Dogs are happy when they have a job to do and you’ll see lots of happy dogs if you visit the “Spring Breakout” flyball tournament this weekend in Blacksburg. It’s hosted by New River Rapids and will be held at the Blacksburg Community Center beginning both days at 8am. It runs Saturday until about 6pm and Sunday until 2pm.
Never heard of the fast-paced canine sport of flyball? I asked Dirk Elber, a member of the host team, to explain more about the sport.
What is flyball?
“Flyball is a high-speed team sport for dogs and their people. ‘Team’ is very much at the heart of it – you’ll see competitors cheering for their teammates’ dogs as loudly as for their own.”
How is it played?
“Flyball is a relay race where two four-dog teams race against each other in parallel lanes. Each dog jumps four hurdles, triggers a spring loaded box to release a ball, catches the ball and carries back of the hurdles to the starting line, at which time the next dog is released and the next and the next. Speed is important, but accuracy counts too – any error and that dog has to rerun, adding to the team’s total time.”
“Jump heights are determined by the height of the smallest dog on the team. The jumps can range from 7″ to 14”. Racing is timed using an Electronic Judging System which displays the dogs and team times down to the thousandth of a second. The World Record was just set this past weekend at 14.463 seconds.
What kind of dogs play the sport?
“NAFA (North American Flyball Association) tournaments are divided into divisions that that teams compete against other teams of equal speeds. All dogs, whether purebred/mixed breed, big/small, are eligible to compete and earn titles.”
How did you get started playing flyball?
“We had a high energy dog that needed some way to ex