Its all About the Box!

21 11 2008

One of the most important aspects of Flyball is the dog’s ability on the Flyball Box. Hours and hours of training are put in for foundation work with puppies, and then still hours more on the real thing with an adult dog, all to get that perfect turn. There are many factors of a good box which is worth all the work-dogs are safer, as the impact of the dog’s weight at fast speeds is cushioned with a four footed turn. The other factor is that the dog saves time, which means so does the team. The fastest teams all have dogs with fluid, whip-off box turns.

Here in the USA, and in some other countries such as the UK, the flat style box is used, while some organizations, such as Crufts, are still using the original Flyball boxes. The original box earned Flyball its name, because the ball literally did fly from the box. Using a throwing arm and a tuna can style cup, the dog would trigger a small pad in the front of the box, which released the arm from behind the box. The arm launched the ball into the air and the dog had to be perfectly placed to catch. This was the origin of the Flyball Box, and since then they’ve evolved to better suit the sport.

cruftsbox

The Crufts box used today

Now, I’ve seen videos of teams running with the throw arm box, and I’ve had the experience of running on and training the flat box for years, so i am a bit baffled as to why the old style box is still in use. Its like using two rocks to start a fire when you have a book of matches available to you.

The Crufts box does provide padding on the front of the box-it prevents the dog from injuring itself while running head on into the box. typically, the dogs run down at fast speed and trigger the box, though I’ve seen plenty of dogs jump high enough to catch the ball that they land on the TOP of the box. The problem here is that the dogs are losing valuable time on the box. As a rule, on the spring loaded box, a dog will lose about 0.4 seconds on the box. I’m not sure how much time is lost on the tuna can boxes, but its considerable, since the dogs actually have to wait for the ball to be released into the air. In addition to safety, the old models have the undesirable factor of the dog running to the box and full speed and hitting the box into a dead stop, then having to turn around completely to resume the run back.

The other factor about the old box is that it may not be the all-dog friendly box. I know several types of dogs, that do to their nature, would not do well on the box because of the throwing arm. Softer dogs, or smaller dogs, or dogs with a short or small muzzle, wouldn’t be able to catch the ball. The problem here is that dogs prone to bobbling the ball would do so frequently, and since there are no backboards behind the boxes, the ball could be bobbled in ANY direction.

Using the new boxes, all dogs are able to get right up to the ball for the catch, so that even pugs and border terriers have a fair catch at the ball. The new boxes have a vertical face to teach the get on, get off behavior, which produces a lightning quick turn and catch that sets the dog right up for the return.

A "Flat Style" (for lack of a better word)  Flyball Box.

A "Flat Style" Flyball Box

The teams that are pushing their dogs for speed will be getting results with the flat style- I would LOVE to see some of the Crufts box dogs retrained to the new style and see their individual times go down. Plus, it would make sense for one style to be used-in Agility, an A-frame and Dog-walk obstacle is the same no matter where the sport is played-and this sport IS called International Flyball Racing, after all. I know that some of this is irrelevant. Most teams and organizations are using the flat style boxes. The ones that use the crufts boxes do because that works for them. But, its not always that simple to change what works, especially if you consider the cost of the new boxes teams have to buy-Marin Running Riot paid over 900.00 a piece for each of our two boxes!!

However, in the end, we Flyballers are trying to promote the sport of Flyball as a fun, fast, and safe activity to play with your dog, so eventually I hope to see the new boxes used throughout the sport.

later..

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