This fast and furious canine relay race taps into several of your dog's inbuilt instincts, including running, retrieving, and even competing with other dogs. But while many of the skills of Flyball will come naturally to most pooches, you'll still need to do a little bit of training to help your dog wrap their head around what they need to do.
So, what is Flyball and what do you need to do to help your dog get started? Let's take a closer look.
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Signs Your Dog May Like Flyball
The biggest indicator that your dog could fall madly in love with Flyball is a love of tennis balls. If you're constantly wearing out your arm throwing balls at the park for your furry friend to chase and retrieve, this is a good sign that they'll be raring to go when introduced to Flyball.
The second sign that Fido will adore Flyball is if your pooch is energetic and always full of beans. If your furry friend loves nothing more than running, jumping, and generally tackling every day at a million miles an hour, there's a good chance they'll be more than happy to start competing.
If your dog ticks those boxes, why not search for a Flyball club near you? Before going along to give the sport a try, however, it might be worth getting your dog checked out by a veterinarian to make sure they're fit and able to participate in the sport colloquially known as drag racing for dogs.
- Wag tail
- Raise ears
- A love of tennis balls
- Strong retrieving instincts
- High energy levels
- Anticipation and excitement
A Brief History of Flyball
The man widely credited with kick-starting the Flyball craze was a Californian by the name of Herbert Wagner. This innovative dog lover developed the first-ever tennis ball launcher for his ball-crazy pet, and started performing demonstrations at his local obedience club. The positive feedback and word of mouth eventually led to Wagner giving a demonstration on The Tonight Show to an audience of millions.
The rest, as they say, is history. The idea for this revolutionary canine sport quickly spread around the nation and soon to other parts of the world, and the first formal competition took place in 1981. The North American Flyball Association was formed in 1984 and the sport has continued going from strength to strength since then.
As an example of this, the first Flyball world records dating from the mid-1980s saw the quickest teams of dogs complete the course in 23 or 24 seconds. The current record is an astonishing 14.43 seconds.
The Science of Dogs Loving Flyball
It's remarkably entertaining for spectators and is over astonishingly quick when you're watching the best teams compete. Dogs absolutely love the thrill of racing and it's common to see canine participants barking, straining at the leash and practically oozing with anticipation as they prepare to take to the course.
But the best thing about Flyball is that there's no discrimination. Any breed of dog can participate, and the height of the hurdles is determined based on the shoulder height of the smallest dog in the team. This level playing field ensures that racing is always entertaining and exciting.
Training Your Dog to Play Flyball
- The Reverse Training Method, which sees you start by teaching your dog to cross the finish line, then to go over the last hurdle and cross the finish line, and eventually to complete the entire course.
- The Focus on the Ball Method, which concentrates on your dog's love of tennis balls and strong retrieving instincts before gradually introducing hurdles and a Flyball box.
- The Break it Down Method, which focuses on teaching each individual skill (jumping hurdles, triggering ball box, retrieving ball etc) before putting them all together.
Whichever option you choose, remember to adopt a consistent approach and stay calm at all times. Last of all, don't forget to enjoy yourself. Flyball is a grrr-eat way for pets and owners to spend some quality time together, so savor every moment with a smile on your face.
Flyball Safety Tips:
It's not for puppies. Dogs need to have mature joints and muscles before they can compete in this high-impact sport. Speak to your vet about an appropriate age for your dog to start training and competing.
Socialization is key. Flyball events can be loud, busy, and action-packed, with plenty of other dogs and their handlers in close proximity. Make sure your dog is well-socialized and capable of dealing with all manner of new sights, sounds, people, pets, and distractions.
Monitor your pet. Keep a close eye on your dog for any signs of injury or over-exertion. If they're in pain or struggling to keep up the pace, stop immediately and give them the care they need to rest and recover.