Sunday, August 18, 2013

With a Tweak-tweak Here, and a Tweak-tweak There....

Tuesday's practice at home was just a continuation of what we did on Sunday--same ball, same set up, with improvements:  nice high position on the box, and good success getting the ball (6 out of 8 times), and not really double-hitting.  But the slo-mo video revealed the secret to her success:  she's basically trapping the ball, or to put it another way, the ball fires and hits her in the face, and as it starts to roll down the box pedal she grabs it in her mouth.  And she doesn't have to double-hit because she's essentially pivoting offer her face as she traps the ball!  So I was thinking maybe we can do better?
Dancer "trapping" the ball, not catching it.
Here's the video from Tuesday's practice (for you training geeks out there).

A few days later at flyball practice at the Dog Gym, the results were pretty much the same...trapping, trapping, trapping.  Since I didn't want this to become a habit, I figured I'd better change it up.
Believe it or not, there are still many types of balls we haven't tried.  Any ball that bounces and doesn't squeak is legal in flyball, so if at first you don't succeed...well, you know.  I knew I wanted a larger sized ball, since the tiny ball didn't give her a good enough target.  I knew I wanted something that was going to be rather sluggish leaving the box, since her catching skills are lacking.  And I knew softer was better than harder, since she's just a little girl!  So the next ball up for grabs is the squishy ball!  These are soft, spongy balls (not foam--they're denser than that), just a bit smaller than a regular tennis ball.  Kind of like a stress-reliever ball, but not as firm.  A couple of dogs on our team have had success with these:  one just because he likes them better than any other ball, the other because he was having catching issues similar to what I've been seeing with Dancer.
So I brought home a couple of squishy ball and started using them when we played fetch, just so Dancer could get used to the feel of them and come to understand that this is "her" ball.  And in today's training session, I used them in the box.
Here's a breakdown of the video:  1) Box bounce for warm-up; 2) Spontaneously offered box bounce as I tried to load the ball (never let it be said this girl lacks enthusiasm for this game!); 3) Drop; 4) Trap; 5) Drop; 6) Almost not trapped - yay!  With double-hit - not yay!  7) Same as 6!  8) Very slight trap with no double-hit!  9) cursed box didn't fire; 10) cursed box didn't fire (I think it's getting choked with dust...I have to clean it up); 11) Very slight trap, no double-hit!
To sum that up, it appears she was getting a little better at figuring things out as we went along.  We had 2 drops, 1 trap, 2 slight traps with double-hit, and 2 slight traps with no double-hit.  Given that, we'll hold with this ball for at least one more practice to see if we get more improvement.
This is where the rubber is hitting the road, my friends.  This is where a box turn that could last a lifetime is forged.  And wonder of wonders:  I finally have the patience to work it and video and analyze and try different things--patience that comes from already having 2 other flyball dogs currently running, patience that comes from the fact that (in the grand scheme of things) she's coming along remarkably fast.  Okay, so I'm not really being patient after all.

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