By: Ian McCracken
If someone says dogs cannot be athletes, they have never heard of Flyball.
Flyball is the real-life Air Bud experience (minus the basketball). The idea was believed to have been seen on the Johnny Carson Show in the 1970’s when Herbert Wagner unveiled his prototype game for dogs. In the 80’s, however, the game took off with trainers and dog clubs making their own Flyball setups. The North American Flyball Association was established as a result of the growing popularity.
Make no mistake, the game is intense. The sport is a relay race event. Teams of four compete to see who can finish the race fastest without error. The course consists of a starting line, four hurdles spaced 10 feet apart, and a box 15 feet from the last hurdle that dispenses a ball. The box is a spring-loaded ramp-like structure. It will release the ball once the dog’s paws make contact with the ramp. The next dog goes once the contestant before them jumps the hurdles back and crosses the start line.
Still confused? This video might help.
As you can see, there really is no discrimination when it comes to what type of dog can play Flyball. Big, small, old, young, or three-legged it does not matter. As long as your pet has a playful disposition and athleticism to go with it, sign them up.
Registering is not complicated. You can either create your own team or find one that is looking for members. If you are joining a currently established team, just apply for a Certified Racing Number (CRN). It’s a one-time payment of $25 that allows NAFA to track your dog’s accomplishments over his Flyball career.
If you decide to register a new club, NAFA has an application on their website. Just fill out the information and if any already certified dogs are coming to your team list them so their CRNs can be transferred. Mail it completed to the NAFA headquarters with $25 and your club is ready to race.
Now, of course, practice makes perfect and the right equipment is where it begins. NAFA lists a number of places to order boxes and other essentials.
Tennis balls will wear out quickly after constant use. Make a smart investment in a durable toy that will not damage as easily. Planet Dog’s Orbee-Tuff balls are great for this. The Orbee-Tuff Tennis Ball is a long-lasting and efficient Flyball toy. Your dog will enjoy chasing the mint-scented ball while you will love its durability, eco-friendliness, and how it’s washable. Other popular Planet Dog Flyballs are the Woof. Ball, Diamond-Plate, and Recycle Balls.
Our friends over at Salty Dog Canvas are a great resource for Flyball accessories too.
If your dog is full of energy and always wants to play, Flyball is worth the consideration. It is exciting, fun and a great bonding activity to do with your dog. Try it out and let us know how it goes!