Sharing Favorite Sports and Backyard Games

Love Dog

In This Chapter

  • Playing football, soccer, or softball
  • Teaching your dog to catch a flying disc
  • Exploring the flyball relay race

Dogs can make the best playmates . . . I remember all the fun I had with my dogs when I was growing up. No matter where we happened to be, you wouldn’t have to look hard to find a ball or a flying disc!

If you and your dog love to be active, look around and be creative — there are many ways to experience the rush of activity as you share your mutual enthusiasm. In this chapter, you explore modified versions of games like softball, football, “Hide and Seek,” and soccer. You also discover two activities that have evolved into full-fledged dog sports open to pure and mixed-breed dogs. These sports — disc dog and flyball — hold competitive events and invite team sport interaction.

Ball Game, Anyone?

If you’re a sports fanatic, why not include your dog in your next practice round? Although your dog may never play soccer, softball, or football in competition, you can invite him to join you in a little backyard play. All he needs are a few retrieval skills (see Chapter Go Fetch! Finding and Retrieving Tricks for details), a ball, and you — his coach and teammate.

Warning!

Bear in mind that dogs, like kids, can get injured during play. Rein in your competitive streak, at least when your dog’s involved, and remember to have fun!

“Snoopy Soccer”

You need one or more players (plus your dog) and an empty plastic soda bottle or a ball (1⁄2 the size of your dog’s front leg) to play “Snoopy Soccer.” Most dogs love to play with a ball or soda bottle, wrestling and knocking it around with their feet. They also love to use their mouths, which is fine if you just want to mess around. But if you’re planning on teaching the next four-legged soccer star, I suggest you go to your local pet store and get an indestructible ball made especially for dogs.
“Snoopy Soccer” is a goal-oriented game. Here’s how to play:
1. Get your dog interested in pawing and nosing at the bottle or ball by knocking it around gently with your feet.

Have fun! Kick the toy around with your dog until there’s a real challenge to see who can reach the ball first. Interact in random patterns around a field.

2. After your dog seems focused on this interaction, set up a 6-foot-wide goal.

Use trash cans, poles, or anything else you happen to have handy.

3. Start close to the goal post and stand facing your dog. Run backward or forward toward the goal — whatever encourages your dog to move into the goal zone. Shout “Goal!” as your dog knocks the bottle or ball toward/into the goal.
4. Kick the ball or bottle to your dog and say “Goal!”; click (or say “Yes!”) and offer a treat for the slightest movement your dog makes toward the goal.

In the beginning, click and reward all movements toward the goal. Slowly space out the rewards, encouraging your dog toward the goal before you reinforce him. For details about using a clicker, see Chapter Prepping for Training — Mentally and Physically.

5. To get him to go for the goal, kick the bottle or ball toward your dog and 3 feet in front of the goal, and command “Goal!”
6. The second your dog crosses the line with the bottle or ball, click and reward him.
Now try passing the bottle or ball at farther distances from the goal. Pretty soon you can introduce him to the team!

Warning!

Be careful of your dog’s face when kicking things around. If you’re just playing soccer to fool around, use two balls and kick the one your dog’s not playing with.

Softball

Our dog Whoopsie loves to go to the ball field with our neighbor Ethan, a pitcher-in-training. Ethan’s warm-up sessions include three participants: himself, his Dad at bat, and Whoopsie playing outfield.
Though a softball is adequate, you may want to play with a rubber ball, appropriate for your dog’s size, so as not to instill an addiction for your game ball. Include your dog at any position, pointing to and leading him to his spot and telling him to “Stay.” Each time he chases down a ball, have another player call out “Fetch” to direct his retrieve!

Warning!

The best position for a dog is the outfield. The risk for injury is much greater when you place your dog in the infield . . . and heaven knows he won’t know how to pitch!

Football

Initially use a miniaturized version of a football to get your dog accustomed to the oblong shape. Your first tosses should be short, and you should angle the center of the ball towards your dog’s mouth. Gradually angle the ball as you’d normally throw it, then use “Stay” to distance yourself from your dog.
Your next goal is to teach your dog to go out and to run for the goal once he has caught the ball: First use the target flag to teach your dog to “Go long” by placing the flag increasingly farther from you. Next, use the target flag to teach your dog to run through the end post. Place visible poles at the end of the field you’re running towards. Command “Target–Touchdown!” as you run with your dog toward the end posts.
Practice this complex sequence inside first (if your mom or spouse will allow it), then alone in the backyard. After your dog has mastered these maneuvers, add more players one at a time until you’ve united a whole team!

Warning!

When playing football with a dog, never encourage physical contact. Touch football only!

Inspiring Flying Disc Fun

If you’ve ever played Frisbee and noticed your dog eyeing the disc eagerly, this could be the game for you! Whether you choose to compete in sponsored disc-dog trials or just play for fun whenever the mood strikes, I promise you one thing: Once you’ve introduced your dog to the game, you’ll never look at your disc, your dog, or your tossing technique the same way again.
The sports version, often called disc dog, isn’t simply a measure of technical skills. Sure, part of the competition is about pure speed, distance, and accuracy, but points are also earned based on showmanship. A well-choreographed routine set to music, in which you and your dog show off a variety of skills and tricks, not only racks up the points but will also bring the house down. If you want to bond with your dog, this is a great way to practice teamwork — and put all that trick-training to good use!
In this section, I go over basic training as I introduce you and your dog to the joys of the disc. Should the competition bug bite, I explain a little about disc-dog events too.

Spotting a good disc-dog candidate

In Chapter Understanding Your Dog’s Natural Abilities and Limitations, I go into great detail about how certain dog breeds are built for certain activities, and how a dog’s personality and passions should weigh into your choice of adventures. Now the time has come to decide if your dog is really a good disc-dog candidate. Some are, some aren’t. Here’s how you can tell:

Warning!

This sport is extremely hard on a dog’s body! Repetitive jumps and landing really put a strain on a dog’s back and joints. Canines with a boxy shape, such as English Labs and Bulldogs, can suffer strain and injury when asked to leap up for a disc in flight. Although these dogs can enjoy the sport, the tosses should not be higher than their heads to avoid the jarring strain of landing. If your dog has dyplasia of any sort (hip or elbow, for example) avoid this activity. This sport is best for well-angled body types who are fit and eager to play.

If you have an older dog at your feet, you’re not too late. As long as your dog is stimulated by a flying disc, any age will do. Of course, all dogs must know basic obedience skills to move on to anything more complicated, including flying disc games, but I’ll leave that up to you.
You can encourage “disc desire” in puppies when they are 2 or 3 months old by feeding them from the disc and rolling the disc in play, but don’t push them to jump and leap. Until puppies are 12 to 18 months, their growth plates are still forming, and injuring them can halt their natural growth. In addition, reliable eye-mouth coordination takes months — sometimes even a year — to set in.

Flying saucers: Choosing your disc

There are many discs on the market: discs with a thumb pad, discs decorated with bone designs, small discs, donut-shaped discs, and fabric discs. The best one for your purposes is a solid disc made of either a fabric or durable plastic. Although solid plastic discs are used in competition, if you’re not planning to go for the gold, consider using fabric discs. They’re not only softer on your dog’s mouth, but they’re also safer on a day-to-day basis.
Pups can start with a 3-inch-diameter disc and grow up to a 9.25-inch-diameter disc, the regulation size.

Remember

Wash the disc from time to time to keep it clean. Discourage your dog from chewing his disc: Once it becomes punctured or frayed, toss it out.

Training for the catch

In this section, you discover how to teach your dog the basics of catching and retrieving a flying disc. You start with teaching him the grab and then work up to fetching and catching.

The grab and release

According to Peter Bloeme at Skyhoundz (www.skyhoundz.com), follow this basic format when training your dog to catch a disc:

1. Treat the disc as a dinner plate. It looks like one anyway, right?

For a week, feed your dog on the disc, picking it up after each meal to prevent chewing. Wash and hide the disc until the next feeding. When it’s time to play, use a new disc that hasn’t been used as a dinner plate. Keep the praise high every time he grasps the disc.

2. Roll the disc on the ground.

At first, you want your dog to concentrate on tracking the disc. Doing so is easier if the disc is rolling in front of his nose versus flying by above his head. Once he can snatch it off the ground, you’ll be primed for the toss. To do the roll, point your finger along the disc’s edge, curl it along your bent arm and then flick it off so that it rolls off your arm and onto the ground. Practice in areas where you won’t be distracted, tussling with the disc and praising any interest in it enthusiastically.

3. Tease your dog playfully with the disc, saying “Get it.”

When he grabs it, tug lightly to ensure a secure grip before you get him to release it by clicking, offering food, or giving tremendous praise.

4. Play “Keep Away.”

Show your dog the disc and run a short distance before allowing him to grasp it. To see whether your dog is sufficiently in love with this new object, turn it upside down and slide it a short distance away from you on the floor. When your dog grasps it, praise him tremendously. 

Initially, your dog probably won’t want to give the disc back to you. That’s okay; worry about the good retrieving skills after you’ve nailed the grab.

Warning!

Don’t spin your dog around like an airplane when he has a grip on the disc. Rough tug-of-war matches encourage behavior you don’t really want to see in any dog. To teach the fast “Give,” use a clicker/treat or second disc. Praise your dog the instant he catches the disc, then produce the reward to entice a quick release. Shout “Give” as he lets it go, then reward him immediately.

Fetching the flying disc

Once you’re sure your dog loves the disc, it’s time to teach him the return:
1. While indoors, roll the disc on the ground and encourage your dog to bring it back to your side. Say a release word like “Give” as you click and offer your dog a treat.

If your dog isn’t food-motivated, you can use another disc to inspire a drop and switch. Practice in a non-distracting room. For more help, review the fetching exercises discussed in Chapter Go Fetch! Finding and Retrieving Tricks.

2. Practice inside tosses in larger rooms as your dog reliably brings the disc back to you.
3. After your dog is cooperating inside, practice outside within an enclosure.

4. Practice with five or six discs, encouraging your dog to return each one to you before you toss the next one.

Tip

Tossing tips

This section isn’t for your dog; it’s for you. If you can’t toss the disc predictably, your dog will give up on you. So find yourself a good disc, prop this book open, and dive in!
1. To grip the disc, place your thumb on the outside edge and curl your fingers under
the lip.

Don’t white-knuckle the thing. A firm grasp will do. Carry it around the house for a couple of days. Now you’re talking.


2. Achieve the proper stance by placing your feet shoulder-width apart. Point the shoulder
of your tossing arm at the object you’re aiming for.

Although you’ll end up shifting your weight forward as you toss the disc, you should always keep some weight on each foot.


3. To project the disc forward, firmly grip the disc, thrust, snap the wrist, and release.

The toss must be smooth, sharp, and even. Make sure your shoulder stays aligned with your target, your head is up, and your eyes are looking out ahead of you.

Of course, this isn’t the only way to toss a disc, but it’s a start. Once you’re totally accurate in your toss, go out without your dog and play around with your grip. Practice with a friend who might know some finer points.

Tip

If your dog doesn’t start bringing the discs back to you, go to a small room or fenced enclosure and roll the disc on the ground. If he looks up and acts confused, encourage him with “Get it” and try one or all of the following:

Ignore him; make a call or balance your checkbook. Dogs don’t like to be ignored. When your dog picks up the disc, herald the moment!

Excitedly grab the disc yourself — you’re showing him how to act!

Start playing with another disc — in effect, you’re saying, “I have a better one anyway.”

Wait until your dog starts taking real interest before you progress to more distracting areas. Make or buy a 25–50-foot line and knot the end for easy handling. Progress through your early lessons quickly to remind your dog that he’s expected to do the same thing outside that you taught him inside. If he decides to make a break for it, step securely on the end of the line. Don’t correct him; he’ll do the math when he hits the end. Stop the lesson and ignore him for 10 minutes.

Remember

Day-to-day lessons should be short (no more than 10 minutes) and begin with short tosses. Once your dog has figured it out you can progress to the challenging tosses in minutes. Remember, dogs are like people — they need to get warmed up.

Dressing for the part

In his book Frisbee Dogs, Peter Bloeme points out from personal experience that appearance, for both you and your dog, really makes a difference for the freestyle round of disc dog competitions. Dress for the weather and coordinate with your dog. For example, red shows off a black dog well: Tie a red bandanna around your black dog’s neck, and you’ll be the envy of everyone. Just don’t get too carried away — a fancy costume for your dog could interfere with his performance! And make sure the rules allow your dog to wear those accessories.

Catching

All this, and the art of catching still hasn’t been covered! Up until now, your dog should be fielding grounders and rollers only. To teach the catch, I defer to expert Peter Bloeme again.
Start by bringing your dog to the bursting level with disc excitement. Tease, tug, roll — whatever charges him up. Then do the following:
1. Kneel down and lightly toss the disc at your dog’s nose. If he misses the catch, pick it up.

Let him have the disc only if he catches it. His days of grabbing the disc off the ground are over.

2. Your dog may get frustrated, but continue tossing the disc at his nose until he starts to grab the disc in the air.
3. Practice with several discs tossed out 3 feet, and then slowly shorten the time between each toss.
4. After he masters the quick toss, slow it down again, tossing the disc to your left. When the left is good, go right.
To tie in the catching with the running and tossing, begin by holding the disc above your dog’s head as you tell him “Get it.” Make sure you always hold the disc parallel to the ground, the way the dog will see it on the fly. When your dog grabs on tight, let go. Remember, if your dog drops the disc, pick it up silently and start again. No more grounders.
Now make a short toss here and another one over there. Progress slowly, don’t be afraid to go back a step or two in the lesson, and remember the two Ws: water and warm-up.

Warning!

The most common disc-dog injuries are not sprained limbs or broken legs. They’re dehydration and mouth injuries. Many dogs bite their tongue reaching for the disc or cut their mouth on a cracked edge. And I can’t stress enough the importance of always offering fresh water.

Introducing disc tricks

Whether or not you and your dog participate in competitions, you can blend your mutual passion for the sport with clever “disc tricks” that are fun to learn and perfect. In competition, disc tricks are showcased in the “Freestyle/free flight” round. Take a look online, plugging “canine freestyle frisbee competition” into your search engine.
In competitions, points are awarded for many tricky moves, including the following:

ZigZag: In this trick, the dog turns at sharp 90-degree angles to snatch multiple discs being tossed repetitively.

Vaults: The dog vaults off his handler’s leg, back, or torso in order to catch a thrown disc.

Team Motion: The handler and the dog must coordinate moves, such as the leg weave and the synchronized spin.

Getting serious with your disc: Disc-dog competitions

Getting good? Want to test your skills in front of a crowd? Go for it! Competitions are usually held at different levels. Community affairs are less serious gatherings, but lots of fun. The home crowd is always the most supportive, too. For true competition, however, you need to travel to events to compete at the Regional and Open levels. Dogs winning at the Open level qualify for World Finals. Too cool!
In competition, there are generally two rounds:

Quick Toss: In this round, each participant is given one disc and 60 seconds, and is scored on the top five best catches. Extra points are given for mid-air catches, and the dogs are further awarded points for three-pawed (in the air) and two-pawed catches.

In competition, this test is called many things, including “distance,” “throw and catch,” and “toss and fetch” — no matter the name, the standards are the same.

Freestyle: The freestyle round is a choreographed performance, generally set to music, where each team is given 1 to 2 minutes to strut their stuff. Each team is allowed to carry five discs onto the field for their performance.

A team of four judges scores each team based on the following criteria:

  • Overall presentation: Did it please the crowd? Were the movements synchronized? Was it fun to watch? Was there disc flow? Was there unity between the person and the dog?
  • Athleticism: Was the dog in shape and up for the challenging moves? Did any of the tosses put the dog’s stability at risk? Did the dog fall trying to grasp the disc?
  • Wow factor: Each performance is judged according to the “Wow” moves — jaw-dropping, radical moves and tricks that are performed amidst long tosses and multiple throws. Expect to see body vaults, trick sequences, repetitive tosses, and full body spins — and if you’re watching, let your excitement spill over. Shout “Wow!” when you feel it — your enthusiasm will boost the dog’s score!
  • Success: Success is a relative thing, even in a dog’s world. While it does refer to completed tosses, it’s not the only guideline. Dogs who are performing difficult maneuvers, and yet occasionally miss a catch, may still score higher than a solid performance with less difficult moves.

Bottom line? Freestyle scores are awarded based on the difficulty and the originality of the material. While you can teach your dog to catch a Frisbee, only a true passion for the sport will shine in the Freestyle competition!

Warning!

In competition, points are deducted if a movement puts the dog at risk of injury. There are three endangering movements that the judges penalize:

Contortion: A dog is forced to contort his body to such an extreme as to risk injury.

Slam: A dog’s body slams into the ground at any point during competition.

Buckle: A dog’s legs dramatically buckle upon landing, resulting in a full body collapse. 

For more information about training your disc dog for fun or for competition, visit my favorite site for everything flying: www.skyhoundz.com.

Giving Flyball a Whirl: A Retrieval Relay

Flyball is quite unlike anything else you’ve ever seen. This fast-paced sport combines a relay race, hurdles, and a dog-activated box that launches tennis balls. Seriously. Dogs have to run, jump, hit a trigger to release the ball, retrieve, and race back to the starting line before the next dog can race off.
Of course you don’t have to be a competitor to enjoy the sport. Flyball boxes can be purchased or made and are a wonderfully interactive way to play into your dog’s passions.

In this section, I explain how flyball works, include a few tips on introducing your dog to the sport, and give you some info on competition.

Flyball history

Flyball was invented in California in the late 1970s. Legend has it that flyball was first introduced to millions of Americans on The Tonight Show. Soon afterward, dog trainers and dog clubs were making and using flyball boxes.
In the early 1980s the sport became so popular that the North American Flyball Association (NAFA) was formed. This association is now the worldwide authority on everything flyball. Many other organizations have formed throughout the world. The United Flyball League International (U-FLI) has a large following here in the states. To find other groups devoted to the sport, enter the word “flyball” and the country’s name into your search engine. Flyball enthusiasts are everywhere!

Envisioning the course: How flyball works

Here’s how flyball is played in competition: Two teams, of four dogs each, race against each other and the clock. Lights, like the ones used in drag racing, flash as a symbol to the teams. Each dog runs one length of the course, which consists of jumping over four hurdles to a ball box (see Figure 17-1). In a dramatic pounce, the dog hits the box with his paw, which releases a ball. A quick catch and the dog races back over the hurdles to the starting point and the next dog in the team is released. Swoosh! The whole jump and catch series happens in seconds. Very exciting!
The team that finishes with the fastest time and the fewest faults wins that series of jumps, known as a heat. The winner is the team that wins the best two out of three or three out of five heats.
Before you go to your first gathering, here is some lingo you should know:

Teams: Each team can include as many as six dogs and as few as four. Although only four dogs are permitted to compete in each heat, they may be interchanged due to strategy or injury, and the jumps adjusted accordingly.

Jumps: The jumps are set according to the organization officiating the event. Overall the jumps are positioned according to the smallest dog on the team.

Passing: This is the relay part. Rather than a starter pistol, flyball competitions use lights to indicate the equivalent of “On your mark, get set, go!” The dogs are actually released from a distance behind the starting line, so they’re running at full speed when they cross the line. As the first dog returns, the second dog is released from behind the line, so that as the first dog crosses the line coming in, the second dog is crossing the line going out. And so on. The point is that the release must occur at the same time as the return. In a perfect world this would work every time, but it’s not a perfect world.

Faults: Early passes, missed jumps, and dropped balls receive faults. Depending on the severity or number of faults, dogs must run again. Though it would seem disastrous, often both teams collect enough faults to warrant a second run-through. Funny, but the dogs don’t seem to mind!

Deciding whether flyball is right for your dog

Flyball is open to all dogs of pure or mixed heritage that are at least 1 year old and agile and athletic enough to stay the course. To play flyball solo or get in with a group of dogs and form your own four-member team, you need a spirited dog with a slight obsession for tennis balls. Sound like someone in your home? Other advantages are a penchant for running, jumping, and coming when called. Coming when called? Yes! This is one sport that can actually improve your dog’s reaction to the “Come” command.
Which breeds do best in flyball? Herding and Retrieving breeds predominate at competitions. Some think small dogs would slow down a team. On the contrary, they’re often the heroes. Because the jumps are adjusted to the height of the smallest dog on the team, a small dog’s presence improves overall scores.

Getting equipped for the fly

If you’d like to set up a flyball course of your own, the first thing you need to get is a ball box. This contraption, shown in Figure 17-2, releases a ball the instant your dog steps on the lever. The original box had an extending arm that gave a few dogs a black eye. Poor things! Today’s boxes are designed to release the ball safely and give your dog the proper footing to turn back toward the finish line.
A flyball box is easy enough to make. How to construct a box is detailed in a great book by Lonnie Olson, Flyball Racing: The Dog Sport for Everyone (Howell). Plans for or actual flyball boxes can also be purchased through www.flyballequip.com.

You can buy or make hurdles, too. If you’re just playing for fun, try erecting them with a handful of cereal boxes and some brooms from your pantry closet.

For thorough descriptions of the equipment, visit flyball.org.

Figure 17-1: A flyball course.
Figure 17-2: A flyball box.

Training your dog for flyball

The rest of your dog’s flyball career will be affected by his proper introduction to the ball box. Just like any other kind of training, this is a step-by-step process. Your dog should have jumping and retrieval skills — see Chapter Jumping and Dancing for Joy for hints on teaching your dog to jump, and Chapter Go Fetch! Finding and Retrieving Tricks for instructions on a proper retrieve.

Targeting the box

Dogs, like people, develop muscle memory when learning new tasks or games. To teach your dog how to land on the box, review the target training from Chapter Prepping for Training — Mentally and Physically until he’s reliably touching the disc with his nose or batting it with a paw. Use a bright piece of duct tape for this activity, and have your dog touch it reliably before centering it just over (for nose targeters) or under (for paw targeters) the ball release hole.

Introducing the ball action

Now you’re ready to show your dog how the box works with the ball.
1. Show your dog the box first, with no expectations or training commands. Place a favorite ball on top of the box to be discovered.
2. Pop the ball out the hole with your free hand and praise your dog if he grabs it.
3. Now hide the ball in your hand, releasing the ball if your dog paws it. Start saying “Hit it” when his response becomes a habit.
4. Placing ball after ball in the trigger cup, trigger it again and again, to get your dog used to the action.
5. Load the box and let your dog investigate it. Ecstatically encourage any pawing interest.

If your dog presses too lightly, trigger the ball for him. If your dog gets hit in the face or gets spooked, adjust the cup hand so that it releases at a different angle, and go back a few steps in the training routine.

Once your dog puts it together, it’s time to teach him to make a quick catch.

Making a quick catch

To ensure your dog will be able to catch a ball being hurled toward him at top speed out of a box, make sure he can catch your fastball first.
1. Start indoors in a quiet room. Take a few balls and toss them at your dog one at a time. Say “Catch” and gradually increase your speed.

If your dog needs a food reward to motivate him, give it to him. Most dogs get distracted with food around and are excited enough by the game.

2. Outside, hold your dog still, command “Stay,” and chuck a ball in front of him. Make him wait until it stops moving; then scream “Go!” As your dog gets to the ball, call his name and turn and run away from him at top speed!

Running the course

Now you’re ready to introduce the course. Say “Over” as you start running over low hurdles, placed 10 feet apart, with your dog. Position the hurdles 5 inches below your dog’s withers.
The next step involves letting your dog go — gradually! Run over the first three hurdles, saying “Over!”, and then let him take the last one on his own. Now let him go after jumping two hurdles, then one. It’s easier to master if you’ve corralled your course or erected it to channel him through the course.
Now ask a volunteer to hold your dog at the starting point, as you stand at the box and call your dog over the hurdles and to the box. Then switch positions and send your dog as your helper eggs him on — and then you call him back!
Repeat the preceding procedure, placing the ball in the box, having the volunteer encourage the dog with the words “Hit it,” and calling the dog back over the hurdles. Yes!

Tip

To strengthen your dog’s focus, work around some distractions. Ask family or friends to mill about and make noise.

Flyball requires so much pumped enthusiasm there’s no room for discipline! Redirect your dog’s behavior, but don’t scold.

Getting your dog used to teammates

If you ever want to make your soiree into flyball a social calling, your dog will need to work around other dogs. Practice with another enthusiast, and hold the dogs side by side as you send them for their balls one at a time. (See Step 2 under the “Making a quick catch” heading.)

Competing in flyball

Are you and your dog quickly becoming addicted to the sport of flyball? It’s easy enough to find a local club: Just enter “flyball” into a search engine and brace yourself. Flyball is spreading throughout the nation.
In competition, teams are divided into two classes: regular and non-regular in the NAFA or standard and special classes in the U-FLI:

Standard/Regular: In the regular class, the team may consist of four dogs from different backgrounds.

Special/Nonregular: Specialty classes include variety, singles, and pairs classes. Non-regular classes include Peewee, Veterans, and Multibreed.

In both organizations winners are awarded honors, but individual dogs can earn points for clean heats (no faults) based on their team’s times, whether or not they win. If a team runs the course in 32 seconds, each dog gets one point; under 28 seconds wins 5 points, and under 24 seconds wins 25 points.
If your dog becomes fleet of foot and begins winning titles, you’ll have the pleasure of getting to add initials after his name. (How does “Jane Smith, MD, owner of Fido Smith, FD, FDX, FDCh, FM, FMX” look? Pretty impressive, huh?) A dog earns the title Flyball Dog (FD) at 20 points, Flyball Dog Excellent (FDX) at 100 points, Flyball Dog Champion (FDCh) at 500 points, and so on. For a complete list of titles and the points you need to earn them, go to flyball.org/flyball_titles.html.
Before you send for your first competition application, send for the official rule book. To obtain a copy of the official rules or to inquire about teams in your area, contact NAFA at: 1400 W. Devon Ave. #512, Chicago, IL 60660. Or find them online at www.flyball.org.
by Sarah Hodgson

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