It isn't every time. Its more like 2 or 3 times out of 5 that he will stop. But it is consistent and ongoing and none of our various ideas have solved the problem. So far, we tried switching box loaders, since the issue started soon after we had a new team mate start box loading in preparation for the tournament. I tried running with him past the first jump, rather than my normal routine of following him at a run down to just before the start line, waiting until he hits the box and is on his way back, and then taking off to run in the opposite direction. I tried standing down near the box, having a teammate release him, and running back down the lane with him after he got his ball.
That last one was the most successful of all the things we tried. But even then, he did hesitate a few times, and paused once, though he never totally stopped dead like he has been doing.
Here's the deal. I don't want to force my dog to play a game if he isn't interested. He seems excited to play and gets very amped up going into the building, doing runaways, and before being released. But if he just isn't into playing flyball, I am not going to force him to play. So we are taking a break.
Koira is staying in flyball, so we will still be going to practices. We have two tournaments this month and one next month, and Pallo will be sitting out of all of them. If he comes to practice, he will be hanging out with us during set up and tear down, not playing flyball. In the years since I first adopted him, he has never had a sustained break from the sport- no more than a couple of weeks off at a time.
After a few months, I will bring him back in and see what he does. Hopefully he will be excited and eager to play, without any indication of this current issue. If it does come up again at that point, we will be doing some serious reevaluating and decision making then. I honestly expect the break to solve the problem. If Pallo is interested and excited about playing flyball, taking some time off will make him extra excited when we return to playing. Koira has had numerous breaks throughout her career, though mostly because I grew frustrated with her training progress. And, thinking about it, I really believe that taking a break is important. We certainly won't be stopping our runs, our games of fetch, or any of the other things we do. We may even add in a new sport or something so we have a new game to train.
Right now, he is not retired. We are just taking a break.