Monday, April 12, 2010

Anatomy of a Double-Hit (box turn)

So by now you all know that my borderstaffy Punk has a less-than-stellar turn. (If you have no idea what I'm talking about, read the "Splat" post.)

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:


  1. Front feet hit here first
  2. Back feet hit around here
  3. Front feet hit AGAIN around here
  4. Dog usually lands wide because of the sideways momentum


Here's where the dog SHOULD be landing:

  1. Front feet hit here first
  2. Back feet follow
This way is so much more efficient, right?


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.


30 comments:

Anonymous said...

Based on some help from a former teammate, I've had some success using a slat/gutter on the ground to kind of guide them over to the correct side. Imagine a T where the slat/gutter is the vertical part of the T and the box is the top part. However I don't put it exactly in the middle or exactly vertical; it's slightly off-center and angled to the hole. Hope that makes sense?

-Laura

KatyTNG said...

DH is caused by many things. Here is a general list that "may" cause it. Poor shoulder or straight shoulder assembly, short neck, too much lag time from thruster to the ball, improper ball hole size, poor presentation of ball, too many "hit its" done on a box or ramp without a ball, prop stanchion to tight or too loose on head or butt or both, prop to low in height or placed incorrectly for the dog, improper pedal or box design (no I will not get into trashing any box designers box so do not ask me to) and the list goes on. DH is a PITA to fix but can be done. Sometimes it is minor tweaks but more than not it is a lengthy process and does not come without bashing your head against the wall a few dozen times before you figure out how to fix it. Most folks don't even know there dogs DH. Awhile back I did a seminar and it was most shocking to me that every dog in the seminar (24) but one DH. None of the participants even knew their dogs did it until they saw it on video. I have even seen dogs that double hit with the rear and the front...that is a nightmare I don't ever want to have!

Kate said...

Katy, what do you mean by poor presentation of the ball? I do not believe my dog is a double-hitter, even though his box turn is crummy, but I think a lot of the same things are causing his poor turn. Just wondering.
Thanks, Kate
The Gamblers

KatyTNG said...

Kate,
Poor ball presentation IMO is a ball that either loosely fits within the hole and or sits to far back within the hole.

Kate said...

Gotcha - so a small ball or pressureless ball would cause poor ball presentation. That makes sense. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

KatyTNG,
Do you have any youtube video of your dogs at the box that others can see?

KatyTNG said...

Kate,
No that is not what I am saying. If a small ball is placed in the average box hole it has room to roll around. It does not sit firmly in the hole. Sometimes normal sized balls in some boxes sit loosely as well. You want any sized ball you use to be held tight by the rubber that surrounds the hole.

Anonymous,
Who are you?

Katy

Katy

Anonymous said...

KatyTNG,
Why do you have something that is held tight? It would depend on the type of box and the angle of the launcher you have. You need to get the ball out as fast as possible for most speed dogs. If the ball is held tight, you can change the speed on how fast or slower the ball comes out based on how much resistance is on the ball. That could be a good thing or a bad thing but also depends on your dog.

Susan said...

KatyTNG - I understand you don't want to say negative things about box designs, and I'm all about staying in the positive! Do you (or anyone else) have a design you do like?

Susan

Anonymous said...

KatyTNG,
I noticed a few years ago that TnG had put 3 layers of matting on the flyball box. Do you still run with 3 layers of matting? Since most boxes only have 1 layer, what changed TnG mind to go to the extra layers?

LisaP said...

I don't moderate posts or require names, so you're free to post anonymously (i figure some people truly are shy and will only post anonymously), but if you do, don't provoke people and expect them to reply to your pointed questions. It's a chickenshit way to operate. (Besides, i know who you are based on your questions ;)).

LisaP said...

I received some advice via email to work on Punky's striding into the box (by putting a slat or gutter on the floor and making him stride over it), because his striding was definitely part of the issue. This makes sense to me, because if his approach and striding is all off, he's going to hit the box in the wrong place.

He is really fast and fairly out of control on the way down to the box. When he was first trained he actually jumped OVER the box during full runs b/c he couldn't slow down enough to cope with the box. I think he actually ran his best time ever over 11", maybe the higher jumps help him stay more in control.

I know it's a PITA to fix...and i've already bashed my head against the wall for years...at this point i'm wondering if it's worth it to fix it (he's 5). What do you guys think? Maybe i was meant to just tell everybody about his turn and what NOT to do when you're training so you don't end up like me.

Kristie Pope said...

I can't wait to film Salem & Rick and see if they are hitting the box twice. Both of them seem to buckle at the box. Wonder if this is why. They both improve with striding props.
My experience with balls in holes has been that if the ball is loose in the hole it shoots out unpredictably and not consistently at the same angle. I prefer a tight fit ;).

Kate said...

Thanks for the clarification Katy. Essentially, no matter what ball you are using, you want a snug fit.
Kate

KatyTNG said...

Kate, yes you have it correct now.

Kristie, a buckle or folding as we call it is a different problem than DH. Sometimes it can be an easier fix than the DH but none the less a problem for sure.

Susan,
I don't know all the different box styles that teams are using so I will just say of the ones I have seen and know of that I like are some of the Willoughby designs. You can google the name for more information. Our team uses a desgin that we came up with years ago and continue to improve on it all the time. We have spent hours upon hours of reviewing box turns on our dogs as well as others. Box design and turns can be a hot topic. There are many great boxes and many ways to teach a great turn and many ways to fix a bad one...it call comes down to what works best for you and your team.

Anonymous,
I don't mean to be shitty but I think if you really want to know the answers to the questions you ask that I should at least know who you are.

Anonymous said...

No problem KatyTNG.
I'm Zac. This was the first time that I ever posted anything without my name attached, so I do apologize if not having the name upset anyone on this blog.

I agree with your above post that it comes down to what works best for the team and dogs as each one is unique.

Has anyone on your club broken down the complete runs of each dog from the WR team? It would be interesting to see how they compare between all 4 of the dogs.

1. Start/Finish Line to 4th Jump
2. 4th Jump to box
3. Box Turn
4. Box back to 4th Jump
5. $th Jump back to Start/Finish Line

Zac

KatyTNG said...

Zac,
Answers to your questions.
We do no typically put video of our dogs on you tube. You might see a specific run of one of our teams but usually not box turns or anything else of one individual dog. I don't think you can slo-mo on you tube either so it is hard to get the info you want accurately. Maybe you know a way to slo-mo it but I don't. I will see what I can dig up video wise. Are you wanting to see any particular dogs?

Kristie said exactly why we like the ball to fit snug. We find loose balls shoot out differently every time.

We still use multiple layers of padding on our box. We feel the extra padding is needed to help prevent injury.

We have not gone in and broken down the the WR tape as we don't have the proper angle for some of it. Maybe you have done this already and you can tell me. What I will tell you is this, a few of our current A team dogs have slower box turns than some of our B and C team dogs and it is the foot speed that makes the difference for them. Kind of sucks, I know. All team dogs for us are always a work in progress so maybe that will change over time but for now it is what it is.

Anonymous said...

Hey Katy,
I did a frame by frame on your latest WR. I was only able to view from the start line to the first jump. Your start dog is much faster then the other 3 but that could be there is no dog coming back down the lane. The start dog was 1 foot faster in the same amount of time vs the other 3 over 6 feet of distance.

What you can do, if you have another camcorder is to place it at an angle that shows the whole racing lane from the start finish to the box, a wide angle lens helps. The other point of view is getting the 4th jump to the box and back. One of the interesting things could turn out that a dog that is under better control could be faster because of a stronger push off and more efficient turn. But without reviewing frame by frame...it's all a big question mark.

As for ball launchers, the ball is mostly caught about 3-4 inches from the box. Sometimes....much less then that which does not allow enough time for the head to clear the box which results in impact.

I have video of TnG from a few years ago at U-FLI nationals that I will post. I know it's not all the same dogs as this WR team but you can see what they were doing back then.

As for slo-motion creation. I have an older Sony TRV30. I set it on sport mode, do a frame by frame advance, you can convert the frame to jpg on the memory stick. I then load each frame, set a delay sequence number and create a new avi/mpeg to upload to Youtube.

You can see a video that I posted a few months ago at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-f3ozejZjQ


Zac

KatyTNG said...

Zac,
Our start dog is our fastest dog, however, he does not have the fastest box turn compared to some of the others. His box is not bad but his foot speed rocks. Believe me when I say we have plenty of video from all angles at practice and I know what each dog runs from point A-B, B-C, C-D and so on. I know exactly where they are weak and what they need to improve on. As I said before TNG is a constant work in progress. Training is never finished and you can always squeeze just a bit more out if you really really try.

Anonymous said...

Katy,
Would TnG be willing to share their times? If so, how many frames do your dogs average based on the 5 sections that I posted (based on 30 FPS)? It would be great to have your times as a baseline for top performance flyball dogs.

Zac

Anonymous said...

Katy,

I posted TnG flyball slow motion box turns from the U-FLI Championship - Dallas 2006. When did TnG start to use wall work for practice? It would be interesting to see how 3.5 years later how your dogs compare to this video ab the box.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQs3XgwZ6ic

Zac

KatyTNG said...

Zac,
Our training is constantly being updated. As I said before we never quit training our dogs. There is always room to improve and ways to make them better/faster.

sagechoice said...

Thanks for posting the video Zac! I do not have any other box video of my rescue BC Sage (the last one in the TNG clip). Those were some ugly ones and I am surprised that she pulled them off at all! :-)

Anonymous said...

Your Welcome.

The fourth dog (Sage) was ouch....I commend TnG for putting 3 layers of matting on the box for added safety. Just looking at the direct impact of face and the front legs, the turn back down the lane was already started before the rear legs were planted on the box. I also notice that TnG used a blue steal plate. How heavy is that plate?

I have additional video from Sunday recorded on from the right side.

I would like to see from others are dogs that have learned wall work as to how their box turn looks during a real tournament (recorded from the side like my posted videos). Turn can look so great with props in, but can really change for the worst without them.

Zac

KatyTNG said...

Zac,
Sage was rescued from a shelter and adopted by Steph at 2 years of age. She was trained by a team in So Cal before Steph joined TNG. While I will admit that Sage did not have the best box turn she made up for it with her power over the jumps. In any event Sage was one hell of a dog and did have a lot of good box turns in her career. It is unfortunate that the video shows the bad and not the good. She more than earned her retirement to go and play with the sheep.

The blue weight you mention is about 100 lbs.

Robbie Barton said...

Excellent article and discussion.

Obviously a bad box design can contribute to
a bad turn, but seldom will a good box fix a
problem. Bad props might hurt a dog while some
props might do a much better job, for a while,
but seldom work once removed.

Our proprietary Sure Shot philosophy, for anyone
that cares, is as follows:

1) Double hitting, moving feet or folding feet
is primarily caused by the dogs center of
gravity being too high relative to the placement
of the front feet. It's not necessarily how
high the feet are on the box, it's relative
to the dog's body. You can see it in the
TNG video, many of them hit pretty low but
didn't double hit. It's about balance.

2) The primary cause of the above mentioned
balance is a disparity between the dog's
desire to get the ball relative to the dog's
desire to get back to their handler. Again,
you could just see the desire the TNG dogs
have in the video to get off that box, like
the box is a nasty thing that they don't want
to spend much time on. Dog's with "Ball Love"
frequently double hit, hang or crumple after
they get their magic ball of yellow goodness.

3) A dog must be monitored, using video, through
the very earliest stages of training. Keep
watching it as they learn to do full runs,
from further distances and against faster
competition.

4) Don't let it get away from you. If they
start double hitting, move up so they don't
have as much speed into the box. Run off
the box. Fold a dog in after the box.
Do anything you can to increase the dog's
desire to get back to the handler.

Hope that's helpful, or at least coherent.

Lastly, I've been asked many times a question
similar to "My dog's been running N years
and has a bad box, can you fix it?"
My answer is usually,
"Absolutely. Step 1) get a puppy.
Step 2) teach it right from the beginning."

Robbie

Anonymous said...

Thanks Robbie for your post.

I know we have talked before in the past and your club works very hard reviewing what is happening with your dogs.

Another thing that people can look at is mouth position coming into the box. Reviewing video frame by frame, you can see if props need to be adjusted and or a different type or size ball needs to be used.

Robbie, do you see a pattern with dogs that have a tendency to drop their ball or leave it at the box and not hanging on the box and trying to get back to the handler as fast as possible, like you described in #2?

Zac

Kristie Pope said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqZ2ke-Bsuo&feature=related
I found this interesting angle of a double hit.

Cynthia said...

Interesting conversation. I'm still reading about box turns, I didn't even know some dogs double hit. I'm going to have to watch the dogs on our team and see what they do.

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