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.