Well we have now had 3 weeks back at winter training and I am so pleased with how it's going. We hire an indoor riding school to train in which is fantastic as we can train whatever the weather and we have plenty of space (even if it is bloomin' expensive!).
Each dog has individual things that we need to work on and then we are doing general box/power/speed training. I am basically in charge of boxwork and give ideas for the speed exercises which Louise actually makes happen as I am not very organised! I think our combination works well! We haven't done any full runs yet and won't until after Christmas. We've been working on power jumping over 6 jumps although they are still at a low height as we want to get the dogs going really fast over them before we increase the height (it also means we can train all the dogs together and don't have to worry about changing the height for the littlies). We also tried chase runbacks for the 1st time this week. This is where the 1st dog is released then the next dog is released as the 1st dog goes over the 2nd jump so that it is chasing the 1st dog down, then the next dog is released 2 jumps later etc. We started this with 3 dogs but managed to get 6 dogs in a chain by the end. I wasn't sure how much difference to speed it would make but was amazed by the effort the dogs were putting in. You could see their extension and drive improve and they looked faster. Dogs that jump high over the jumps such as Elliot and Jamie were noticeably flatter and driving forwards more.
I am really enjoying box training. Everyone is happy to try whatever I ask them and we are already getting some great results. The way I teach the turn is by having a jump infront of the box and asking the dog to jump over the jump and back. The jump is then inched back towards the box until the dogs are jumping on and off the box. Once the dog is confident with this I then introduce the ball. We reward the good turns, ignore the bad ones and if at any point the dog stops jumping on and off and tries to do a two footed turn we go back to turns with no ball. Last year all the dogs learnt to jump on and off with no ball, but we didn't have enough time to introduce the ball properly which I think is the main reason why the turns deteriorated in competition. What is really good is that most of the dogs remembered all the work jumping on and off which means with most of them we have been able to progress straight to doing work with the box loaded. I think with box training you have to be very open to trying new things and doing what works for each dog. Although each of our dogs began with the same method, each one now has various different props in different places and with me in different places to get the best turn. Obviously I know that you can't have props in competition and these will eventually have to be removed but for the time being they will remain to build muscle memory and hopefully make the turn second nature. I'd like to list all the dogs and the stages they are at/what we are going to do next but that could go on for a while (if you would really like to know please leave a comment and I may find the time!). At the moment I am really pleased with Sonny, Lacy, Jem and Elliot. They are doing the box totally independently with just the props. With them we are working on foot placement and drive off the box. Perry, Smartie and Jamie are making the most progress. With all of them we had the issue of the two-footed turn but they are now doing 4 feet turns with me and the props in place. We have retaught them to go round rather than jump on and off. I don't really like teaching this way as I think it is slower and can teach them to go wide but as I've already said you have to do what works for the dog. I am already backing away from the box and they are maintaining the turn so I don't think it will be long until i am completely out of the way and can start making the turn tighter and faster. Seeing Perry do a 4foot turn with the ball is a beautiful thing. He is a 26" Munsterlander cross and has been racing for 6yrs with a two foot turn, who said you can't teach an old dog new tricks!! Whether he will maintain it in competition is different but we will give it our best shot! We have a couple who are proving a little more tricky. Diefer is just a bit nutty so doesn't think about what he's doing, we are getting there and now he's realised what we want is catching up with the others, no rush though, we've got plenty of time and he had a decent 3foot turn anyway. Then their is Luna who after alot of analysis we have decided to retrain to turn left. This will be a slow process as she spent alot of time being taught her right turn so she thinks this is what we want from her. But everything about her movement suggests she should be a lefty, we've just got to convince her that it's ok! Finally Bunty who has got a beautiful fast turn anyway but she only uses 3 feet and pivots on the 4th so is not getting as much drive as she could. I think we found out this week what is going to work but it will be a very slow process!
Then we have our starters. Our 2 'in team' babies are looking very promising. They are both Collies. Piper is just fantastic, he is so fast over the jumps and is picking the box turn up very quickly. He is also 1 of the most handsome Collies I've seen. His father is Littlethorn Continental so he is the nephew of Darwin and half brother (I think?!) of Bentley, both of Molten Magnets so we have high hopes. I'd love a pup by Tally and I know Nat has a litter by him so I can't look at her website at the moment lol!! Next is Moss who is still a baby at coming up to 12months. He is from Waggerland lines and again is gorgeous. He has a very high chase drive and likes to herd the other dogs so is proving a bit of a challenge. He is also showing lots of promise and his box turn is looking good. I have taken over handling him for a while as I am currently a bit more exciting than his mum. Won't be long until his recall is sorted though and then I'll have to give him back! It's fun training a baby again even if he does knacker me out lol! Then we have the new people. We have a Collie cross who is picking things up really well, a Cocker who really reminds me of William if anyone remembers him?! Would be happy if Chez ends up as fast! At the moment he is a bit nervy and won't follow a 'dead' ball which is making box work a bit of a pain but we are making progress and a Border Terrier who is due to start next week who I've met and she is mental!!
Finally we've got the ballistic puppies who come along to training for a bit of socialisation and 'puppy races' lol! We've got Loki and Shani who are both 13ish weeks old. Loki is out of Piper from Hinckley Hooligans and Bray from Coventry Racers. He is such a good puppy, very focused and very cute. Shani is gorgeous and reminds me so much of Asher as a puppy it is actually spooky, I think everyone is praying she ends up like him! These 2 won't see any equipment until the summer when we will probably start a little bit of boxwork in the evenings at competitions. They will be over a year old when they start formal training. I don't see any need to start before this, all the foundations can be laid without drilling them up and down jumps!
I am now really looking forward to taking Asher back to training (hopefully 2wks time), I think he's missing it! I will try get someone to take some pics/video of training but it is difficult as everyone is either helping or running a dog!
6 months ago