Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Flying Squeewok

This upcoming weekend, one week from today, Cocoa will be making her preflight debut.  I can't believe she's only been in flyball training for just about 3 months...

Today she had her first full run in practice.  Can't wait to see her in action at a tournament setting!!


Later this week I will be introducing a new feature to this blog.  We're calling it The Noob's Guide to Flyball.  Don't miss it, it's a hilarious look at a friend's first flyball tournament and I'm hoping we can turn his adventures into a book!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

So You Want To Do Flyball...

When I was applying for my first Border Collie back in 2007, I did some research on local training facilities and dog sport options. I had a couple online friends who competed in Flyball and it looked like a lot of fun. There was a nearby team and I vowed to check it out when I brought my dog home.

Well, then Qwill was diagnosed with hip dysplasia, Shiner a broken pelvis, and Trophy was only 4 months old when I moved back to Ohio.

Trophy was 3 (well 2 years 9 months) when we finally made the jump and attended our first Flyball practice. There is so much I wish I had known back then that I know now, so if you've ever thought about trying out Flyball this is the post for you!

1. Terminology

  • a Flyball tournament is made up of head to head RACEs between two teams.
  • Races are made up of 3 to 5 matches called HEATS.
  • The order your dogs will run in is called THE LINE UP.
  • The first dog in the line up is called the START DOG.
  • The last dog is called the ANCHOR DOG
  • The middle area of the Flyball course where the dogs run is called the LANE.
  • The area behind the start line where your team lines up is called the RUN BACK.
  • If the dog coming onto the course crosses the start line before the dog completing the course has crossed the start line it is a BAD PASS.
  • If a dog or owner makes a mistake such as running around jumps, not picking up the ball, dropping the ball before crossing the finish line, owners hand or toy crosses any part of the finish line, bad passes, etc, it is called a FLAG and the dog is said to HAVE FLAGGED.
  • When a dog flags they must rerun the course after the rest of the dogs on the team complete on order to finish the race and get a time. If more than one dog flags both must rerun in the correct order or you get a NO FINISH and no points.

View of the RUNBACK of our START DOG running down the LANE. :)

2. Most Likely You Are Going To Become Addicted
For me this meant that after being in the sport less than three years I would go from 1 competing dog to 3 competing dogs and a puppy in training, get no less than 2 of my friends helplessly addicted (one if whom doesn't even have a dog-he runs Demo for me), own my team and run my own beginners classes. Your millage may vary. You should, however, be prepared to bond with your team, your dog, and find yourself wishing it was a Flyball weekend at the very lowest end of the "Flyball addiction" spectrum.

Trophy and I hanging out between races at his first tournament. Back when I knew so little and I'm lucky I remembered to bring him a water bowl...

3. There Is Lots Of Homework
If you go into a Flyball class expecting to not have to work your dog at home you will be able to eventually compete, but it is going to take exponentially longer. Trophy took 5 months to train, Pan 6, Demo 10. With all of them I took props and boards home to practice. If you do no work at home plan on it taking over a year to get your dog at competition level.

Demo would have not made his debut at CanAm2012 without lots of practice reps in our hallway.

4. Find A Team You Mesh With
There are lots of reasons why people play Flyball. The two most popular being for points and to be the fastest.

Teams that run to be fast are often going for regional championships, out they are running for the accolades of being the fastest ranked team, and still others run to set world records. They have a truly competitive spirit and are always pushing for speed, pushing passes to be as tight as possible, and occasionally you will find the team that puts winning before sportsmanship and their dogs safety.

Hanging out at Base Camp during lunch break. Photograph by Kandice Nadeau.
Our team runs for points and therefore titles as we accumulate points. This means we can accommodate some slower dogs as we put together teams with the sole purpose of running together under 24 seconds. We don't push passes to try to get the fastest time, we would rather run clean and watch the points rack up. This does not mean we are anti competitive, but rather that we will switch out slower dogs for faster dogs to try and gain a speed advantage or we make sure we run clean when our opponents are pushing passes so they flag and we complete the race.

Getting on a team whose philosophies don't line up with yours can cause heartache down the road, especially if your dog isn't living up to your expectations... or the teams.  But Expectations are a whole 'nuther ball o' problems that I'll touch on in a later post.
Recharging.  My favorite picture from CanAm2011.

5. There Is More Equipment Needed Than You Think
While as a regular team member you don't have to worry about buying a Flyball box or jumps, there is a lot more equipment you will find yourself needing/wanting.

Can't live without this stuff.

From outfitting your dog: special Flyball collar or harness, skid boots, vet wrap, tug toys, cooling jackets, therapeutic jackets with ceramic or magnetic therapy (for when you get truly over-the-top addicted) etc.

To camping gear: tent, cot, sleeping bag or RV if you are fancy-schmancy... x-pens (and the stakes and top cover) or extra travel kennels, water buckets, pop up for shade, sun foils and shade tarps, crate fans, crate blankets, mats to cover the floor, cooler, folding chair, extension cords, etc.

Cool Coat!

Or, if camping isn't your thing, hotel swag: travel kennel, dog blankets for the bed, etc.

And above all else, an insane amount of poop bags!

Also, there are the visits with the Chiropractor... but not for you, for your dogs!

Packing List.... Dogs? CHECK!

6. What To Expect When You're Expecting To Compete In Your First Tournament
This depends on if you are debuting in NAFA or UFLI Flyball.

UFLI has several options for green dogs. The new "preflight" class that (as of last check of the rule book) gives your dog 7 minutes of ring time for training in the tournament environment. This can be an incredibly valuable tool to help proof dogs to their job in a highly distracting environment. You are welcome to have any dog on your team run with your dog to practice passing or against your dog to work on that aspect of competition. I started Demo in preflight before he had a boxturn- just picking the ball up off the floor - to work the pattern in the environment. If your dog is a little father along and you want to try racing a stranger or passing and racing strangers then you can enter singles or pairs racing. Singles is your dog running head to head with another dog for time, pairs is you and a partner running had to head with another pairs team (also helpful for practicing your starts)!
Trophy's swag from CanAm2011

For NAFA or UFLI team debuts, your team may have a different policy, but our team functions like this:

You will be placed on a team with 4 veteran dogs and perhaps one other green dog. Teams have 6 dogs on them, 4 dogs run each heat from the listed 6, so if any green dogs have some green dog issues we have enough experienced dogs to complete the run.

Demo with his FDCh Title Ribbon.  You don't always get ribbons, but when you do it's AWESOME!

You are given the majority of the warm up time to do a few close up box turns, a run out (where someone holds your dog by the box and you call them down the lane. This helps proof the dog on which lane they are running in) and do a few practice runs.

If your dog handled the practice runs well we will put him in the race. We like to start green dogs either first or last so they only have to worry about running past one dog, not sandwiched between two dogs.
Sleeping between races, or before racing began, since they still have their coats on.

If your dog flags for dropping or missing a ball or missing jumps we have the dog rerun to see if he makes the same mistake out if he fixes the mistake. Then we will make a decision to let him run another heat or put in a veteran dog. If, for example, a green dog drops his ball when running head to head with another dog but completes correctly with no dog in the other lane, we will let him try again in the next heat. If he again can't hold his ball racing against another dog we will pull him so he doesn't start to pattern "I can run twice if in don't bring my ball the first time" or it may indicate we need to do more head to head practice in training. We will give the dog the next warm up to try again.

So, that's flyball for beginners in a nutshell. :)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Countdown Begins Again

I finally did it.

It's official.

I entered Trophy in an agility trial.

August 9th.

To cement the deal his official height card even arrived in the mail yesterday.

Only entered him Friday because the rest of the weekend is reserved for purebreds only and my fantastic boy is a mix. Which is part of why i hate AKC. Yes, let's fill our greedy pockets by accepting mix breed into their own special program, but still give everyone the option to exclude them whenever they feel inclined to do so. Granted it's not as bad as the original proprosal when they were thinking of starting the Canine Partners program where everything was to be "seperate but equal" (glad they took a look at the history books and how well that did NOT turn out in the civil rights movement)... but it still sucks. Especially since AKC is the most accessable agility venue where i live. Trust me, didnt really want to register him with the AKC, but, i'll pay for my sins elsewhere i suppose.

Now i have to get him refocused on his contacts, which he has been blowing off lately. I mean, he's not jumping over them, but he's definitely not stopping in 2o2o like he is supposed to. He steps off the aframe (his most skipped contact) stands at the bottom and looks at me. If i glare at him he will backup into position, but im trying to get away from that as it will get us NQ'd in the ring. I need to teach him to target touch for his contacts like i did for Demo, but between teaching Eevee life skills and working on Demo's contacts i havent worked with Trophy much recently. Goals for saturday while i have a day off i suppose!

The good thing is he has been much more focused on *ME* lately. We had been having a problem where he is head over heels in love with a classmate of mine who has run him a couple times, brings things like steak and ham chunks for her dogs class rewards, and always gives him a goodie at the very end of class.

Well, it got to the point where with 20 minutes left in class he would stop on the down side of the dog walk or teeter to turn around and look at her. Or he would stop on top of the aframe to look at her. And if he was on the table god help me if she said ANYTHING because even if im trying to release him to run the course with me, as soon as he heard her voice he would light off like a fire cracker to run to her. Shitheaded dog! Two weeks ago i took a crate, moved it so he wouldnt be able to see her if i put him in it, and proceded like normal until he wouldnt focus on me and then i grabbed him by the scruff of the neck (he runs naked) walked him allllll the way back to my chair from the other side of the building and threw him in the kennel. He paid much better attention the rest of the class.

Now, she was sick last week, so he was excellent for me, we will see how he does today.

You only get one Novice A dog, so i really hope he doesnt let me down!

UPDATE: got confirmation today (6.27.13) that he is #18 and #19 on the waitlist for his JWW and Standard runs, so looks pretty good that we will get into that trial! Woohoo!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Demo and the Grown Up Agility Course

So... crazy things have happened.

The biggest thing, with the biggest impact to this blog is that Pan has been pulled from agility.  I'm sad about this for a number of reasons, first and foremost being that I got into agility because it was what my sister always wanted to do.  So to get her doing something with Pan I tracked down the agility instructor she started with with Koda way back when and signed up with Trophy in the same class.  Secondly, Pan has been doing better in agility than Trophy lately.

However, my sister still has some pretty major health concerns, the least of which being she may have to have a 5th surgery and her health insurance runs out in January if she doesn't find a "big girl" job before then...  SO.  We decided to pull Pan.  The look on Pan's face when my sister drove away with her in the car while I walked Trophy and Demo into the practice building was excruciating.  But, there's always Flyball for her.

So, now that a spot opened up and Demo is doing so well in his beginners class, we moved Demo up to fill Pan's spot.

He started running Grown Up agility courses Thursday night.  Now, if my head had been more in the game and less on my sister's health and pulling Pan, etc, we probably would have had an awesome run of it... instead I was foggy and slow to get my signals out.

But, Demo did very, very, very well for being a very green dog running basically a Master/Excellent level course.

Trophy did well, but not as well as I would have liked.  I hope it's because he was picking up on my mood.

We will see next week.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Spring Pole Fun

A few weeks ago when the pups over at So Fly: My Life with Flyball Dogs got their own spring pole and shared the tutorial on how to make one, I was inspired.  I wanted to make one for a LONG time.

So this weekend I did.

Actually I made two.

My dogs are bigger than Koira from So Fly, so I went with a much heavier duty spring as I not only foresaw my 40-50 pound dogs going to town on this thing, but I also wanted to eliminate anything breaking from more than one dog tugging on the same tug.

I got heavy duty Carabiner clips (rated for 200 pounds), heavy duty eyelets (rated for 190 pounds) and porch swing springs (with a max load of something like 320 pounds).  I used some long fleece tugs I had on hand at first, but ended up braiding a new really long one so the puppy could play more.

 Koda (on the pink tug above) loved it and spent the most time on it.  I thought for sure Demo would love it as well, but we had to hide his jollyballs and encourage him to play, although you can see that he did get into it for a bit.

The tugs are on carabiners so I can easily unclip them from the spring and bring them inside so the dogs are never unsupervised with the spring poles.

In all I spent $45 on the two, not including the tugs since I had them on hand.