Controlled chaos is coming to the NC State Fairgrounds this January in the form of flyball, a combination of hurdles and fetching competitions, plus many excited dogs.
Created nearly 50 years ago by a group of animal trainers in California, flyball has grown from scent discrimination hurdle racing to a national organization of more than 400 active clubs and 6,500 competing dogs. Flyball has even appeared on ESPN’s Great Outdoor Games.
Raleigh’s January event, aptly titled DogGoneFast Winter WufFest XVI, will host approximately 50 teams competing across two rings. For each race, a team of four dogs will compete against another team of four, running a timed 51-foot-long course with four hurdles spaced 10 feet apart and a spring-loaded box that shoots out a tennis ball. Each dog completes the course, catches the ball, and then returns over the hurdles to tag his or her teammate for their turn. The first team to have all dogs run the course error-free takes the cake.
DogGoneFast Flyball Club, founded in 1996, is hosting the event with a mission to promote flyball competition, establish one or more competitive teams, and promote good canine citizenship and responsible dog ownership. Participants, both canine and human, also have fun doing it.
“As the host club, it’s our honor to recognize the achievements of the competitors at the award ceremony,” says Amanda Brown, regional director of the North American Flyball Association and a club captain. “All of the smiling faces make all of the hard work on Friday, of preparing the venue, worthwhile. The entire flyball community recognizes the most humble to the lifetime achievers.”
Teams are often made up of multiple breeds, especially since the hurdle height is set by the team’s shortest dog. It would benefit a Border Collie, for instance, to have a Terrier mix as a teammate. To keep things fun and competitive, teams of similar speeds run against one another. The fastest compete against the fastest, the slowest against the slowest and, with races continually going on in the two rings, there’s never a dull moment.
“I really like the feeling you get when all your hard work pays off and a dog puts it together, or a team puts it together,” says Tammy Bonas, owner of Blockade Runners, a Raleigh team that plans to compete 12-18 dogs in Winter WufFest. “I like the sheer joy of it and the excitement of the dogs.”
Bonas started her team when she was looking for something to do with her Lab mix, Scooter. Her team, like others in the area, focuses on training, but also on keeping it fun.
If you’re interested in racing your dog, check out local teams or take a class on agility. Contact Amanda Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org; and she can direct your inquiry to a local club. Admission is free to spectators and their well-behaved, leashed pets.