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Last weekend Halo and I went to a flyball seminar by Touch N Go, the U-Fli world record holders. They're out of Las Vegas, but the seminar was hosted by a club in Northern California, about 3 hours from me. The schedule was puppies and green dogs on Friday, box work and striding on Saturday, and advanced on Sunday, fine tuning dogs who are able to complete the course. They had working spots available for all three days, and also audit spots.

Halo has been racing on a team for just over a year so we could have gone either Saturday or Sunday, but since box work and striding were the things I wanted to work on anyway, I signed up for Saturday. At the time (several months ago) I didn't realize this was Mother's Day weekend, so I was glad that I picked Saturday! There were 20 or 21 dogs with working spots, and our club had 6 dogs there, so more than 1/3 were ours. One of my teammates also audited Friday, and a couple audited Sunday as well so we should have tons of great new info to use.

Saturday started with an explanation of how their team works, and how they begin to teach a box turn. They demonstrated the steps with a couple of dogs, including my teammate Mollie's border collie puppy Ninja, who does a fantastic wall turn and was recently transitioned to the box, but is not yet carrying the ball back over all the jumps. All of us were expected to help out, and to watch and learn even when our own dogs were not working, participating by taking notes, videotaping, counting the number of strides, etc. As they said, even if your dog isn't having a particular problem your next dog might, or another dog in your club, and they wanted to give us the skills to take back to everyone else in the club.

They had 2 lanes set up, and there were 4 members of TNG there, so two of them worked with the dogs in each lane. The dogs were grouped so that they were paired against other dogs of similar skill level. For those that were in the early stages of training or were not yet able to focus and work with a dog working in the lane next to them, they'd bring out a calm, quiet dog to just hang out in the other lane at first, and then work up to having the other dog do a restrained recall to increase the distraction level.

Each dog came out twice - once in the morning to do close up box work, and then for those that could complete a full run, in the afternoon we'd pop them off the box a time or two to continue what we were doing in the earlier session, then do a side by side restrained recall, then some full runs to work on striding. For dogs that were not yet doing full runs, there was more box work, and striding on the runback, doing restrained recalls.

The things I wanted to work on were getting the right number of strides between the jump and the box and then back from the box to the jump, a higher, tighter turn with more "whip" off the box, and she's been having a launching problem at the start/finish line, with an early takeoff for the first jump. She also sometimes bobbles the ball. Striding is so important, because if she's taking off several feet in front of the start line, she lands short over the first jump and each successive jump, which affects how she hits the box, which can determine whether or not she gets a clean catch of the ball. Ideally, dogs will take 3 strides into the box and 3 strides off the box, so that's what people are usually striving for. Some little dogs will even take 4 strides, and larger dogs will sometimes take 2 strides.

Halo's box session went really well. The main problem was getting her to out the tennis ball for her tug after she came off the box. They commented that I seemed hesitant with the tug, and suggested wearing gloves. But Halo actually targets the tug well, and I'm not afraid of getting bit (well, not anymore :wild: ), my hesitation was that I couldn't tug with her until she dropped the ball and actually grabbed the tug, so we talked about using a deeper, more commanding tone of voice, and that I cue her to drop the ball immediately after I call her name. That's really only a problem when we're working up close - in full runs she only occasionally rarely hangs onto the ball too long before grabbing the tug, although she doesn't always out the tug right away. They said she "has a very nice turn" :happyboogie:, but we do need to use striding bumps at practice and in warmups to make sure that she gets the striding right so she doesn't hit the box low.

For the afternoon session we switched lanes, so Halo and I were working with the other two TNG members. I warned them that she's a launcher, so they used a stride bump a few feet from the start line to get her to take an extra step before taking the first jump. They decided that because she's a "big" dog (for flyball anyway, she's only 57/58 pounds), 2 strides in and 2 strides out from the box were more natural for her, so we didn't need to try and make her take a 3rd step. But they did put in a stride bump on the go-out at 6 feet in front of the box to determine where those 2 strides landed. If she takes those 2 strides shorter (or lands short on the jump because she launched over the start line), she has to launch to the box, which affects her height and foot placement, and whether her mouth is where it needs to be to catch the ball cleanly.

Overall, I was very pleased with how Halo did, and especially with the positive comments I got from the TNG people. Of course Halo was the only German shepherd there, and she's been the only one at all the tournaments she's been in too, but they seemed to really like her. One of them did say "that's a lot of dog". :wild: It was a great experience and I'd definitely do it again. Each dog got their own sheet at the end, with notes about what to work on and a diagram of the props and bumps. We shot a lot of video, but it may take awhile to get it all uploaded so I don't know when I'll actually get to see it. TNG is also particular about not posting it publicly, they allow people to video for their own use and for their club, they do not want to come across it on youtube, so I won't be able to post it here anyway.
 

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Awesome! Thanks for sharing!

So just to be sure...they had her doing two strides with one prop to help her? My club has been trying to get all the dogs to triple stride and obviously getting nowhere with Nikon so tomorrow I was intending to suggest we forget trying to force him to triple stride using two bumps and focus on placing *one* bump in the optimal place.

Do you know if they give seminars all over? One of our teammates went to one in Canada I think and she came back with sheets for her dogs and and armful of new props we're now using to help some of the younger dogs. I can't remember what team was giving the seminar though.
 

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Glad I popped in today to read this! I like these kinds of reports, especially since I don't do any of it. It gives me a sense of all the different ones, and I can live vicariously through you. ;)

Halo is a "Lot of dog" but her owner is a "Lot of Owner", too. :D
 

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So just to be sure...they had her doing two strides with one prop to help her? My club has been trying to get all the dogs to triple stride and obviously getting nowhere with Nikon so tomorrow I was intending to suggest we forget trying to force him to triple stride using two bumps and focus on placing *one* bump in the optimal place.
Yes - we had a 9" high prop in front of the box, and one stride bump. They call the bump used on the go-out to the box the "go bump", (placement is measured from the box) and the one on the return from the box the "return bump" (measured from the jump). Not all dogs need bumps, and for those that do, some only need a GB, others only need an RB. Additionally, Halo needs a "launch bump" at the start/finish because she takes off early. Anything prior to the line is early, but at least 6-12" past the line is better, and best would be somewhere about halfway between the line and the jump..

Dogs are faster running on the ground than they are flying through the air, so getting them to take more steps is always good, with the exception of striding between the last jump and the box. If Halo is fine with 2 strides in each direction, then Nikon for sure is. But they didn't just look at her and say oh, a big dog - don't worry about 3 strides, they watched her run, and felt like what she was doing was more natural for her and there would be no benefit in trying to force 3 strides. But the placement of those 2 strides is important, and you may need to figure out if he needs either a GB or an RB or both, and exactly where they should be. It takes a lot of extra people to use bumps because you've got to slide them in and out very quickly, and if you need both it's hard for the same person to do it all.

Do you know if they give seminars all over? One of our teammates went to one in Canada I think and she came back with sheets for her dogs and and armful of new props we're now using to help some of the younger dogs. I can't remember what team was giving the seminar though.
Lies, you can check their website - I'm sure they have a schedule of upcoming seminars.
 

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Oh, one other thing I remembered - for working on rotation we sometimes use a side gutter. The one we have is much too long, theirs is only 2 or 3 feet (we're going to have them measure it so we can cut ours down). They said if you use a long gutter the dog sometimes uses the end of it as a visual cue of where to take off from, which results in an early jump and a launch to the box, causing them to hit low.
 

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Very interesting! Thanks for sharing, I was wondering when it was you were taking this seminar. (I remember you mentioned it a while ago.) The stride bump 6' from the box was the exact same thing we did for Odin when he was first starting out :) It worked really well for him.
 

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Lies, here are some pictures that might be helpful - our basic prop in front of the box is the 6" high slat with uprights. When we say "a prop", that's what we're referring to. We use that for every dog in the club, with height adjustments and sometimes other things added for particular dogs. The 6" slat is what we use for warmups at a tournament when you can't be doing a custom prop for every dog in the lineup. We also have a 4", a 2" and a couple of 1" slats to increase the height, if necessary, and a foam bumper. The first picture is the prop setup that we were using for Halo's box work at practice a few weeks ago - it's 10" high, with a go bump at 5 ft from the box.



This picture is from the following week, it looks like we've raised it to 11" high, and there's also a side gutter - that's what they said is too long:



They lowered the prop to 9" (when you add distance you need to lower the prop, for box work where you're starting close, it can be higher), and moved the go bump back a foot.
 

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Kristi, Lies already knows this because I mentioned it on Facebook, but they also had issues with our box. We actually have 3 boxes, but only had one with us, but I'm sure it's the same with all of them. There's too much travel time between the thruster and the ball, which could be causing the larger dogs to bobble and the small dogs to stick. They hit the box but have to wait for the ball to come out. With their boxes the distance is between 1/4" and 1/2", and they said it should NEVER be more than 1/2". I'm not sure exactly what ours is, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's at least double that, so we need to do some maintenance work. You can see in the pictures that the holes aren't flush with the face either, which they should be.

There was another club there that had such a bad box that the TNG people said they should just burn it and get another one! :wild:
 

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It's funny that you mention that. We just had a new (experienced, just new to us) person join our team and she said that we needed to tighten up our triggers, she helped us tighten everything up a couple weeks ago. Kinda screwed up some of the little dogs for a bit but our big fast dogs took to it well.

It will be interesting to see if Odin speeds up anymore at our second tournament next weekend. :) I think he also needs help with take off for the first jump. I think he's leaving late, but we will have to get some video to tell for sure. We were crazy short handed at our last tournament and the last few practices have been mostly spent working on green dogs and my bad passing;)
 

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I had to lower Nikons jumpboard recently because when he turns his head is a bit high for my liking. Now that his turn is nice and basically muscle memory he doesn't need a tall prop anymore. Someone on my team has been putting in a "bump" for him on the way back. I'm not exactly sure where his is (she marks it on our mats) but we're trying to get him to stride consistently and not take off too early on his way back. She had been trying to get him to triple stride but it's just not going to work with his length. All it does is make him stutter step and slow down. However she did the same work with her dog (getting his head down through the turn and forcing a triple stride) and he's gone from a 4.2-4.4 dog to a 4.0-4.2 dog. He is "square" shaped though so he can fit in the third stride.
 

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I think he also needs help with take off for the first jump. I think he's leaving late, but we will have to get some video to tell for sure. We were crazy short handed at our last tournament and the last few practices have been mostly spent working on green dogs and my bad passing;)
Late up to a point is probably okay, it's early that's usually the problem. I think anywhere in the middle third of the space between the S/F line and the first jump is okay, but Halo was taking off like 5 or 6 feet in front of the line at the tournament before last! She was passing into a little JRT who is rock solid and totally used to big dogs - Halo often runs behind her at tournaments, but with the early takeoff and Halo launching at her it was starting to freak Xena out, causing her to slow down and me to have two early passes, even when I backed up 5 feet. We've been using a launch bump at the last few practices, and had enough people to put one in for her during the warmups at the last tournament too. We switched the lineup for that tournament and ran her second, into a cattle dog, with Xena running third, which also helped. Page isn't very big either, but she's about twice Xena's size, and her darker coloring gives her more contrast against the white jumps. That actually makes it easier for me, too - a little white dog going over white jumps 80 feet away......, no wonder my timing sucks sometimes, lol. :wild:

I was watching the striding for a few dogs on Saturday, they'd have several of us watching each lane, and then after the run they'd ask us where the dog took off from. One of our dogs was taking off perfectly, and really consistently too, Chauncey was within the same couple of inches in several successive runs, and then she launched from the start line on one run. It's sometimes hard for me to count strides at the box, but it was pretty easy to see the takeoff point at the start. If you just station someone there when you're working on passes you should be able to get an idea where he's jumping from.

TNG believes in ALWAYS using props and bumps when you can, since you can't during a race. They say a box turn is never done, it's always a work in process, and during a race when you can't use props even the best most experienced dogs' turns will start to deteriorate. They joke that each tournament sets them back several months of training to get back where they started from.
 

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I had to lower Nikons jumpboard recently because when he turns his head is a bit high for my liking. Now that his turn is nice and basically muscle memory he doesn't need a tall prop anymore.
One thing they were doing that was kind of cool is for dogs whose front end is good but the back end is a little low (they refer to them as lead butts :rofl:), they had someone stand at the side of the prop and lift up the butt side an inch or two as the dog went into the box and then drop it for the push off. I really liked seeing all the little tweaks they would do for each dog in order to get the best out of them.
 
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