Fly…BALL?

18 05 2008

So, if you know anything about Flyball its that its played with a tennis ball…or a ball of the same type. Rather it be a water bomb squishy ball, a small tennis ball, a rubber ball….Flyball rules govern that if it can bounce and roll lie a tennis ball, it can be used in a Flyball Box.

At the start, anyone who is attracted to starting Flyball is usually interested for one reason…they have a ball obsessed dog, and automatically, BOOM, they think their dog can excel at Flyball. Indeed, from a new comer’s point of view, a look at Flyball from the sidelines or online and it seems as if thats all the dog really needs…an obsessive interest in tennis balls that make it right away jump fast and trigger the box. I’ve lost track of how many people bring their dogs to Class for the first time and say their pooch will be perfect…he LOVES the ball more than anything!

I’m not saying this is a bad thing…obviously, enjoying to retrieve a tennis ball is key to playing Flyball…the dog must retrieve the ball in order to successfully play the sport. But, all this hype about a love of tennis balls can really restrict certain aspects of Flyball. Like…your dog can only play if he is obsessed over balls…and, if your dog does love them this much, there is one key point to Flyball training you will have problems with.

After reading my post on Riley, its probably confusing to read this post. Am I saying your dog shouldn’t like balls in order to play? No…having a dog that likes Tennis balls is a wonderful thing to have when beginning training. It makes things easier in some respects. I know that in many ways than one…and I had to train through certain tennis ball issues that were difficult.

So when someone views Flyball, and sees the dog hit the box and come off it with a ball, the biggest thing to really think about is that the ball is really just a pick up item…its great if the dog likes it…but the absolute best thing, and the biggest reward for a dog in Flyball should be….dun dun dun…you guessed it…the TUG! The recall item, or whatever your dog is fighting to get back to as it runs the course. The whole time the dog is racing at the box it really should be thinking about TUG! TUG! TUG!, but he can’t get it first…the only way to earn it is by getting the ball to you. I say recall item because it could be anything…but a ball…a tug toy, a bit of food, a frisbee, a big squeaky toy…I know Flyball teams who use the arm bite used in police dog training. All because the dog must absolutely GET THAT ITEM! At least, thats what we train for.

Flyball clubs train to get the dog focused on that item (hereafter I will use the item “tug”, because thats what I use). Tugs are nice, because they are long, keep the dog focused on something far from your body so as to not get bit, and act as a leash in some respects. Your dog, once clamped on that tug, which is in your arm, is connected to you. So what happens when someone starts Flyball classes with a dog that loves the ball, and nothing else? You either get a dog that is fast to the box…and then takes it sweet time getting back. The ball has ended the game for it…the ball is the best thing, and you are just going to have to wait until we get back, ok?

When teaching the Box in class, the best Flyball teams dont even introduce the ball until the dog has learned the proper turn off of it, with all 4 paws..and you get that by using your recall item..or tug…then once the dog has a nice, fast, beautiful turn off the box and you are rewarding that with the recall item, then you put the ball in.

Ive seen people using tennis balls as recall items…they wait until the dog runs to them, then toss the ball for them to catch and play around with. The only thing is…at a Flyball tournament the rules say a toy cannot be thrown in the run back area, where the handlers are…so you can’t toss a ball, or a frisbee, or whatever…so attachment toys like the tug some in handy. Now, I am not saying that having a ball obsessed dog means you can’t play Flyball…you just need to make a different toy the best thing in the world, better than a ball, and then you have all the tools you need.

Jet started out as a dog who loved the tug more than the ball. Thats fine. And then over time, he began to love the ball just as much. Also fine. But the tug must always be ahead, by at least one step, so we work on tugging all the time, by itself, as a nice bonding and rough housing awesome time between the two of us, and work the ball only when it can be rewarded with the tug.

So is it FlyBALL we should be worried about…or FlyTUG?

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One response

7 08 2008
Daniel

I think I understand why you wrote this post:

Some people can be all too eager to particiapte in something (activity/event/etc) once they find out they have one qualifying ability/items, but then they get their hopes up so much, they forget about their other needed abilities/items. Then they *sometimes* (not saying all people) are severely let down because they got their hopes up too high

And it can become annoying after awhile if this happens frequently 🙂

I don’t have experience with this in terms of dog owners, but definitely with computer owners. “Oh I have a great CPU! Why don’t [Insert game name] run well ?!” – good, a strong CPU is important, but games require decent graphics cards too. “I bought lots of RAM, and a dual-core processor, why is my computer so slow at loading stuff now?” – maybe because someone got overly economical and bought a very slow harddrive or a harddrive with very little onboard cache? =P (In general with computer hardware, you try to keep everything at equal quality. The saying “A team is only as strong as its weakest member,” applies in a lot of caes to computer)

I definitely agree though that it’s fun to rough house with your dog by use of tug toys! It’s great getting on the ground with them and making your own, umm, “rough” noises (grawling, monster noises? 😛 ), thus getting your dog deeper into tugging (well, it does it for my dog). Because he doesn’t want a monster to have his toy haha. Well, I do this with my dog anyway 😛 Oh, and it’s also fun while on the ground tugging to attempt to go after their paws while you have on hand on the tug toy. It keeps them moving and “thinking” on how to win the tugging match; though this is also the time where my dog usually yoinks the tug-toy away from me because I only have one hand on it! He has a very strong neck and shoulders.

The drawback with my dog and tugging? Being woken up at 1:00 in the morning by a tug-rag being dropped on your head because someone forgot to tug with the dog for a hour 🙂

Off topic but, since we found that we both like to ride bikes, we should remember that after I properly… maintenance mine. Just found out the brakes today skip a little too. Nothing like a morning “jolt”

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