Great! Flyball is a blast! The dogs have a great time and they really get into the racing and so do the handlers! The training promotes teamwork and bonding between the handler and dog. The handler's take pride in their well trained dogs and the dogs seem to gain confidence and a sense of accomplishment. Dogs enjoy Flyball so much that when we take a break during practice a dog often decides to go down over the jumps and check the box all on its own!
All types of dogs play flyball. We don't have one of either of the two breeds that seem to predominate Flyball running on the team yet. Why? Because it doesn't take any type of dog or breed of dog to play flyball, all dogs are eligible to play and are welcomed equally, whether a mix, an unregistered purebred, or a conformation Champion show dog.
Another cool thing about Flyball is that it doesn't take any speed of dog to play either - every team plays against teams of approximately the same speed. In our region the teams that enter a tournament are typically divided into three divisions and the teams play the other teams in their division. The fastest teams are in division one, from the 21 second area and faster. Division two is made up of teams that go about 22 to 24 seconds and division three is made up of teams that go higher than 24 seconds.
Dog lovers, of course!
Flyball is a team relay race over four jumps and back to retrieve a ball from a 'box'. One of the variables is the height of the jumps. Jump height is between eight and sixteen inches and is set four inches less than the height of the shortest dog running. The higher the jumps the more effort it takes to run the course.
Large dogs will generally have the least problem with higher jump heights, be able to jump lower heights with ease and will usually run a consistent speed all day regardless of jump height.
Medium sized dogs have a stride length that is naturally near the ideal for Flyball and so they will easily maximize their speed potential.
Small dogs seem able to jump with an ease disproportionate to their size so they are generally less effected by the jump height which is normally set four inches less than their own height.
A team of six dogs, of which four run a heat, is usually made up of two or three larger dogs, two or three medium sized dogs and one or two smaller dogs. This gives a team the balance of sizes needed to take best advantage of the teams speed potential while preserving their endurance by keeping the jump heights down. We participated in one tournament where we had only large and medium sized dogs. The dogs tore up the course in record time for the first half of the day, but had slowed by four seconds before the day was over - thus the value of the smaller dog keeping jump height down to preserve the teams endurance. Not many teams run without one dog setting jump heights at or below 12 inches. There is a place for every dog on a Flyball team, we have a mini Dachshund and a Doberman and just about every size in between and they are all valued members of our team.
We were looking for a dog sport that our dogs could have real fun with. We had done competitive obedience with our dogs, had played with back yard agility and were seriously considering agility but they weren't quite what we were looking for. Not enough joyful abandon for the dogs in obedience, agility looked to be more fun for the dog, but perhaps still a bit too much structure and dependence on the handler. Let the dog get out there and do what its trained to do - something simple yet fast, fun and competitive for the dogs.
In April of '99 we saw our first Flyball tournament and we knew that this was what we had been looking for. We investigated joining what was the only existing Flyball team in Nova Scotia, but after some inquiries we decided to start a team on our own. At the time we were heavily involved in volunteer work with a local kennel club so we arranged to turn over fees to the club in exchange for the use of mats and other considerations. We worked up a set of lesson plans for a beginner Flyball class and we started teaching in September of '99 with an initial class of eight dogs. The arrangement worked well, enabling us to get the team off the ground and help support the kennel club financially. When we left the kennel club in the spring of 2000 we expanded our operations to offer obedience classes to fund the purchase and manufacture of equipment. Our team's aim is to improve the quality of life for canines and their owners through an active program of positive training and participation. It has been a rewarding experience for us, we have met many friends along the way and hope to meet many more.