Friday, March 5, 2010


My borderstaffy's turn sucks.

I know it's my fault.

Ironically, he's the only dog I've ever sent away for training (other than the occasional spontaneous dog-trade with a teammate. You know how it goes: "Hey, I have an idea, let's switch dogs till the next tournament!").

When I was first training Punk's box turn, I was trying to do it myself at home and was having lots of trouble. He's sort of a maniac -- no sense of self-preservation and no respect for props. And he's a big maniac -- 38 pounds of borderstaffy. So I'd set the box up against the wall of my garage, with props all in front of it, and he'd just smash through things. The dog was too awesome to screw up, so I decided I needed help.

He trained with both the U-FLI world record team (at age 1) and the NAFA world record team (at age 3) and did great with both of them.

Then he came home to me, and his turn sucked again.


When somebody else trains your dog, you have no idea how to fix things (or sometimes even how to recognize the warning signs) because you have no idea what they did with the dog -- what drills they did, how often they worked with him, what props they used, how they motivated him, what they asked of him, and what they chose to reward him for (I'm sure their standards were much higher than mine). Sure, they sent me video and emails and tried to talk me through it, but it's just not the same thing as being there day after day for months at a time.

And things are different back at home. We only practice once a month or so. It's hard to do much with him in warmups because other dogs on the team need warmup time, too, and Punk is difficult to work with in 30 seconds -- he flails around taking out jumps and light sensors and won't drop his tug. We never pull him out of the lineup if his turn starts to fall apart because we need him. Even with a crap-o turn the dog runs 3.8-4.0. Unlike the world record teams,we don't have an extra sub-4 dog  hanging around on the bench waiting to fill in as a backup when he starts to fall apart.

And so he just does his thing: Runs down to the box like a bat out of hell, splats, then runs back full-speed and tries to knock me down.

I'm sure this type of thing is really frustrating for the talented trainers out there who work with other peoples' dogs, then send them home just to watch all that work go to waste.

From now on, I'm just training my own dogs. I'm batting about .600 when it comes to box turns. I've tried several different methods, and have had success and problems with each one because every dog is different. For example, I trained 2 of my Border Collies at the same time and the exact same way, using a touch stick, then the wall, then a ramp, then the box (always with props). One dog looked amazing on the box until a ball went in -- he's ball obsessed. So the turn falls apart when the ball is in there. The other BC doesn't care about balls, he just wants to race, so his turn continues to look gorgeous.

If I fix BC #1's turn, I'll have the satisfaction of doing it myself. If I don't, well, I know exactly who to blame, and so does the rest of the world. If BC #2's turn continues to hold up, I can be happy with that little private victory.

It's also nice just being accountable to myself, know what I mean?


Kim said...

I know exactly what you mean. I prefer to train my own dogs because that way the fault is all mine or I can say yeah I trained that dog. It goes both ways. When I don't know how to "fix" something I like to ask others with more experience or who may at least have had a similar experience.

Being my clubs trainer also means that I train other people's dogs but at the same time I can't control what they do at home with their dogs or if they don't do what I asked at the same time if they seem something I missed it could work out. Sometimes it may not.

So I can only do what I can do and move on. I always hope everything works out but I don't stress too much if it doesn't.

Alisa said...

Lisa, I've trained a couple BorderStaffies but I only race my Staffies. However, I fell off my chair laughing about Punk racing back to try to take you out! It's so appropriate for the Staffy breeds.

And I'm with you. I like to train my own dogs. And if their box, runback or whatever sucks; well, it's my fault but we're still having fun. :-)

Laura said...

I, too, love to train my own dogs. And, pretty much, I've run the gamut of box-turns: the good, the bad, the ugly, and the so-so. My first dog had a bad turn (spent a second or more at the box end) trained with the old cone method. He has since been re-trained and looks a lot better. The second dog's turn was awesome... till we added the ball! Now, he's turn is so-so. My third dog had the ugly turn. Lots of drive, understood the point was to get all the feet up and on the box, but had no self-preservation so refused to break before slamming the box sideways. And, finally, the fourth dog... she has an awesome turn! She is the picture perfect ideal I have in mind when I think of box turns.

I accept the blame for the other dog's turns, but I love being able to also say that the good turn is also a result of my training.

Cynthia said...

I've been Googling today about fixing a box turn. :) I have a pup who is almost ready to race but when the ball goes into the box, he forgets his rear and just hits with his front, grabs the ball, and his rear legs kinda flail around a bit. I'm toying with clicker training his rear and building a ramp and not sure exactly what else but I've got some ideas. :)

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