball, by having the box loader put the ball in just as you release the dog.

5. Premack. This is similar  # 4, but only works if you use something that is currently more valuable than the ball. With the dog on a leash and lots of high value treats, click/treat when the dog looks at you. When he is doing this reliably, put a ball on the ground and wait for him to look back and you and reward him with a click/treat. After doing this for a few sessions, after you click/treat for orienting to you, say "OK" and let him get the ball if he wants. And then wait. While you are waiting you are holding his leash and not moving or saying anything at all. At this point he has to decide between standing there playing with the ball by himself without moving more than a few feet or looking at you and getting a treat. After a few times of trying this, he will likely find the ball less rewarding in this situation than the high value treat. As he gets more reliable with this, start lowering the value of the treat or use a tug instead of food and increase the value of the ball by giving him a long line, taking the leash off in a small area, throwing the ball etc.

6. Ball on a short rope.  Add a short rope to a tennis ball and play fetch with your dog, when he brings it ball, play an exciting game of tug. play keep away with this toy. While holding your dogs collar, put this rope/ball toy about 10 ft in front of you. Push your dog behind you and race him for the toy. You win the first two times and then on the third one let him win and play a fun game of tug. When you get the toy from him pretend that he is trying to get it from you and you are keeping it away from him. Tease him with it and then let him get it. Sometimes chase him or sometimes turn around the run away while he has it. Everytime he comes to you play with him. Never swing it in his face, but make him think it is a valuable resource that he is getting as a reward. Once he LOVES this toy, start putting plain tennis balls in view and slowly add more and have people roll them around. Continue to play tug drive building games in the presence of balls, expanding to a tug with a longer ball and less rope.

7. Self Control. Teach your dog impulse control. I use Susan Garretts game "It's Yer Choice".   to teach my dogs to not steal food. It can be expanded to teach them not to steal toys or basically that they have to "work" to get something they want. They chose to either do what you want them to do and get their reward or neither. In this case you can require that your dog does a basic command (nose touch or sit/stay) and gets a ball as a reward or if you want him to leave the ball practice this game and give him a very high value food reward for choosing to not go for a ball.

8. Balls in the Crate. I'm not sure how well this works, but I've that some people have had success with filling the dogs crate with balls with the thought that eventually he will be annoyed by them rather than excited about them.

These thoughts are based on my reading and experience I've had with ball obsession. I'd love to hear other peoples experiences and especially if you've tried any of these things and if they work. I currently don't know of any dogs that have been completely cured of ball obsession.