I’ll never forget the first day I heard about flyball. I was practicing at the time in obedience at the local dog training facility with Bella, my first little whippet. The owner of the facility came up to me after class and said “oooh, whippets can run a four-second split in flyball.” She proceeded to tell me that when Bella finished obedience training, I should contact the flyball captain and join them on Sunday practices.
She explained that flyball is a dog sport, which combines components of obedience, agility, retrieving and racing. It’s sort of like drag racing for dogs, honestly. And, what’s faster than a whippet, right?
OK, so here’s the quick description: Flyball matches two teams to race against each other, side-by-side on a 51-foot lane. Each team has four dogs that run in relay-fashion down the lane, over four jumps, and then they trigger a “flyball box” which is spring-loaded to shoot out a tennis ball when they hit it. The dog does a “swimmer’s turn” on the box, catching the ball in mid-air (ideally), then they run back over the same four jumps in the lane. Just at
that time, the next dog passes them and runs their turn, then the next and so on until all four dogs have completed the race. The first team to have all four dogs run without any errors wins the heat. This is VERY loud sport. The dogs get so excited, they “trash talk” each other on the race lanes. It’s really organized chaos.
There’s a saying: “obedience is like dinner at the white house, agility is like a wine and cheese party, and flyball is like a kegger.”
Two months following my first my introduction to flyball, I walked proudly into my first practice, thinking “oooh, I have a four-second dog; they will be very happy to see me join the team.” Well, the team was cordial, but I didn’t receive the response I was expecting. It took some time, but I eventually learned why the team wasn’t falling all over the new whippet of the group (other than how cute and friendly she was).
I couldn’t figure it out. Why were they not very excited to see her on the team?
Training A Whippet
Bella really is adorable, and when I called her over the jumps, she flew! She’s a natural!!! Not afraid of jumps and look at that speed.
Well, not everything was that easy.
First problem – um, this whippet doesn’t find tennis balls interesting. She doesn’t even like to put things in her mouth! It’s not moving + no reason to chase it = no fun. And, how would she ever retrieve something, if she won’t even pick it up?
Here’s what worked: I cut open a smaller tennis ball and place a piece of smelly hot dog in the center . Ahh, now I have her attention!
“First problem - um, this
whippet doesn’t find tennis
balls interesting .......