Flyball Homework

Rio’s hits on the box are looking good and she’s ready to move on to turning with a ball in the box (untriggered). Unfortunately she can’t seem to get put the turn and the ball retrieve together. Box = Turn, in Rio’s mind!

I seem to have taken a mildly ball obsessed Rio and turned her into a dog who has a total lack of interest in the ball. Not quite what I was aiming for. We’ve worked back up and she’ll retrieve on the flat now, but she wouldn’t retrieve from the box during our recent sessions.

Our homework is to try and combine the two. At training, she would show some small interest in the ball – correct head placement to snatch, but not actually getting the ball, nose touching, occasionally displacing the ball. Increased interaction with the ball = decreased chance of turn. She can’t concentrate on two things at once!

We’ve done two homework sessions and she’s now turning AND retrieving maybe 50% of the time, and of that, maybe a third of her turns are actually good. This is partly because I took her a stride further away from the box, to encourage her to retrieve the ball, and so I’m not positioned where I should be next to the box. This will be easier to work on when the team is present!

I’m so happy with how she’s going. This is the first “setback” we’ve had, and it isn’t so much a setback as a slightly slower process. It’s also the part that Kelly and Aaron said would be the most difficult! It’s also been fantastic to see Rave do his first full runs this week, very inspiring. Hopefully if we can get this bit sorted, then we can look at progressing to full runs before Christmas.

Reruns

My last post apparently ruffled a lot of feathers, which is sort of funny really, since most of the offended parties weren’t the people I was thinking of when writing. Strange how that happens, isn’t it? None of the offended people spoke to me directly either in response. I stand by what I said however. There are a lot of issues in flyball, some which are just topics of debate that I haven’t made my mind up about (ie. the NAFA/European swing) but some which are genuine problems (and the issues which aren’t problems are much less pressing than those which are, but that also seems open for debate). I heard lots of stories at Drax about all the temper tantrums from various people, and whether those things happened or not, the fact I was being told about them was a case in point. And yes, this all happens in agility too, and yes, I know I’ve participated in being part of the problem. Whether I want to continue to be part of that kind of community is one of the many questions I’m considering with regards to my future to flyball.

Either way I’ll be going to the Rocket Relay seminar (hopefully). It’s too good an opportunity to miss, Kelly and Aaron are amazing trainers and I do tend to feel all motivated after the seminars!

Now that’s all cleared up (hmm, I’m sure!), I have been working on heelwork with everyone bar Kim. Rally isn’t something I’m wildly enthusiastic about, but it’s definitely offering some training challenges. I try and remember Silvia Trkman’s attitude to heelwork: “It’s much harder to motivate your dog for long minutes of just heeling. If you want to learn about motivation, obedience is a way to go.

So, my rough sort of goal is to enter a few Rally trials next year, just the local ones. Rio does not find obedience very exciting, but again, see quote. I am trying to make it exciting, and I just liking working with my puppy. Mollie will be able to play as well, since she has great heelwork (she came ready trained), and there is nothing a partially sighted dog can’t do in Rally. Dyl and I are practising as well, but Dylan’s stride is too long for my stumpy legs, we aren’t good partners for heelwork!

I’ve also been working on Rio’s target for boxwork again, we haven’t done anything in months and it’s a bit shaky. Need more hours in the day to do all this training.

Rio Recalls

Rio stepped up to two hurdles this week. You can see what a puppy she still is as she runs, but also what a different kind of movement she has anyway compared to the collies. Border collies (like Dyl) run with a much lower action, head down. Rio will flatten off as she matures and drives forward more, but no where near as much as Dylan does.

We’re still working on a bit of box work at home, and she’ll probably step up to three hurdles in a few weeks, and then four toward the end of the month.

Many thanks to Katie for the video!

The Team

Felt a little bit like I had my own personal team of flyball dogs this week at Thursday training.

Kim and Mollie are both back to competition next weekend in Starters with another of our older but experienced dogs, Lucy, and two of our proper Starter dogs. Mollie was so excited to be back, she ran herself out over 7″ quite quickly but she’s sound and happy today. Kim wasn’t quite as stupid, she doesn’t have the muscle tone for flying over 7″ jumps anymore. She has a weird skipping stride on the way up to the box but I genuinely think it’s a striding issue; she’s spent her entire career running over 11-13″, so suddenly coming back to 7″ after a 6 month break is a bit of a change. She doesn’t have the power to single stride up to the box but she’s trying, hence the weird striding, but coming back it’s a more sedate double stride which looks comfortable and easy.

Dylan looked good, I’m happy with how he’s running at the moment. He has a tendency to revert to his wide turns without the appropriate props but I have no illusions, his current box turn is effectively a retrain and it’s nearly impossible to completely eradicate old habits. He was driving back really nicely though, he loves doing singles runs where I run down the side of the lane. Favourite training game ever!

A quick aside: I was recently surprised when I ended up watching a video of a 10month old flyball dog doing full runs including box turns, within a team of other dogs. I shouldn’t be surprised, but Rio is 10 months next week and she’s no where near that stage. I have absolutely no doubt that she could be; she’s a very fast learner, super smarts, and I’ve been teaching flyball for a long time. But I’m not sure why I’d want to, seeing as I want Ri to stay enthusiastic, confident, and sound.

So, here’s what Rio is doing now, at nearly-10-months. She did her first jump this week!. She’s now being held on the box and then recalling over the first 7″ jump at 15ft, and no further jumps. What I’ll do next Thursday is put the stride regulators in where the second and third jumps would be, and once she’s striding out over those we’ll start adding in the jumps. I’d anticipate her getting to four jumps at 7″ in about 5-6weeks, when she’s 11 months, and then I’ll start bringing her boxwork in.

My rough outline is for her to be able to complete full singles runs over 7″ at 13 months (September), and then start introducing her in a team and head-to-head over the winter to come out in Open at the start of the 2013 summer season when she’ll be 18-20months. But it’s a sketchy kind of plan, Rio’s the one who really sets the pace.

Swallownest May 2012

We stuck with our original lineup for Dylan’s team and it worked well, we were running more consistent times but not nearly as fast as I would like. Chip and Dylan were running just over 10s as a pair pretty much all day, which I was pleased about as a consolation. They’re running over 14″, and taking into account starts and changeovers, must both be running under 5s. We desperately need a height dog as it would drop us from 21-22s times to 19s easily. Dylan’s boxturn was sharp but not perfect, 3 paw hits most of the day, but it was slippy underfoot and he actually fell over completely at one point (nobody but Dyl could capsize on a boxturn) so I know he was just being overcautious. Where is the real summer weather?!

Mollie was slated to run with the top team (our only team to actually have a height dog at the moment) but circumstances meant it was easier for us to run a 4 dog team instead. I was ball collecting and helping Lucy work on her changes (running anchor), and we got it to perfection by the afternoon’s racing. A much better seed time now of 18.83 and the team still have plenty to find in there. I can’t see them breaking 18s with the current lineup, but 18.20 should definitely be possible.

Rio was really well behaved, apart from using people as launch pads or targets. She has a lot of love to share, and apparently that means she needs to sit on your head. Unfortunately she’s figured out that if she launches herself and clings like a limpet to my chest when I’m stood upright, I have to either drop her or pick her up properly. I always pick her up, apparently I’m a soft touch. At which point she usually lays over my shoulder and kisses people, I don’t even know what I have created some days.

She did some great recalls, and we took our dead-toy training on the road. She was foot perfect, including running to the dead tug and then fetching it to me to continue tugging. Progress!

As Mollie didn’t get to do flyball, we took Rio, Mollie, Chip and Fly into one of the crop fields for a run. Wish I’d had my video camera, hilarity ensued and it turns out Chip is quite the sneaky lurcher. Fly didn’t approve, she is a serious and thoughtful kind of girl who does not see the point to silly behaviour.

Drax May Bank Holiday #1

Mollie

We did not have a very successful day at Drax. Mollie’s team chose to go NFC rather than withdraw after super height dog Bails got injured this week. Unfortunately this is a problem with a team consisting primarily of Veteran dogs; if any one of them gets injured, then the whole team struggles. Obviously with a height dog missing it’s even worse! The team did really well anyway, all the dogs looked great and Diva stepped up to run in her first Open setting.

Dylan’s team … the less said about the morning racing the better. We weren’t sure what lineup was going to work best as some dogs either hadn’t been at training or hadn’t been running well at training, so we chose to go with a lineup that (with hindsight) probably wasn’t that great. Dylan was running anchor but by the time I actually let him go we had 1/2 lights already, so with 5 dogs running I think our fastest time was 26s. Disaster. Dylan sat out the next race (against an empty lane) so Bertie could run, and even then the team only clocked 23.03s.

Dylan

We ran a little better in the afternoon, with a 21.18, but I was still quite disappointed. I thought Dylan ran well but 14″ is too much for this four-dog team as a whole, and with some of the dogs lacking fitness and both Chip and Dylan having issues running into/out to Biba, we need a lot more training.

The top team ran better, back into the 18s where they should be, but they were bottom seed so were always going to struggle. Fingers crossed for some better results at Swallownest.

Mollie

Rio was really crazy excited about meeting and greeting. She had to sit in the car for an hour whilst I ringpartied first thing, and I don’t think that helped her out. Having said that, she was really polite with all the other dogs, did everything asked of her, including holding her wait, and spent her time in the exercise area sniffing and trotting around rather than running mad laps. We also spent some time playing the Look at That game as she showed some interest in watching the dogs flyball, possibly because this was the first outdoor tournament we’ve been to. She was very good! Not tired at all today though. There isn’t much of an exercise area at Drax so no where for her to really run or play.

April Showers

Nothing but rain at the moment. I wanted to take the dogs out to Digley for a good walk today but I can’t face getting soaked yet again, so they’re having to make do with a chew instead.

Despite the weather, flyball training was relatively mud-free! Dylan was excellent, I’ve been making an effort to get the stride regulator in for him and it makes such a difference. We did some head-to-head singles which I love, we need to do it more often! It makes Dylan and I work harder, but also allows us to work on individual training issues as well. Not only that, but for Dyl it’s a good way to build his confidence with certain dogs; he was running against Norah, who he finds unpredicatable and scary. Because she was racing in the other lane, there was a comfortable space between them which gave Dylan some confidence, but also let us work on his tolerance for her being around, especially in the runback. His turns were excellent anyway, loads of rotation and better paw placement (his hind paws hitting higher than his front, which is always good to see!)

Kimmy is down for one race at Drax, so she came out to play too. She ran last with loose changeovers, just to get her used to running back with the team (and the team running with her!). No problems, since it’s Kim and she can do this without me, but she struggled on getting home. Stiff hips, and it does break my heart to see her hobbling, but thankfully it’s quite mild and restricted to the first minute after she gets up from a nap. She’s getting dosed up on Yumove for the week leading up to Drax anyway, and hopefully that will allow her to enjoy her brief return to the ring without a problem.

Mollie was rolling, as ever, and Rio did a few recalls off the box. She’s responding to her “ready set go” command now, and we set her on a “loaded” box for the last one, so it triggered as she pushed off. Not that she was bothered … I really need to get on and borrow a chute to start her box training over the summer, I’m not interested in getting her into Starters at 12 months (that sounds crazy to me, to be honest), but if I don’t get on with it now, she won’t be ready until she’s 5.

Tired Bean

Very productive flyball training session today. Although we were working the dogs in each team together, we mainly worked on individual stuff. Dylan did some jump-box-6 jumps back. Which is exhausting for me but really gives him a workout! It also encourages him to chase me back; he has always come back off the box faster than he goes up, but it never hurts to drill his recalls more.

Rio did some recalls off the box with a stride regulator in, which was fun! I love seeing her do this, she’s only 7 months old but it’s a restrained recall with a few props and she does 5 recalls maximum. Her first two were with the stride regulator at 13ft, supposedly adjusted for her puppy stride, but she was having to shorten up a lot for that, so we dropped it at 15ft and that worked perfectly. I’m very happy with this method of training so far as Rio already understands her “ready set go”, pushes off the box and is starting to stride properly. That’s with maybe 15 recalls in total and no equipment other than the box to push from.

Mollie did some recalls and looked sound as a bell, I’m so pleased that she’s back on her feet. We can’t be 100% sure what the lump in her muscle is without going in (which we don’t want to do if we can help it!) but it is leaning towards being scar tissue with the way she’s recovered. It was good to see Bailey is back on form as well after last weekend!

7 Months

After we got home from flyball, Rio and I toodled up to Springers Spring Fling. This show is just up the road from me but I didn’t want to enter Dylan in anything before our big 3-day at Easter. It’s also a bit awkward as I didn’t leave this club amiably all those years ago, although I’m still friends with a lot of people who train there. But I wanted to support some of our training buddies, and it was a good opportunity to take Rio to a show and focus on her alone.

Our friends all did great, and Rio enjoyed her meet-and-greet! She did freak out at the tannoy a little bit, but as soon as it stopped she forgot about it and resumed her bouncy explorations. She also met the adorable Eddie Beagle, who is a month younger than Rio and can kick her ass in play-games already. What a star! Of course, nobody could believe Rio is an Aussie, but she doesn’t look like one at the moment so maybe I can forgive them. She was exhausted by the end of the afternoon, flyball and a show in one day is tiring stuff.

She’s going tent shopping and then to Pets at Home tomorrow with Kim, somehow my weekends off end up busier than the weekends I’m competing!

Pre-Drax Flyball Training

Mollie came back from her walk on Thursday looking a little bit lame, nothing drastically unusual as Mollie has no body awareness or respect for things like walls, trees, solid banks of earth, so she does occasionally come back a little stiff from her walks. Unfortunately, one recall and one run at flyball training this morning proved that it’s not a little stiffness and is looking like a muscle injury. Being the panic-stricken pessimist that I am when it comes to injuries, I immediately assume it’s a horrific injury like a cruciate or iliopsoas tear, because I have been waiting for one of those two to happen for years and it’s my worst nightmare.

Vet check Monday, anyway.

Dylan looked wonderful. I can’t stop talking about his adjustment because it’s been so noticeable; even little things like how much tighter he is off the box. We assumed he was going wide as he was slipping into old habits, but apparently not. He was so much more relaxed at training anyway as he was running with dogs he trusts (and had someone he knows well on the box!), bar a re-introduction to Biba. Dylan has known Biba since they were puppies, they’ve grown up together. But he hasn’t run in the same team as her for 6 months and hasn’t seen her since last December. First run, Biba into Dylan, Dylan bails 2 hurdles out with his “oh hell no, Beardies!” expression on. I was so unsurprised. (He has a special expression for Beardies. They’re so unpredictable and weird).

Once he realised who it was, he was happier, and he was even happier still when we put Buddy in as a buffer between Biba and Dyl. It also makes me happy too when people listen to me, as I have been adamant that this season, Dylan needs to run with the same dogs as he is getting too stressed about switching between teams. It may not be easy to spot, especially if you don’t know Dyl, but I am running him, holding his harness and on the other end of the tug, and I know my dog. No stress for Dylan unless unavoidable, please.

Kim got to play a little too, racing Norah, and so she was happy as well. And Rio got to do a few flat recalls off the box! She’s actually pushing off the box now which is great, and right now she’s a crazy little speedster as well. Hopefully we’ll keep all the enthusiasm and speed as she grows up!

Muddy Puppies

Hate this time of year, our flyball training field isn’t bad for draining but there is only so much time for water to go away! The mud is awful, lots of bathed dogs and very short sessions.

Dylan hasn’t flyballed since the beginning of December, so we were a little out of practice. Got some boxwork warmups done before running at least. He’s running without a height dog in our next tournament at Drax, which is just one of those things we can’t do much about at the moment as my height dog (Kim!) is retired, and the other two are being used by the other two teams. One of those things, eh. We are in a different team again, but here I can run Dylan anchor for the most part, and he’s running with dogs who have impeccable temperaments and that we are both utterly comfortable with. Unfortunately I only have two more training sessions to get my changeovers perfect despite the competition being at the end of March, but I think Dylan will feel confident about running with these dogs.

I’m also running Bailey at Drax so we had a practise, not that it’s hard to run Bailey – a small, noisy, terrier-esque bitch with strong opinions, I wonder why it’s easy?! – and as I’m changing into Mollie I think we’ll be ok.

It was nice to be at flyball and actually running a dog again!