Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Why Three Strides Off the Box is Important

Since I moved to San Diego in June, I've been to six flyball practices with X Flyball & Lickety Splits. This past weekend X & LS also hosted a "training camp" for nearby competitors/teams, so that was two more days of total flyball immersion. (I really love watching great trainers work one-on-one with dogs and handlers and seeing them improve right before my eyes.)

I've learned a lot of cool new stuff this summer!

For one thing, I finally get the whole three strides off the box thing.

For the past six or seven years, whenever I've asked for advice about my dogs' box turns, the real experts have asked me, "How many strides is your dog taking in between the box and the jump?" Ummm...... 

I knew the "right answer" was supposed to be three, but I didn't really understand why. (And to be honest, since I didn't really understand WHY I was looking for three strides, I didn't bother to check.)

One of my new teammates explained it to me beautifully.

It's because the more steps your dog is taking on the ground, the more steps he has to accelerate and the faster his overall time will be.

Unless your dog is big and has naturally long strides, two strides off the box generally means the dog is launching off the box and landing up the lane a ways, so he only need two strides (albeit sometimes big ones) to reach the first jump after the box. This hang time is bad. It's not like the swimmer's turns you're watching in the Olympics right now -- when those athletes turn on the wall and they're underwater on their way to the surface, their legs are still propelling them along like crazy (because of the water resistance, this actually works! This does not work in the air. Go ahead, try it.).

To train three-strides-off-the-box from the beginning, teach your dog to land down very close to the front of the box instead of allowing him to launch way off of it. If you train your dog using the touch stick to ramp/wall/box method, it's a matter of pointing the touch stick down to the floor much closer to the ramp/wall/box than you would think. If you're luring off the box with a tug or food, you'd hold that down lower, too. I will try to get some photos or videos up here on the blog so you can see what I'm talking about.

If your dog is already taking two strides off the box, you can work on getting three by adding a one-inch slat onto the floor between the box and jump -- the goal is to give him a visual cue, something to step over, with the hope that he'll step over the slat THEN jump over the jump (which is more efficient, like his natural stride). You'll have to play with the placement of the slat because it depends on the size of the dog and his natural stride. 

Here's the pattern you want off the box: step-step-step-JUMP versus LAUNCH-step-step (which might even turn into LAUNCH-step-LAUNCH if the dog's being particularly inefficient).

Something else I learned. Some dogs take three steps when they're fresh and full of energy, but just two when they're tired. That's because it's a little extra work to take the three steps -- it's so much easier to just fling yourself around and cut corners when you're tired, you know? So it might just be a matter of conditioning your dogs more.

Three strides, I bet. He's only 14" tall. :)
But wait, that's not all. Something else I learned. The reason my borderstaffy still has a pretty fast time with his ugly wide turn (he has two turns: a "tight' turn -- which is actually a double hit -- and a "wiiiide" turn) is because the wide turn FORCES HIM TO TAKE 3 STRIDES. So he makes up the time because of his fancy little footwork acceleration. Unless he made the wide turn because he was tired. Because I need to condition him more. Sigh.

Oy! Who knew there was so much to learn just about striding off the box! I'm sure there's a lot more that I'm missing here. Anybody want to share what they know about three strides, or how they've trained it?


Shawnie1101 said...

I am working with my whippet to three-stride off the box to the first jump. He likes to "super-man" it in two strides right now and blows straight over any slats or "bumps" in the way to re-arrange his feet. A neat trick someone taught me is to push out the first jump a few feet, then subsequently extend the other jumps out the same amount (still with 10 feet between them). Naturally, it's too far for my dog to jump only two strides, and he does three. Slowly, after getting this footwork shaped, I slowly inch the jumps back to the proper distance (15 feet from the box to the first jump and 10 between). I'm working on it and will let you know how it goes!

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