Getting into Flyball

We at Autarky love seeing posts from members of active canine sports including Agility, Flyball and CaniCross so we thought it would be great to do a series of what it takes to get into the sport.

The first in our series focuses on Flyball.

Tell us about yourself?

All4One are currently the highest ranked flyball team from East Sussex in the UK Flyball League. The team, from Bexhill were founded with a team ethos which champions community spirit, putting fun at the heart of the sport and welcoming members of all ages and dogs of all breeds. We place particular emphasis on dog welfare – our dogs come first in all things.

It's important to the team that the dogs are fit, well cared for and happy and that team work happens to the benefit of all  in the team. The team is committed to keeping abreast of current trends in positive dog training and attend seminars and workshops on a regular basis.

Meet Elsa, a 4 year old working cocker spaniel who weighs 15 kilos and Molly a 2 year old Cocker-jack weighing in at just 8.6 kg.

How did you get into Flyball?

There are lots of reasons to get into flyball. For lots of us we have a dog that is ball-mad and that is what makes us curious. It was just the same with Elsa, and as is so often the case, once the dog gets the flyball bug, so does the owner, and then it’s just a matter of time till other dogs in the family are introduced to flyball. But there are very many other reasons that keep us coming back. Getting together with people who love dogs and flyball, and who enjoy each other's company, is always a pleasure and positive experience. More than that, flyball offers the opportunity to develop a deep bond of trust with your dog as they learn to work in a team with you, each of you having your job. Your dog learns to work in a team with you to the exclusion of all distractions and then to return to you at high speed as a reward.

Where can I train to have a go at Flyball?

There are flyball teams all over the country participating in local fundraising and community events where members of the public can have a go at Flyball. Most teams run training courses for new starters so that they can begin to see what the sport involves for them and their dog, and whether they and their dog will both enjoy life as a member of a flyball team.

How long did it take Elsa and Molly to become competitive at Flyball?

Brian and Maria got Elsa when she was about four months old. Then took her to Spain for the winter and on their return did the basic training when she was about a year old. They had completed 5 weeks of the training and it was time for the Raystede show where the team were doing a display. Brian and Maria took Elsa along to watch. Elsa recognised the equipment as soon as it was taken out of the bags and became so excited that Maria struggled to keep hold of her. From that day on she just took to it like a duck to water. With just a bit of work on her box turns she was away. She started to compete with the team as soon as she was old enough. The only difficulty was stopping her from retrieving the closest balls rather than going for the ball in the box.

Molly just grew up being part of the team! Watching training from her crate or walking around on a lead. She was a bit more head strong than Elsa and took a bit of time to decide it was worth her while doing it. She did a few starters competitions and then joined the team as reserve. This summer she has taken off as a member of All4One on the Run and has shaved nearly a second off her personal best.

What age should I start training my dog to do Flyball?

Repetitive training and jumping is not recommended for any dog until their growth-plates close. For that reason dogs must be at least 15 months old to compete in a UK Flyball League sanctioned competition. However there is a lot that can be trained in puppies that will be useful later. Sit, down, stay, retrieving a rolled ball, socialisation with new people, places and things. And for flyball especially the recall. Training for flyball isn’t restricted to young dogs, however. Training for flyball can start at any age. Rescue dogs may be introduced to flyball by members of their forever home family at all different ages.

What equipment do I need to begin in Flyball?

Clubs offering flyball training will provide the equipment needed to set up a flyball lane. All you need is yourself, your dog, and your dog’s favourite toy or treat.

Do I need a specific breed of dog for Flyball?

Dogs of all ages, abilities and breeds including mixed breeds are welcome. Dogs of all shapes and sizes are regularly seen in competition, including dogs with disability.

What is it that you enjoy most about Flyball?

Well they seem to love every aspect of Flyball and so Brian and Maria most enjoy seeing both of them having a purpose into which they throw themselves with such abandon and joy! Maria might fess up to secretly loving the competitive element, too!

Why do you feed Autarky?

Brian and Maria, with Elsa and Molly, began feeding Autarky as they were interested to see how a food designed for very active dogs might affect their flyball performance. The dogs love it and seem to thrive on it.

What are the benefits of feeding Autarky?

Their energy levels are consistent and they have maintained their weight and condition all year. Brian and Maria always weigh/measure the food and find it very convenient as they travel a lot to competitions across the country. Around race days it’s easy to alter the amounts so that they’re at the perfect racing weight.

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