As usual, we went to flyball practice this past Sunday evening. The last two weeks, and probably for the forseeable future, we went early to be there at 5pm in order to work with Ezri during lesson time. This week was full of interesting new things, that's for sure!
Ezri is big enough (19 lbs or so) that she can make the training board slide, whether it's on the floor or on someone's knees, so it was time to move her up to the training frame. This is a big fake box sort of thing that Ben made last year sometime for Ari and Indy, and it is basically a fixed-angle board, much larger and higher than a real box, with velcro spots on it to hold tennis balls. This lets the young ones learn how to run up on the box to get a ball without having to deal with the shock of hitting the pedal or having to catch that fast-moving ball as it's ejected out of the box. Regular training aids (jumps, barriers, etc.) can be used with it as the dogs' age and abilities allow, and for now we have Ezri using just a little piece of something in front of it to visually cue her to jump up, she's far too little for a regular jump aid of 6". So the first thing Ezri did at practice was decide she wasn't going to turn left anymore, she wanted to turn right. I'm not entirely sure how I'm going to handle this, as a left turn is faster but if the right turn is natural that's safer. We switched her over to the right after she kept turning that way anyway, and she proceeded to have a perfect turn just about every time.
Ezri did plenty of "full runs" on the puppy course consisting of 3" jumps and the fixed box-trainer, run in sets of five with at least 1o and usually 20 minutes between sets. She ran two sets for me, two sets for Chris, and one set for Julie with successful runs in every set. Next week I hope to get Jeff and Rudy to run her for some experience with additional handlers, especially since Chris is the only guy she's run for. She's doing pretty well holding her ball and going over the jumps, with a reminder holdback at the beginning, but does occasionally get too excited and drop her ball before she crosses the finish line. We're being careful to make sure she's not rewarded for that and the incidence of that particular foible lessed over the course of the evening. She has got the whole "border collie stop" down pat as she hits her tuggy toy at full speed and swings out without ever braking. Hopefully I can switch her from the TugIt with the squeaky toy to a regular fleece tug in the next few weeks, as if Ezri gets much more invovled with the tugging the trainer TugIt isn't going to last much longer.
Finally, we learned just how much Ezri loves flyball now...she climbed out of the e-pen! We were running the second set of tournament lineups, with Jadzia and Curzon both on the same team in start and cleanup, respectively. During the last heat I recalled Jadzia and looked over to see Chris drop Curzon's harness and race over to catch a flailing Ezri who had climbed up to the top of the e-pen and was about to drop out over the side onto the concrete - a four foot drop. I grabbed Curzon and ran him while Chris dealt with the puppy, and luckily nobody (and no dog!) was hurt. Ezri tried the climbing escape again a few minutes later, and Chris saw her and leaned the e-pen wall backwards so she fell off without warning (landing on the thick dog bed safely). She looked rather emotionally wounded and pathetic for the rest of the night, but didn't even try to stand up against the e-pen wall again so that's just fine with us. If need be we'll leash her to another dog when she's in the pen, like another teammate has to do with her bouncy girl border collie, but I'm hoping she has learned her lesson.