I had the good fortune to attend a training seminar taught by Touch N Go this weekend. For those who don't know, they are the world record holding flyball team in U-Fli. Obviously, they have a good bit to teach the rest of us, as they are the first (and I'm not positive, but they may be the only) team to break below 15 seconds.
I attended all three days of the seminar, starting with Green Dogs/Young Dogs on Friday, then with more advanced dogs on Sat/Sun.
A few things I learned that I am going to use on my dogs:
First, a game that cures ball dropping, called the Hand game. I especially plan on teaching this game to Pallo, as he has the ball dropping issues, but I'm sure Koira will benefit from learning it as well.
The idea is that first, you teach the dog a simple hand touch with their nose. Quickly moving on, you teach them to pick up a toy and touch that to your hand. Moving as slowly or quickly as you and your dog are able, you gain distance and variety of toys, as well as eventually making your hand a moving target, first as an empty, wide open hand, then eventually as a fist holding your tug toy. The idea is that in competition, the dog will still bring the ball all the way to your fist, then grab the tug once there.
The other training tip is using a touch stick to train a box turn. Both of my dogs currently have a box turn that isn't terrible, with Pallo's being pretty good. However, I believe that teaching them the touch stick method, and a wall turn, will help their box turns improve and become faster, snappier, and with less of a chance of double hitting.
Pallo picked up right away that the name of the game is to touch the end of the stick with his nose, click, treat. (Generally not a clicker training person, but it makes this particular game easier.) He occasionally forgets, but pretty much has it down. Koira on the other hand started out afraid of the stick for some reason. It wasn't until this morning when she saw Pallo touch, click, treat over and over while she didn't get anything that she even would touch her nose to the stick. Hopefully if I keep up with it, they will progress to doing over-and-backs using the stick quite soon, and from there to wall hits. I haven't decided if I will use it to retrain their box turns, or just do touch stick and wall turn training to help build muscle memory of a proper turn, and see how well it transfers over.
There was a lot more information at the seminar, including jumping drills, striding corrections, and more, but for now, I think these two games are what I will work on. Though, if I can get someone to video tape Pallo's full runs, I might add striding props if it looks like he needs them.