The 2015 Howl & Yowl Musical Benefit at Living Free will feature an exciting demonstration of Flyball, the fast-paced sport for agile dogs. Flyball started as a dog sport in the late 1960s and early 1970s, in Southern California. Some dog trainers combined scent hurdle racing with the dogs bringing back a tennis ball to the finish line. Then a tennis ball-launching apparatus was added and the first flyball box was born. Herbert Wagner is credited with making the first real flyball box.
Flyball is a dog sport in which teams of dogs race against each other from a start/finish line, over a line of hurdles, to a box that releases a tennis ball to be caught when the dog presses the spring-loaded pad, then back to their handlers while carrying the ball.
Flyball is run in teams of four dogs, as a relay. The course consists of four hurdles placed 10 feet (3 m) apart from each other, with the starting line six feet (1.8 m) from the first hurdle, and the flyball box 15 feet (4.5 m) after the last one, making for a 51-foot (15.5 m) length. The hurdle height is determined by the shoulder height of the smallest dog in the team. Under current North American Flyball Association (NAFA) rules this should be 5 inches (12.7 cm) below the withers height of the smallest dog, to a height of no less than 7 inches (20.3 cm) and no greater than 14 inches (40.6 cm). Current EFC (European Flyball Championship) rules limits the height to no less than 17,5 cm and no greater than 35 cm. Each dog must return its ball all the way across the start line before the next dog crosses. Ideal running is nose-to-nose at the start line. The first team to have all four dogs cross the finish line error free wins the heat. Penalties are applied to teams if the ball is dropped or if the next relay dog is released early.
Flyball provides an entertaining and active way to interact with one’s dog and other dog enthusiasts in an environment that is fun while allowing the dogs exercise and enjoyment. It is an especially effective way to burn off the energy of dogs with a high drive to work, such as Border Collies and Staffordshire Bull Terriers.
A large part of flyball’s popularity stems from the fact that it is one of the competition activities available to mixed-breed dogs, allowing rescued mutts and non-pedigree dogs to shine alongside their purebred canine counterparts. Though herding dogs currently dominate the courses, many champion teams have mutts on them. Dogs earn titles and awards based on points earned by their team in racing.
As the sport has developed better dog training regimes have been introduced as knowledge has increased within the sport. Specific training has been developed to promote the dogs using ‘swimmers’ type turns on the Flyball box when catching the ball and turning.
Flyball is not limited to the size of the breed, as smaller dogs such as Patterdale Terriers, Jack Russell Terriers, Whippets and even miniature poodles, often compete with great success in mixed-breed teams (teams consisting of dogs of various sizes and breeds). Smaller dogs are often prized as the hurdle height is based on the height of the smallest dog in the team, commonly known as a height dog. Their only limitation is whether they can trigger the release pad, and small dogs often have to fully jump on it to do so.
Flyball is one of the non-hunting dog sports in which dogs and people work as a team. Many casual pet owners use their flyball time more as a way to relax and socialize with other dog owners than as a competition, and many champion flyball dogs are essentially pet dogs with a hobby, rather than dedicated sporting or working dogs. On the other hand, modern flyball has become the fastest growing teamsport, a sport for dogs, handlers and coaches. First division teams have well trained dogs and handlers and are trained and coached to perform. Some teams use dedicated special bred sportdogs. Flyball can be a real sport for dedicated performers, a hobby for all! (source: Wikipedia)
Don’t miss this fun demonstration at the 2015 Howl & Yowl on October 24th.
Tickets are $15 for adults, children under 12 are free. Pre-purchase tickets at Eventbrite, or purchase them at Living Free the day of the event. Can’t make it to the event? Consider donating the ticket price to help the animals – all proceeds benefit cat and dog rescues from local kill shelters.