Sometimes he surprises me by popping off a series of good turns -- it might happen two times in a row or the streak might continue for several races, you just never know. But other times his turn looks like what I'm going to describe for the rest of the post. He's a double hitter.
Double hitting means that the dog hits the box with their front feet twice. They usually slide or leap onto the box low, so that their front feet hit the lower edge (opposite side of their ball), then their back feet come up, then their front feet must hit the box again so that they can push off and turn around.
Double hitters often turn wide, too. Think about it from a momentum standpoint. Let's say the dog turns to the right (clockwise). If they hit the box low on the left and work their way across the box (front feet - back feet - front feet), by the time they rotate their momentum is sideways and they don't usually have enough power to turn totally around 180 degrees. They usually land a few inches wide on the right, sometimes even needing to take an extra step to get back into the center of the lane to take the first jump back.
Double hitting happens so quickly with some dogs that you can hardly see it. They're on and off the box so fast -- you can tell that the turn looks messy, but it's hard to figure out what's happening down there. It's sort of like in "The Matrix" when Keanu Reeves is all over the place karate-chopping everybody but all you see is a blur, and then Mr. Anderson is lying on the floor. The slow-motion video tells the real story.
Here's normal-speed video of Punk double hitting in practice (click on the picture to see the video on You Tube):
Did you miss it?
Here is a frame-by-frame breakdown:
His double hitting is even worse when there's no prop in there...that's when he slides into the lower left side of the box and puts his front feet down in the white tape area. And he turns wide because there's no stanchion at his head.
Deconstructing the double hit vs the correct turn
Here's where the double hitter often lands:
- Front feet hit here first
- Back feet hit around here
- Front feet hit AGAIN around here
- Dog usually lands wide because of the sideways momentum
Here's where the dog SHOULD be landing:
- Front feet hit here first
- Back feet follow
How to fix it
Double hitting is pretty easy for me to spot now, but I didn't notice that Punk was doing it for a long time. And when I did notice it, I tried to fix it the wrong way.
I reasoned that because he was turning wide, he needed more peripheral pressure on the right. So my prop always had the stanchion on the right, like you see below:
But the real problem is that he's sliding in low on the left. In fact, the Not-so-good prop above is actually encouraging him to hang out on the far left of the box because there is no pressure on him there (it's totally open and prop-free). If you fix where he lands, you fix everything. The wide turn is just a symptom of the bigger issue. What he really needs is a stanchion on the OTHER side to push his rear over and remind him to land with his front feet on the box higher and more in the center. (Thanks to Lisa Kronz from Hyper Flight for pointing this out to me a couple of years ago. :)).
If you ever get a chance to watch Hyper Flight from TX race, look at the way they set up their props in warm-ups. They use a high prop (at least 9 or 10") with a stanchion on the BACK as well as the front. Their dogs have some of the best turns I've ever seen (so does Quest, the red BC from Instant Replay -- OMG, has anybody seen that dog turn? It's like poetry in motion!).
Here's what my new improved prop looks like (I know it looks a little rednecky with the blue tape on it, but whatever works):
"But wait, Lisa," you might say. "In the video, Punk had a prop that looked a lot like that, and he still was double hitting." It's true. Sigh. Maybe somebody can tell me why. My theory is that: 1) He was doing a full run during that video and reverted back to his old way of turning out of habit (because that prop does work when he's closer to the box and not going so fast), 2) The prop in the video wasn't quite high enough, 3) The prop in the video wasn't close enough to his butt. And I've seen that prop work for other double hitters, so I know it's effective.
Plus, I let Punk run with a bad turn for several years, then spent more time trying to fix it the wrong way. To truly fix it I would probably have to pull him from racing for a year, start over, and put in the 3,000-5,000 good turn reps needed to break the old bad habit (I cover the 3,000-5,000 rep thing more in the Analysis Paralysis post).
I'm pretty sure there's another element to double hitting that I haven't figured out yet (maybe somebody out there can shed some light), and that has to do with Punk's approach to the box -- it's too far to the left and it's too low. Maybe I need to put a gutter prop on the left side of the lane or a slat on the floor or something to discourage the sliding? (Not that Punk pays a lot of attention to props. Have you ever heard the flyball term "Yard Sale-ing"? It's when props fly all over the place and land on the ground like a scene out of a yard sale. At least, that's how I interpreted the term when I heard it. Punk loves yard sales.)
I want to end this post by emphasizing how important it is to videotape your dog's turn and look at it in slow motion. You can learn so much by doing this. You don't need any fancy equipment, most digital cameras these days have a movie setting. I take quick movies on the digital camera, upload them to my computer, and watch them there. From there you can easily upload them to You Tube and/or post them to Facebook and ask for advice. In fact, feel free to post them on the Prop-a-Ganda Facebook page if you want. I can't promise you that any of the big guns will weigh in, but maybe together we can all figure out how to make improvements.