WE PLANT THE "SEEDS OF IDEAS" IN DOG OWNERS MINDS - THESE IDEAS EVENTUALLY BLOSSOM INTO A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF DOG BEHAVIOUR - Sally Hopkins
WE PLANT THE "SEEDS OF IDEAS" IN DOG OWNERS MINDS - THESE IDEAS EVENTUALLY BLOSSOM INTO A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF DOG BEHAVIOUR - Sally Hopkins

EQUIPMENT NEEDED FOR DOG GAMES

Summary

Netting, fence posts, pegs & poles

Harness

Motivator

Long line

Jumps

Black rubber mat

Spray paint

Tape measure

Tennis balls

Touch box construction/dimensions

 

Summary

Ideally, if training in a large area where the dog may be tempted to wander off (Where and When to train), we recommend that you use rolls of plastic netting and fence posts/stakes to set up 2 or 3 training lanes. The fence posts/stakes will hold the netting up. The tent pegs will hold the bottom of the netting down. However, while these training Lanes are not essential, we found that we got far better results; the dogs were more relaxed and happy as they did not have the opportunity to wander off. Everything required was contained within this area. With the permission of the landowner, if these Lanes could be left set up permanently, this will save much time and effort, but will also bring interesting behaviours.

 

NETTING, FENCE POSTS, PEGS & POLES

Netting and fence posts can be purchased from many DIY, hardware shops or online. I was able to purchae barrier netting from 

UK Tapes Ltd (tel 01376 349090); online-orders@uktapes.com

 

Modern Dog Sports (tel 01730 266633) sell many of the following see below - Jumps, Spray paint, target boxes, traffic cones.  mds@moderndogs.co.uk

 

Both companies will be happy to help and advise you on prices, postage and packaging arrangements and accept cheques and all major credit cards The netting -

  • acts as a barrier to stop the dogs wandering off and losing their concentration
  • provides a safe and secure area for the dog to relax (reading the newspaper) as no passing dog can get near it,  
  • provides a visual break to the dog without blocking out its vision all together so that it unable to see what is happening outside the area, should it become apprehensive.

The dog soon learns to associate the netted training area as a safe and fun place to go as it plays the Dog Games in this environment.  The strong concentration of the scents of the other dogs that have trained there (including their scents of relaxed, content and unstressed pheromones) makes the enclosure very interesting for the dog to smell and explore before the training begins. These "relaxed" pheromones often have a remarkable calming effect on over excited or stressed dogs that enter the training lanes afterwards, and the influences of these scents can linger for days and even weeks afterwards. See Where and When for further information about the training area.

 

We had three training lanes when teaching Dog Games, particularly when there are a lot of dogs to train and there are two trainers available to work at the same time. One trainer can use Lane A while the other works in Lane C. Because there are two barriers of netting with a 15ft distance as well between the two dogs. Most dogs are not distracted by the presence of another dog being trained in the other lane. However, I strongly recommend that the first (and most important) session of Recall Starters should only be done when there are no other dogs in any of the other compounds.

 

Another benefit of having three lanes is that some dogs have great difficulty coping with other dogs nearby when they are attempting the Silver stages of a Game (eg Recall Silver). In these situations the dogs can do their Silver training in Lanes A and C and progress to Lane B when they have become accustomed to the movement of the other dog in the next lane. However, it is quite permissible for dogs to pass their Silver awards in the two outside lanes if the dog is only just capable of coping with that situation at that level. We do not want dogs to become over excited and stressed.

 

The netting needs to be held up with a number of fence posts.  These can either be plastic fence posts from a farm equipment shop or hard wearing metal posts which may need a lump hammer to fix them in the ground.

It is strongly recommended that metal tent pegs from your local camping shop, be used to hold the netting down in between the fence posts to prevent dogs learning how to slip under the netting and chase after the passing cat etc.  Be warned - once a dog learns how to slip under a fence it never forgets and will take on the challenge of "escaping" at any opportunity, just for the heck of it!
 

2 poles can make the "finish line". The distance between these poles is not important. They are there to remind the handler not to call the dog until they have passed this "finish line".   Suggestions: -

  • Broom handles that can be pushed into the ground
  • Canes, sticks or metal posts - with plastic pipe threaded over them to make them thicker and more obvious to the dog
  • Farmers' plastic posts that are used to hold up electric fencing - these can be bought from local farm suppliers.
  • Etc.  Use whatever comes to hand!

 

Harness

We strongly recommend a comfortable and well-fitting harness for the dog to wear, not only for playing these Games but also to attach the lead to when out on walks.  Do not be tempted to hold the dog by its collar when doing these restrained recalls.  If the dog pulls in its eagerness to get to the handler and its motivator, it will have the unpleasant sensation of being choked or throttled by the collar.  It will then associate the pain and fear with the environment and equipment that is around it - see Environmental Photos - (for instance, "being asked to return to my owner hurts my neck so I will either run away from the pain or try to avoid playing the Game").  So many dogs have been put off dog training due to the lack of thought about suitable equipment.

 

Motivator

A selection of different motivators that the Handler can experiment with to find out which ones the dog enjoys most.  These rewards make the whole Game fun and worthwhile for the dog - would you make an effort and learn something new if you were only given a 10 pence coin for getting it right?  Of course not!  However, the prospect of sometimes getting a £50 note and other times getting £1 or £2 would make you want to try again just in case you get a really good reward.

 

USE A Long Line

On a lead, dogs are unable to socialise and greet each other in a relaxed and comfortable way.  They need the freedom of movement to decide for themselves how much personal space they and another dog needs to feel relaxed and unthreatened, and be able to chose the right moment to approach and greet the other dog.  Dogs cannot achieve this if their Handler is influencing them through the lead and stands too close to another dog and Handler. 

 

Some dogs feel trapped by the situation and, because they cannot move away, have only one option left - to act aggressively towards the other dog. The lead acts like an umbilical cord to the dog, which is aware of the Handler's fears and emotions, and gives the dog the impression that the Handler will protect it from the other dog. It may even think that the Handler will provide back up to its aggressive attack by "barking" at the other dog as well (in fact the Handler is shouting at their dog but it is too stressed to realise this).

 

Another disadvantage of being on a lead is that the dogs are unable to use their full range of body signals and behaviour to communicate with the other dog - particularly those who are pulling on the end of the lead.  Examples of this subtle communication between dogs are -

  • Approaching one another in wide curves and from the side - never in a direct line as this is a sign of aggressive behaviour.
  • Diffusing the situation and stress of the dog by sniffing the ground to show that they are unconcerned about the presence of the other dog.
  • Turning their eyes, heads or bodies away, as well as moving away from the other dog
  • Licking their lips
  • Yawning
  • Walking slowly or even freezing on the spot until the other dog feels more relaxed
  • Sitting or lying down
  • Adopting the play position

For further information about these and other canine signals (which are often called Calming signals) contact Sheila Harper Canine Education, ISCP and other educational bodies. They stock books and videos on the subject and regularly give lectures on how to observe and recognise these fascinating canine signals, as well as the importance of walking a dog on a loose lead.

 

JUMPS

The Dog Games of Bounce, Bounce & Hand, Bounce & Round and Bounce & Touch all use four 8" (20cm) flyball jumps for the dogs to jump over. This measurement refers to the total height of the boards across the two uprights. The jumps are easy to assemble and dismantle and take up very little room when stored.  A set of four jumps can be stored in a heavy-duty bag or sack. Each jump has two uprights, a baseboard, and two thin slats. 

 

Each upright has a slit cut just wide enough for the baseboard and later the slats to be threaded into.  It is also useful to have hand holes near the top so that the uprights can be carried.  I recommend that assembled jumps should not be moved and carried by these handles as the twisting and turning of the boards may result in the baseboard breaking at its weakest point - the large cuts where they slot over the uprights. 

 

The baseboard is 6" (15cm) high and is made to slot at right angles to the uprights.  These baseboards give stability to the jump.  Be careful not to make the slat hole too big or the jump will wobble or fall over in a gust of wind.  Conversely, if the hole is too small and makes assembling the jump difficult, the wood may splinter from being forced through and over the uprights.

 

Each of the two 1" (2.5cm) slats threads through the uprights' holes and rests on top of each other above the baseboard.  You may wonder why the baseboard is not made high enough so that the top slats are unnecessary - the answer has to do with safety.  Historically in Flyball a 1" slat is always used at the top of the jump so that if a dog hits it hard the slat gives way rather than damage the dog.  As the jumps are set at the British Flyball Association minimum height (8") and baseboards are made at 6" rather than 7", this necessitates two 1" slats being used rather than a 2".  (I hope the above made sense!!)

 

The jumps are usually made of either painted plywood (which needs a lot of care and maintenance) or signwriters plastiboard (which is waterproof, does not need painting and does not break or splinter easily).

Modern Dog Sports - tel 01730 266633; fax 01730 260055; mds@moderndogs.co.uk have been making high quality flyball jumps for many years, not only for the UK but for overseas customers as well.  They are happy to help and advise you on prices, postage and packaging arrangements, and accept cheques and all major credit cards.  Jumps can either be bought singly or as a full set of four.

 

If, on the other hand, you wish to make your own jumps a template for one is available here. The dimensions given are for 10mm thick wood/plastiboard.  Adjust the widths of the 12mm cut outs accordingly if thinner or thicker wood or board is used.

 

BLACK RUBBER MAT

The Games of Hand and Bounce & Hand use a soft rubber car mat (approx 14" x 20" (35cm x 50cm) to put the retrieve articles on.   Something similar could also be used. It acts as a backdrop for the toy, making it more obvious for the dog to see over long distances and prevents the dog loosing sight of the toy in the grass.

These car mats are cheap and easily obtainable from car accessory shops. 

       

SPRAY PAINT

Ground marking spray paint is used to mark the positions of the jumps, the 50ft/15m marker, and the start/finish poles.  If you are using netting and are unable to leave it up from one session to the next, marking the positions of the fence posts is also very useful so that it makes setting up the netting easier next time. 

 

By marking the exact positions of the equipment the Handler and Trainer do not have to carefully measure the distances each time they want to train. Another benefit of using paint to mark the location of the box area, jumps etc is that the training area can be set up in exactly the same place as the dog learned to do the exercise last time.  This is very important to dogs as they are very conscious of the environment and location that good or bad things occur, and this wil help them to build confidence in the Games and exercises as the training area is consistently the same - this is particularly relevant when teaching Starters level of each Game. If you are goig to mark with spray paint, I suggest that you do thi on a still day with little or no wind. Also I suggest that you do this several days before you do any training so that th epaint has been weathered and much of the smell has been "blown" away. 

 

Ground marking spray paint is available from a variety of outlets, manufacturers, including builders merchants. I have come across two makes so far -

 

COO-VAR road paint which comes in a variety of colours -
Coo-Var Ltd, Ellenshaw Works, Lockwood Street, Hull, HU2 0HN
Tel - 01482328053; website - www.coo-var.co.uk

 

Meon Spray Paint, which is sold by -
Modern Dog Sports - tel 01730 266633; mds@moderndogs.co.uk
They are happy to help and advise you on prices, postage and packaging arrangements, and accept cheques and all major credit cards.

 

 

TAPE MEASURE

This is a very important piece of equipment when doing Dog Games. The distances, between the jumps, poles and the place where the mat, cone, target box are placed, HAVE to be consistent in order for the dog to gain confidence in the exercises and the environment in which it is training.

 

Although shorter tape measures can be used, it is recommended that a 100ft (30m) length be used as it can be stretched all the way down the training lane and spray paint used to mark the positions of the various pieces of equipment.

These extra long tape measures can be bought at most builders merchants or DIY shops.

TENNIS BALLS

Tennis balls are cheap and readily available. But be aware that the surface material surface (in colour, usually yellow, white etc when new) is rough for the ball to grip the playing surface when used in tennis.  The rough surface (which may contain small pieces of glass or similar) can wear down dogs' teeth if the use of tennis balls becomes excessive. There are other substitutes on the market

 

The Dog Games Flatpack "Touch & Turn" Target Box

The Touch Box is easy to dismantle and pack flat for easy carrying and transporting. As shown, the bar supporting the ball in the middle can also be biased to left or right as required.

 

This piece of equipment is used in the Dog Game Touch and Bounce and Touch.  It has been developed by Modern Dog Sports, who are experts in the manufacture of flyball boxes and export them all over the world. They pride themselves on using the most hard-wearing and safe materials (such as deep cushioning behind the rubber touch mat) and adapting their products to suit their customer's needs.

 

The target box has been designed so that it can be folded flat for easy carrying and storage, and has a variety of settings and adjustments so that the angle of the ramp can be raised or lowered to suit every dogs requirements.

This flatpack target box is so-called because it stores flat. It does not have the trigger mechanism that is used in the International Flyball trigger box. It is used in the initial training of dogs because it does not move and has no trigger movement and noise. 

   

The "ball holder bar" clips to the front of the target box, allowing the bar to be raised or lowered to suit the dog's size. One or two holes are cut into the bar so that a tennis ball can rest in the cup for the dog to run and pick out of the hole. As you can see it looks very similar to an International Flyball box but does not have the expensive trigger mechanism.

 

Detailed dimensions are given below if you wish to make your own Target Box. This innovative piece of equipment can be ordered by either -
telephoning Modern Dog Sports on (01730) 266633 or e-mail mdslimited@aol.com
.

 

Be warned - once a dog has had the unsettling experience of a target box moving underneath it, it can be very reluctant to put its weight against it again.

Therefore, in the interests of dog safety and to stop the box moving when in use, the box must either be staked down using heavy-duty iron pegs which are available in camping shops or you could have made at your local blacksmiths. Also always have an adult standing on the foot plate behind the ramp as the ball-loader..


Iron Pegs - suggested dimensions
either 12" long + 3" bent over (30cm, 8cm)
or 9" long + 3" bent over (23cm, 8cm)

 

DIMENSIONS
Below are rough guidelines, as a target box can be made out of a variety of different materials and dimensions. See also photos on Touch Box Page for a better understanding of how to make this piece of equipment.
 

Front ramp could fold flat over the base
FRONT RAMP -
  • 55cm x 55cm
  • Approx. 15mm thick
  • Top layer is thick rubber matting (with ridges top prevent the dog's paws sliding)
  • Recommend foam or sponge to be behind the rubber matting to help absorb the weight on the dog as it lands on the ramp. However, this is not imperative.
 
  • Right angled brackets screwed into back of front ramp so that struts can be bolted to them. They can be single hole like this or slightly longer with two holes (see picture above).
  BASE -
  • 68cm long x 48cm wide made from angled metal so that holes can be drilled at the side to fix the struts.
  • 2 x 10cm wide hinges holding the base to the front ramp
  • Foot plate 20cm x 48cm
  • Holes for struts (measuring from the front of the base) 40cm, 56cm, 63cm - these measurements are just suggestions. It is better to have a variety of fixing holes so that the angle of the Front Ramp can be adjusted to be flatter or more upright, depending on the dog.
  STRUTS -
  • Each approx. 46cm long and made of angled metal
  • The corners of both ends of the struts need to be cut and/or filed so that they fit between the Front Ramp and the Base at an angle
  • Drill holes big enough for the bolts to go through the struts and the angled brackets on the Front Ramp, and for those to fit the strut to the Base. Suggestions for placement of these holes is 2 & 4 cm at either end.

 

BAR FOR HOLDING BALLS -

This is attached to the front of the ramp with clamps so that it can be raised or lowered to the correct height for the dog. There are two designs -

  • Three holes so that the ball can be placed either to the left, right, or centre for the dog to retrieve (providing a bias depending on which way the dog naturally turns)
  • One central hole (which is less confusing for the dog but does not offer the choice of approaches that the three hole does)

 

There are also two ways of cutting the holes out of the deep rubber and plastic which the bar is made out of -

  • In this picture the hole is cut straight down and is quite deep. The smaller dogs find this design quite hard as their little balls get "buried" in the deep hole.
  • In this picture the hole is the "stepped" design, which is cut half as deep and then there is a smaller hole futher down to rest the back of the ball in. We put a wad of foam in this smaller hole when using the tiny balls, so that they rest on the outer ridge of the hole.

 

This web site has been written by Sally Hopkins (unless the author of the web page is stated otherwise).

 

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