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.

Training x2

Agility = good! Dyl’s seesaw is looking great after our confidence building sessions. I’ve lost the stop on the end but I don’t really care, Dylan isn’t brave enough to fly it and it’s faster. If we need it back later we can work on it, I’m sure. I also worked on 180 pull-thrus, because I hate training them.

I’ve also realised I have a tendency to choose exercises where the dog is on my right. I’m right handed so that’s not really a surprise, but I should try and plan exercises and courses for the left as it’s becoming a weakness.

Flyball = good! The girls were both a bit bonkers; Mollie did a few re-runs that she shouldn’t and Kim has apparently decided she should always run lead, as every time I turned around she’d lined herself up at 25ft, very pointedly ignoring the dogs behind her. Dyl actually looked good over 14″, he did run lead and his striding was excellent. We put a regulator in approaching the box to make him extend into his turn which worked really well, I’ve got to get back to doing that more regularly.

Midweek

Gentle introduction back to Wednesday night flyball training this week, Kim did five minutes of teacher-dog work with the starters and then Dylan did five minutes of boxwork. He is getting better and he is trying very hard, and hopefully if we can secure an upright/flat fronted box in the next few months we can start retraining over the winter. Mollie did ten minutes of crazy eyes interference, because she’s a bad dog.

After we were done with the flyball, Kim and Dylan both had their backs done by Kath the lovely chiropractor. Dylan needed more work than Kim, but neither had really major adjustments so they’re only down for a couple of days and should be fine for the weekend. Kim just needed some minor tweaks to her back, but really did need her hamstrings working on. That has probably been contributing to her lack of jumping power over the past month or so. Dyl has never needed an adjustment before, so it was a new experience for him! I think he found it quite relaxing once he realised that he wasn’t going to be allowed to join Bailey and Roxy in their football game and just had to stand still. We’ll see if it makes a difference to his agility next week!

Mollie, being built like a tank, is absolutely fine. She inflicts damage on others – dogs, people, flyball jumps, trees, dry stone walls. Quite a lot like a tank, really, she has the “through things, not around things” mentality.

It also looks like we might have found a new hydrotherapy pool, which would be really great for the collies if we can make it. It’s quite a trek to get there unfortunately but good hydro pools are hard to find. It’s not as important in the summer when the dogs can swim in the reservoirs (supervised, nobody panic!) and mill ponds, but getting somewhere sorted for the winter will be great.

Rocket Relay Seminar

I haven’t updated the blog for a while and it’s not because I have too little to say! I’ve had a very busy couple of weeks with and without the dogs, including the Rocket Relay seminar last weekend (organised by Katie and Kristian from http://www.flyballfever.co.uk/).

I don’t think I’ve learnt so much from one weekend as I did from Kelly and Aaron. Some things I already knew but hadn’t tried, some things I have tried before, and some things were brand new. I’ve been working hard with Kim and Dylan on their ball obsession since we got back! I’ve also done a little target work with both because we are hopefully going to be getting an upright box this summer and I think this will be a good way of switching them both over. Mollie hasn’t done anything because I’m afraid I don’t think anything will ever cure her ball obsession!

It was very interesting how much overlap there was for agility in terms of motivation and the approach to reward and not rewarding. It was also really refreshing how nobody felt the need to debate the positive/negative rewards, because it seems like this is all that gets discussed sometimes in agility. There’s so much focus on training systems and how to train “correctly” that people seem to either be about manipulating their dog into doing something, or stopping their dog manipulating them, and forget about their dogs being actual beings with working brains! So it was nice to hear some straightforward discussion that still respected the dog and the dog’s intelligence.

Reflecting on a lot of what they said about the way their team is structured and run, because I find it very hard in flyball to maintain my motivation and enthusiasm. I talk a lot about points here but what I actually want from flyball is direct competitive racing, where the team is working in unison to full potential and accordingly kicking ass! I don’t think I can go into our team politics here without giving the wrong impression, but it has given me a lot to think about.

Gap Farm February 11

Excellent flyballing, some very good racing.

Dylan was on brilliant form, the specialised training we’ve been doing recently has been hugely and noticably beneficial for him and a few of the other dogs. It was very cool to see real results so quickly! His boxturn wasn’t brilliant, he is coming away much sharper now rather than turning wide, but he isn’t executing the swimmer’s turn as he should be.

Dylan was also very confident as he was running with his best girls Kim and Jet, and his old Labrador friends Buddy and Lucy. All dogs he feels very comfortable with! Kim wasn’t quite on her usual form, I’m beginning to think that the Gap Farm matting just doesn’t suit her, she never seems to run at her best there. She’s unusual in that respect as I think most teams have found that their teams run equal or better times on the matting. Kim has always prefered very hard ground though, like sports halls or sun-baked turf, so maybe I shouldn’t be too surprised. She brought the hurdle height down for the others though, so it was worth keeping her in that team.

Mollie unfortunately drew the short straw. We knew she was going to be unfit and really needed the spot in the bottom team, who ended up running in the second arena. It was more dimly lit than the main arena and although it was perfectly fine for most dogs, Mollie really struggled to see. It was exactly the kind of light she has the most difficulty with, a kind of muted half-light with deep shadows but no real bright spots. She ended up interfering a few times simply because she lost my mother, and she kept mistaking various non-ball objects for balls which caused some chaos as well. We are just going to have to pull her if the team ends up in that arena again, although I think by this time next year it’s unlikely Mol will be running indoors at all as her eyesight will have deteriorated further by then.

Next flyball at the end of March, plenty of time to get Mollie back up to fitness and hopefully work a little more on Dylan’s box.

Training in the Rain

The dogs and I had a fun session yesterday evening training in the rain! “Proper” training was cancelled so we lugged two jumps and the flyball box (and hurdle) to the park for a bit of an inpromptu training session with all three dogs. I think it’s good for the dogs to train in wet conditions as the chances are they’ll have to compete in it.

Dylan’s pull throughs and (push) outs are really improving, he has a strong out command and he’s beginning to understand the concept of a pull through. It’s hard for me to get my handling right because he doesn’t like me being in his jumping space, or the area about a metre in front or behind the pole, so I have to stand well back and try and direct him from there, which is a very new technique for me! We did get some nice figure-of-eights and two-jump-drill stuff done, which was good.

Kim and I are finally beginning to get back in tune. It feels like I’ve been so focussed on Dylan that I’d forgotten all the little tricks and quirks Kim and I have to ensure she’s working at her best. I rediscovered her in command last weekend, I don’t know why I stopped using it! In just means come towards me through the obstacles without jumping them until we get to where we want to be. It’s very useful, means I can do pull-thrus without having to handle at all! She has a very strong in command, just like her out command (lots of jump box training when she was younger!) but I haven’t used it for ages, I just kept trying to handle it like “real” handlers handle it, which I should know by now is not the way to handle Kim.

Mollie also got to play for a while, until she got silly and started trying to jump the wings and knocked everything over. She’s so much fun, she gives everything 200% and she has some fab tight turns over the jumps! Since she’d demolished my jumps I figured we should get the flyball stuff out, so the dogs got to practise their turns for the weekend.

Dylan did a couple without any aids and he is improving, slowly but surely. Maybe after another year of Starters and training aids we might finally get to see the wicked fast swimmer’s turn that I know he has lurking! We threw the jump back in towards the end because he was getting lazy with his back end, but it was an improvement, so maybe there is hope yet.

Kim and Mollie had fun playing flyball too, even if they didn’t wholly approve. (It’s not proper flyball if it’s not got four jumps and two teams!) I messed about with Kim and did some turnarounds with her, which she used to be awesome at and apparently still is! She used to run anchor dog after a bad collision with another dog in her team, so a fast turnaround used to come in handy, but as we run third now it’s unlikely she’ll ever need that again. Still, it’s always fun to play with!

My dogs are Melting

Mollie cooling off in the river

It’s really very hot here right now. I hope it cools down a bit for the weekend, but the BBC are cheerfully informing us of all the nice sunny weather we have to look forward to. Really not great for Mollie! The weather seems to have induced all the dogs to blow their coats, so the garden is currently covered in giant Mollie-hair tumbleweeds.

Dylan has been doing a bit more boxwork this week, we’ve made a huge amount of progress in the past 7 days. The jump has really worked for him, he’s snapping around a lot faster. I’m now releasing him from 40/50ft away from the box and we didn’t have a single mistake last time. It looks like we’ve hit 100% on this stage of training! We’re going to the park again tonight and, depending on how it goes, I might try phasing out the cone a smidge towards the end of the session. I really want him to be able to do this, but equally I really don’t want to rush him. He has plenty of opportunities for Starters comps yet and I’m not sure I’m mentally prepared for running him in Open at the moment. Too much to worry about!

He was also a lot better at agility this week, the course we were working over was a lot more suited to him. Dylan definitely has a preference for certain obstacles — weaves are a big favourite, and contacts, of course! — much like Kim really, so perhaps it’s actually me. Tunnels are at the bottom of the list at the moment, not sure why but he’s just not a big fan. Really pleased with his weave entries too, he’s picking them up nicely and I feel like although I’m helping him out sometimes, I’m not babying him at the moment.

Kim seems to be coming around a bit now, she’s still a bit lethargic but I’m not sure whether to put it down to all the sunny weather. She’s also sneezing a lot when we go out for walks so maybe it’s hayfever; I seem to remember something similar happened to her a couple of years ago because of the sudden pollen increase, but I may be making that up. Can dogs get hayfever? She had a bit of agility training, really just for me to assess how she’s doing. She was sassing me some around the course so she’s obviously feeling a bit better! I’ll skip training with her next week and then see how we go.

Finally, the dogs found a football yesterday. It was floating innocently in the river, and created something akin to a feeding frenzy. I had to carry it home with me because they would not leave it. They wouldn’t even leave it to play with Alfie, and they love Alfie. (One day, Alfie will get his own special post of awesome). The football is now the most treasured possession of whoever gets to it first. Footballs don’t usually last this long, Mollie has some kind of ball-vampire-ism thing but unfortunately this football seems immune.

Sodding Dog!

Well, after all my frustration with Dylan earlier this week, the bloody dog turns out to be a genius!

Ok, that might be a bit of an exaggeration. But it’s amazing how a good training session can turn everything around again. We finally got around to doing a bit more boxwork this week, and I can only say a big thank you to Vicky as her good advice seems to have worked. We haven’t touched the box for 10 days or so, but it was such a nice evening we decided to give it a go.

We started off doing some reps around the cone and he was doing fantastically, really powering off the box. I had my mum stand in as “boxloader” – no ball but she was setting the spring as though there was so we could check he was triggering it properly. Thrilled to bits with him! Julie and I were discussing last time about perhaps replacing his cone with a low jump in front of the box, as Murphy has, to encourage him to snap off it faster. I’d been giving this idea a lot of thought and really liked it, as I think it’s easier to phase out a jump than a cone and it would really be encouraging Dylan to do the turn independently.

So tonight we set up a jump in front of the box, loaded it up and gave it a shot! Dylan took to it like a pro! I’m so proud of him, he was snapping off it much faster and he was getting all four paws on the box still to push off. We’re still using the stiff Canadian box, which will only trigger with a really forceful bounce. Dylan has never really used the Canadian box until we brought it home 2 weeks ago and so I’m very pleased with the progress.

We finished by giving Mollie a couple of reps. As I may have mentioned, Mollie is a flyball fanatic, and she has the frothing-at-the-mouth to prove it. We left the aids in front of the box and she demolished them every single time, and then again when she went back to show my mum her ball. It’s always fun to run the Mol! As always, I wish we’d taught her from a pup as she has a wicked-fast turn when there isn’t a ball-loaded and she could easily knock .3/4 off her Singles times. Equally, I would have loved to have seen Mollie flyballing in her prime as a 3 year old — she runs 4.9 Singles times at 9 years old, with a terrible box turn — can you imagine the speed she could have turned on with young muscles and smooth joints in her legs!?

Don’t expect I’ll get chance to post again until after Shrewsbury, so wish us luck and I’ll write you a nice long boring report afterwards.

Swimmers Turn and a Lack of Enthusiasm

I thought Dylan might actually be tired today, considering how completely nutty he was at training yesterday, but apparently not. Even more surprising, Kim also was not tired at all, and was throwing toys at my head last night whilst I was trying to sleep. Apparently my dogs are a lot fitter than I am!

This post was going to include one of the most boring videos of Dylan you would ever see, but in the end I couldn’t bring myself to edit it — it was that dull. We brought the spare box home from flyball this weekend with the intention of working on Dylan’s swimmers turn, and I got the box out on Monday evening. It was not a good training session for us; I did 10 or so reps and then called it. I filmed all our reps to check he was getting the action that I wanted him to, but Dylan was not motivated, and I couldn’t motivate myself to make it exciting.

The problem is that I find myself getting immediately frustrated as soon as we start. Mainly with myself, of course, because I can’t see why he can’t get it. Dylan has been working on his turn since last October (with 6 weeks off over Christmas) and has done thousand of reps. He can do this turn, he does 85% of the time. But I can’t get it 100% and I can’t understand what is different on that other 15% that makes him do mess it up so badly. And because I’m so frustrated I can’t get excited or relax, which rubs off on him.

I’m going to leave it for the rest of this week and concentrate on the agility competition this weekend (which I am so excited about!). I’ll think on it and probably have a chat to Julie, and then I’ll start again next week and see how we go. Wish me luck!

Flyball Training

We had a pretty good session this morning, and the weather was fantastic for once!

None of our dogs have flyballed since Sheffield, and Dylan hasn’t done anything since Dec 29th. Unfortunately it really showed today, for our first session all his boxwork just went completely out of the window. He did one nice turn and then decided that he wanted to turn in the opposite direction, and it all just went downhill from there. He pulled it back a bit in the second session and was turning the right way again, but it still needs a lot of work. I now have one of the boxes at home in our conservatory to practise with this week, which means I probably won’t get as much agility done.

We did have some positives – he was running second into Amber and neither of them were at all bothered by doing close changes, which was great! We just have to work on bringing Chip in closer after Dylan, but we have a couple of weeks yet.

Kim and Mollie ran really well, although Mollie’s a bit stiff now we’re home and dry. She hasn’t done 13″ jumps for a while, but we know she needs to build up her stamina. It was also nice to practise running Kim into Mollie too, it’s not a combination we use very often but now Mollie is running more with Barking Owlers it’s more likely to crop up. We have a long break from tournaments until Carlton Towers, but it’s good to get some proper practice in!