JUST WHAT IS FLYBALL?
Lulu in flight mid-race
To those that are uninitiated in the delicate art of Flyball, it is a fast passed (and often noisy) relay race competition consisting of teams of 4 dogs and their human handlers.
Two teams at a time race against each other (known as a Heat) along a 51 foot (15.5m) straight track, which is punctuated with four hurdles positioned 10 feet (3m) apart from each other. The starting line is 6 feet (1.8m) away from the first and the flyball box 15 feet (4.5m) after the last hurdle. The height of the hurdles is determined by smallest dog’s shoulder height (known as the ulna’s length) on the team.
Each dog takes it in turn to run the length of the track, jumping over the hurdles as they go. As the dog reaches the flyball box, they spring off it, completing a turn at the same time whilst activating a pressure pad which releases the ball. The dog must catch the ball and return it over the hurdles, with handlers ensuring the dog is all the way across the starting line before the next dog crosses over the same line for its turn. The winning team is the first team to have all four dogs cross the finish line error free to win the heat. Penalties are applied to teams if the ball is dropped or if the next relay dog is released early and crosses the start line before the returning dog is fully over it.
An example flyball course
As well as being a team sport, Flyball also recognises the efforts and attributes of the dogs as individuals. During the course of the heats, individual dogs gain awards for points accrued during their racing. In addition there are opportunities for a dog to gain recognition as the fastest dog according to breed whilst partaking in races as an individual.
Within the UK there are two governing bodies; the British Flyball Association (BFA) which was formed in 1994 and the UK Flyball League (UKFL) which was formed in December 2017.
Click the image to go to the UKFL website
Click the image to go to the BFA website
Flyball provides an entertaining and active way to interact with your dog, along with creating good social bonds with other dog enthusiast, in an environment that allows the dogs exercise and enjoyment. It is especially effective way for dogs to burn off energy, particularly those with a high drive to work.
Unlike some competitions flyball is not limited being a specific breed activity. Teams can comprise of a mix of breeds and can include both pedigree and non-pedigree dogs. As of 2019 the Rapdiz Flyball Team comprised of 6 Spanish Water Dogs, who were also joined by Border Collies, a Bearded Collie, Miniature American Sheepdogs and a Miniature Schnauzer.
WHAT ATTRIBUTES DOES MY DOG NEED TO TAKE PART?
Ted on the home stretch
As you can imagine flyball is a fast and furious race which can often create a lot of excitement which, in turn, can mean a lot of noise. Between barking dogs eager for their turn to retrieve the ball and handlers shouting encouragement to try and obtain the best from their dog, it can become a noisy and distracting environment. For this reason it is important to develop a dogs focus and self-control to manage the situation and concentrate on the task in hand. Of course on top of this it will need a good physical skills and attributes, demonstrating balance and coordination as well as physical fitness, power and drive in order to obtain the best results.
It's also important to ensure that your dog has matured enough before starting flyball. 18 months is an ideal age as younger dogs can endure risks to joints through the increased agility training.
Chispa practicing a box turn
THE HISTORY OF SPANISH WATER DOGS IN FLYBALL
The Northern Bytes Flyball Team from around 1997. Faye Allen (3rd from left) with Azor and Bonita, two of the first Spanish Water Dogs involved in UK Flyball.
The first SWD’s racing flyball in the UK date back to August 1997. At that time Azor and Bonita, owned by Faye Allen (one of the original members of the partnership involved in bringing the breed to the UK) and Rayo owned by Sarah Gray were racing as part of the Northern Bytes Team based out of Manchester. Since then 50 Spanish Water Dogs have raced in the British Flyball Association (BFA). In 2001 the Rapidz Flyball Team registered a secondary team, The Spanish Rapidz, with this team racing a predominantly full breed team until 2008.
At that time the only flyball league was the BFA, but on the 1st December 2017 the UK Flyball League (UKFL) was founded. This new association gave the opportunity for members of primary teams to ‘sync’ with others. This offers greater diversity of team line ups and has given people the opportunity to train locally with their own team but compete nationally in an all-breed team. In 2018, because of this flexibility UKFL allowed, the Spanish Rapidz was seen once again racing in the lanes with a new generation of SWD’s.
There have been notable achievements in the history of flyball where Spanish Water Dogs captured the attention of the crowds. In 2016, under the name Spanish Rapidz, a team was entered in the European Flyball Championships which were held in Ipswich. Chico, Mori, Dante, Mocha and Kiki won Division 11 after a nerve wracking final. Both Mocha and Mori have raced on the green carpet at Crufts and Mori is the highest achieving Spanish Water Dog in the history of the sport gaining the Sapphire Award in 2014.
Bonita, one of the UK's first flyball Spanish Water Dogs
Some of the members of today's Rapidz Flyball Team
HOW DO I GET INVOLVED?
The first and best thing to do is to find a local club that will allow you to train and learn the basics. Both the UKFL and BFA websites along with the Kennel Club provide great resources to help you locate a local club to start or continue your training journey. Links to the relevant pages are provided below:
UK Flyball League - Regional Mentors Scheme
British Flyball Association - Find a Club
The Kennel Club - Find A Club
The Spanish Water Dog Club is not responsible for the content of external sites
SWD FLYBALL HALL OF FAME
Here at the SWD Club we like to celebrate and honour our Spanish Water Dogs in all disciplines. Below are few of the SWD's both, current and retired that have competed in competitions and championed the flyball discipline within the breed.
Ted racing in his Spanish Rapidz colours at the European Championships, Sopot, Poland in 2018
Ted (Newmoorhill’s Tony Dinozzo) started his flyball career in 2016 racing with Norfolk Flyball Team with whom he raced until joining the Rapidz team in 2018 to compete with his fellow Spanish Water Dogs. Ted absolutely loves flyball and has travelled far and wide throughout England, Scotland and Wales. His furthest journey so far was to Poland in 2018, racing with Team GB. He is a rock solid and reliable flyballer. The highlight of his career to date has been receiving the 25 years Celebration Trophy for Top Flyball Spanish Water Dog in 2018 and winning First Place at the UK Flyball Championships whilst racing with the Rapidz team in 2019.
Dexie (Newmoorhill’s Netrebko) has spent her formative years traveling around Britain and Europe watching and supporting her big brother Ted. She has recently started her own flyballing career and is showing some fabulous promise. She has trained with the Rapidz Flyball team and more recently with Waveney Valley Flyballers. To date she has competed in Little League (starters) competitions, but is now ready to enter the big league in 2020.
Dexie competing with the Rapidz team in Little League. Oswestry, October 2019.
Kiki completing a box turn during a heat.
In 2016 Kiki represented Spanish Water Dogs as part of the Spanish Rapidz Flyball Team at the Euros 2016. She went on to be awarded Top Flyball Dog 2017 and was Top Breed Dog within the British Flyball Association.
In 2019, at the age of 9, her career was suddenly halted when she lost her first eye to Glaucoma. 8 months later she lost her second eye and is now blind.
Kiki is the inspiration behind our current fundraising project to search for the DNA sequence in SWD's responsible for Glaucoma and develop a DNA test for the condition. If you would like to support our cause please click the link below to donate.
Roc was the 2018 UK Flyball League Top Spanish Water Dog, achieving the fastest time in singles at 4.29seconds.
Lulu completing a box turn
Kilda on the return run, bringing the ball home.