[/QUOT I have two cavies learning flyball who love it. We are having trouble getting them to do the swimmers turn with the ball in. The can do a full run fine without it but once the ball is in it turns into a slam at the box and so don't want this because we know the damage it can cause the dog. Any suggestions?][/QUOTE]
I've noticed lots of cavaliers have trouble catching. Luke's turn also tends to deteriorate as the day goes on. He has a decent turn early on, but towards the end of the day, he just doesn't have the energy to do it. Anyway, I've watched on Youtube and seen cavs having trouble catching. There is also another one racing in our region who has trouble catching. Luke actually has to only race using one type of box, because he can only catch on that one. We just combined with another team, and Luke has to use their box, because he cannot consistently catch on our team box. He'll get it for a bit, then it falls apart. That team used to have a few cavaliers.
From the videos I've watched, and also from what the team told me about the other cavaliers, foam balls may work better. They used to use foam cat balls for their cavaliers. I picked up foam practice golf balls for Luke. They have worked well for him on the box we have in our class, and we've had the best luck with those on the team box as well. We also slowed down the hole that he catches from on that box to the point that it is just within "legal". On the box that he uses to race, I use little tennis balls from Target for him.
It may also help to use a prop that forces them to get up really high on the box. Often times, people use those triangle shaped fedex or ups boxes. Those will not force them to get their butt up high on the box. Luke jumps 7 in NAFA, and most cavaliers jump 7 in NAFA I think. We'll put the 7 inch jump in front of the box for him, and even sometimes an 8 inch jump. As he gets tired, his butt drops. Now that he has been in more tournaments, and he's been photographed by the professional photographer throughout the day, I can see his butt drop as the day goes on. When he warms up for races, our sequence is, on and off the box with no ball, then with a ball, and then a recall. If he misses his catch and we still have time, we do that. I'd rather get a good catch and not get the recall. When he first started, there was one in between where the box loader held the ball for him. Holding the ball to make sure he grabbed it and it didn't go flying was very helpful for him.
We've also been doing lots of stamina and strength work, and it helps him not fall apart as the day goes on. His first few times, he just got tired at the end of the day, but he has to race all day right now because we don't have another height dog to swap out with him. His first time out he crashed his last jump of the day, and one time he started having trouble triggering the box at the end of the day. I've been lazy the past few weeks, but we've done some stretching and strengthening stuff. There's good stuff in the book Learning Games by Kay Laurence. He's also been doing weight pulling. He takes a flyball class most Fridays, in addition to our team practice. We get him in as many heats as possible during class. There were some other dogs also who would come in after class for some work because they couldn't work with all the dogs in there. Luke would run extra heats with them while they worked up to being able to run with all the other dogs in class. He also plays lots of fetch,which helps him work on his stamina. He can go for a half hour straight, and then I stop him.
Luke is racing again tomorrow morning. He's the #14 cavalier in NAFA right now. He might be #13 at the end of tomorrow, though we don't usually do too well at this tournament. Top ten within a year of racing is definitely within reach.