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What we're working on right now is the beginning stages of a flyball box turn using a target stick and a "wall" - a board that starts out flat on the ground so the dog is jumping over a prop onto it and back again, and then we start increasing the angle all the way up to completely vertical. At this point, we want the dog to be up as high on the board and as horizontal as possible, with good rotation driving off. Target stick training is done first, and then used here as an extension of your arm, to direct the dog's head where you want it to be. Later, we'll add a ball to the board, but we want a nice, consistent turn first because the ball is an added distraction that will cause the turn to degrade a bit. This was in the backyard last weekend:


We're working on it at practice too, but it's something I can actually do with her at home by myself so I try to do some box training a couple of times a week on my own. Most other things require other people and dogs, so those exercises we can only do at practice, like this restrained recall with Trix last Saturday:


Usually we do opposite direction recalls like this on the flat (no jumps), staggering the release of the two dogs at first, and gradually decreasing the distance between them until they're running right past each other like they would in a passing situation during a race. Cava is super social and had some trouble with that because she really wanted to go meet the other dog, but she's very committed to the jumps, so we decided to do basically the same exercise but going over the jumps instead of on the flat. We've been moving the lanes closer together, and also removing the wings on the jumps, gates between the lanes, and human blockers in the runback area to discourage crossing over. In a race, the jumps would be 10 feet apart, here they are much closer, maybe 2 or 3 feet.
 

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Thanks, Steve. We're a ways from doing full runs, so it's hard to say. I was hoping by the end of the year but there are so many fewer tournaments in our region than there used to be, so probably not until sometime next year. I waited until she was 15 months old before even starting to work on a box turn because I wanted her bones and joints fully developed first. We got off to a slow start with box work because she gets on the field at practice and she wants to RUN. Slow, thinking stuff like working with a target stick she finds boring, lol. But last weekend we used a tossed tennis ball as her reward and it really seems to be clicking so I'm hoping we'll be able to do more of it going forward and she'll progress faster. I also took her and the target stick to a park last week and worked with her on a long line, just having her touch the end with her nose, then marking and tossing the ball. It was a more distracting place than at home but not as much as practice and she stayed really engaged with me, so I need to do more of that.

NAFA only does team racing, but U-Fli also does singles and doubles racing. Dogs don't earn any points except for team racing, but in singles she would get an official time listed on their website, which would be cool. My former club only did team racing, so I never did singles with Halo but I will with Cava. It's a good way to ease a green dog into racing. We would run her against one of our own team dogs in the other lane. Right now, the fastest GSD in U-Fli is Legend, who belonged to board member Liesje. The time to beat is 3.984 seconds. Halo's best time was 4.319 but I think Cava will be faster, since we do a lot more work now on tighter, faster turns than we did back when Halo was new to the sport. A wide turn can easily lose several tenths of a second.
 

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I'm always guilty of rushing and missing those kind of details that cost time/points.
I've seen dogs in the ring that had no business racing yet, but our team is very good about making sure we don't push our dogs past the point where we're pretty sure they can succeed. My teammate Mollie is excellent at breaking down everything into tiny pieces and gradually making it more difficult as the dog shows it's ready for more of a challenge, and then we start putting those pieces together.

It's a little different with a team sport, since failure to complete a full run at a tournament not only affects that dog, every other dog racing on that team will also lose points. I can't just decide my dog is ready to debut, the the club needs to think she's ready before they'll even list her on a team. Nobody wants their dog racing on a team that isn't going to earn any points! And once Cava is listed on a team there's no guarantee she'll get to race, she'll have to be able successfully complete a full run in the warmup period before before she'll be allowed to take a heat.

At Halo's first tournament she was scheduled to do one (of 4) heats in 5 races each day. She blew the warmup in the first three races on Saturday so it wasn't until her 4th and then 5th races that she got to do a heat, and then she blew the first two warmups on Sunday too. Instead of 10 heats all weekend she ended up doing 7, only because in her last two races on Sunday she got to stay in for a second heat. By her second tournament she was doing all 4 heats in several races each day.
 
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