“ An incredible dog sport that is exciting for you and your dog. „
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There are many different training classes that you can take you dogs to. For example there are basic training classes (aimed more at puppies) and there are extended training classes (for adult dogs who need or want training. As well as training classes, many dog owners take part in agility and flyball. Although the training in these two events are not as bog standard as they are in dog training, both agility and flyball are excellent ways to increase your bond with your dog, teach your dogs need commands and most of all they are fun for both the owner and dog.
I have been taking part in flyball for the last 2 years and I take both my dogs to flyball once a week on a Sunday. I am a shift worker so obviously I can only attend when I am not at work. My flyball club is called The Shooting Stars and is held in Folkestone from 10am every Sunday.
Flyball is a team sport for dogs. It first began in California in the late 70's. Flyball is essentially a relay race. Dogs negotiate 4 hurdles, trigger a box that in turn releases a tennis ball ("flyball") which the dog must catch and return to the handler, negotiating the 4 hurdles on return. The next dog then takes its turn. A team can consist of up to six dogs and handlers, but only four compete in each round so two dogs are in theory reserves, so if a dog is beginning to get tired then the reserve would step in. The spring board box which holds the ball obviously needs to be re-loaded with a ball every time a dog removes it. The person given this job is called a 'box loader' and although it sounds fairly easy, some of the dogs are extremely fast and you have to keep up with the pace! The box loader also calls the name of each dog as it is their turn to run to encourage them to run faster.
The 4 hurdle (jumps) I mentioned earlier are spaced 10 feet apart. The first hurdle is 6 foot from the start line and the box (that holds the ball) id 15 feet from the last hurdle. The dogs jump the hurdles and when they reach the box, they jump on the spring loaded box that throws out a ball. The idea is that the dog catches the ball and then returns to the owner, once that dog passes the start line, the next dog is sent down the course. The 1st team to have all their dogs complete the course in the quickest time, wins the race!
Tournaments are held throughout the year where flyball teams from across the country all meet together and hold a weekend of races between the different flyball clubs. This is great fun and although obviously the aim is to win, it is not very competitive and is a hell of a lot of fun!
TEACHING FLBALL TO YOUR PET
I am only going to talk about my personal experience of flyball and what I am about to say may very from club to club. I was first told about flyball by the lady who ran the puppy training classes I took my collies to when they were pups. She explained what it was about and gave me a number to call if I was interested. I decided to give it a go, rang the number and was invited over on a Sunday morning to see what it was all about.
When I arrived I was greeted by the owners of the club, Roger and Jan. They explained to me a bit about flyball and then took me into the area where the flyball course was set up.
I was informed that teaching your dog flyball is done in stages. For example, if your dog is not too keen on jumps, or has never done them before, then they will obviously need to learn how to do this part 1st. I was extremely lucky with my first dog, as he took to flyball like a duck to water. He has always been obsessed with balls and the told me to stand at the beginning of the jumps and hold Marley. Someone was stood at the other end of the course, calling Marley's name and waving around a tennis ball. I was told to release Marley and he went charging down the course, over the jumps and at the last moment, the ball was put into place on the spring board. He took the ball from the box, and I was instructed to scream his name and run away from him, prompting him to run faster towards me, which it did. I was informed that I was lucky with Marley as some dogs can take months to learn this. In fact, my Mum's collie took 10 months to learn what Marley did on one lesson.
With my second dog, I wasn't so lucky, he didn't have a clue what he was doing, he was scared of the jumps, didn't know what to do when he got to the box (he didn't have an interest in ball at all!) and was more interested in chasing the other dogs. Stage by stage, the club owners eventually managed to teach him the whole course. It took about 6 months in total but we got there in the end.
I imagine that each club differs slightly but the theory will be the same. You can always look on the internet to find the clue nearest to you. I know my club is always keen to take on new members.
IS FLYBALL FOR YOU AND YOUR DOG
Many people are of the opinion that only collies do flyball, and to some extent that is true. I believe the reason for this is that collies have so much excess energy that the owners are always keen to take part in anything that exerts some of their energy!
Having said that, ANY dog is welcome at flyball, currently at my flyball club we have a whole array of different dogs, Labs, Jack Russels, Scotties and many more.
As long as your dog is fit and healthy then flyball could be a great part of your pet's life. We have 1 dog at out club that is 10 years old and still takes part in flyball.
As I have mentioned in a previous review, my 2 year old collie Marley has epilepsy and I don't like to compete in flyball with him anymore and I don't want to partake in any sort of activity that may cause him to have a seizure. I still take him over to the training sessions and he has a few goes, but I do not compete with him in competitions. I do still compete with my other dog Dax, and Marley comes along for a weekend of socialising with the other dogs.
It costs me £3 each time I go. The good thing about the prices is that you don't pay per dog, you pay per owner. So I only pay the same amount as someone who is only training one dog.
JOINING A CLUB
If you are interested in taking part in flyball, your best bet is to have a search for flyball clubs in your area on the internet. There are hundreds of clubs and you are bound to find one fairly local to you. The thing I love about flyball, is that you are never made to feel awkward, we are all there to have a laugh, and maybe win a few rosettes but at the end of the day, the main aim is for you to teach your pet a new skill and to have fun.
If anyone lives in the Kent area and is interested then please take a look at my clubs website http://www.shootingstarsflyball.co.uk/