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Flyball – An Introduction

Flyball began in the 1970’s when Herbert Wagner developed the first tennis ball launcher. The first Flyball tournament was held in 1983. Flyball racing is governed by the North American Flyball Association (NAFA), which was formed in 1985 by a group of 12 teams from Michigan and Ontario, Canada. Today, NAFA has more than 700 clubs with more than 16,000 dogs participating. Another club, United Flyball International (UFI) began in 2005 for the purpose of promoting Flyball.

Dog Running Flyball CourseFlyball races are fast-paced and offers more than enough excitement for all involved, including the spectators. Races consist of two teams, with four dogs on each team. They race side-by-side over a course that is 51 feet long.

The course consists of a starting line, four hurdles spaced ten (10) feet apart, and a box. The first hurdle is six (6) feet from the start line and the box is fifteen (15) feet from the last hurdle for a fifty-one (51) foot overall length. The hurdle height is dependent upon the height of the smallest dog on the team. The dogs jump the hurdles and step on a spring loaded box that shoots out a tennis ball. The dogs catch the tennis ball and then run back over the four hurdles. When the first dog crosses the starting line the next dog goes, etc. until all four dogs have run.

All dogs are allowed to compete in Flyball and can compete to earn NAFA titles in sanctioned tournaments. These titles are earned based on points and the time it takes for the dog to complete each race.

Earthdogging

I read an article in Modern Dog Magazine the other day that talked about Earthdogging. I had never heard of it before, so I decided to do a little research and share it all with you.

Earthdogging is for small terrier breeds and Dachshunds, which are bred to hunt vermin. It plays on their natural instincts to follow a scent underground to the game’s den. These small dogs have the right stature, mental capabilities and courage to do so. This “game” gives them an outlet for their natural hunting instinct.

The American Working Terrier Association started testing artificial dens in 1971. This program was designed to encourage terrier owners to take up actual hunting with their dogs. Gordon Heldebrant, with help of Karla Diethorn Martin, worked for several years to develop a three tier program that would be accepted by the American Kennel Club (AKC). In 1993, they met with the AKC to finalize the details and agree on the rules governing Earthdogging.

The AKC recognized 15 breeds that were best suited for Earthdogging, including:

  • Australian Terrier
  • Bedlington Terrier
  • Border Terrier
  • Cairn Terrier
  • Dachshund
  • Dandie Dinmont Terrier
  • Glen of Imaal Terrier
  • Lakeland Terrier
  • Manchester Terrier
  • Miniature Bull Terrier
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • Norfolk Terrier
  • Norwich Terrier
  • Parson Russell Terrier
  • Scottish Terrier
  • Sealyham Terrier
  • Silky Terrier
  • Skye Terrier
  • Smooth Fox Terrier
  • Welsh Terrier
  • West Highland White Terrier
  • Wire Fox Terrier

There are four different tests a dog can pass in Earthdogging. The first test being the Introduction to Quarry. This test shows a dogs willingness to enter a tunnel and follow a scent. This test consists of a 10-foot tunnel with one 90 degree turn. At the end of the tunnel lies a cage of rats (NOTE: in all events the rats are secure in a cage and cannot be harmed. From what I’ve read about what others have said the rats don’t even seem fazed by the fact that a dog is barking at them!). The dog is encouraged to follow the scent into the tunnel to the cage and the “work” the rats, by barking, digging, etc.

The second test is for the title of Junior Earthdog (J.E.). In this test, the dog must maneuver a 30-foot tunnel with at least three right-angle turns in 30 seconds, work the rats for 60 seconds and then allow the handler to remove him without injury to the dog or the handler. Once the dog has been certified by two different judges, he earns the J.E. title and a certificate from the AKC.

For the Senior Earthdog title (S.E.) the tunnel length is the same, but it is filled with distractions, such as a false scent trail or bedding. The dog has 90 seconds to maneuver the tunnel, work the rats for 60 seconds of reaching the end end of the tunnel, the rats are then removed and the dog must recall the tunnel and return to the handler in 90 seconds.

The highest level for Earthdogging is Master Earthdog (M.E.) the Master Earthdog must actually hunt his way to the den with a bracemate (another dog), inspecting an empty den on the way. This is from a distance of 100-300 yards. Both dogs must find the den and mark it to indicate that it is an active den. The den is a similar structure to the Senior den, but this one has two obstacles. These include a 6-inch PVC pipe to indicate a tree root and the other is a narrowing down to 6 inches for a distance of 18 inches. The dog has 90 seconds to reach the quarry, must work the rats for 90 seconds, then allow the handler to remove him within 15 seconds. While one dog is working the other dog is staked out and must wait his turn with minimum amount of noise while his bracemate works the quarry. The dog must complete the task four time under three different judges in order to be certified as a Master Earthdog.

Earthdogging provides your little terrier with an outlet for his excess energy and allows him to do what comes naturally. Of course you will still have to teach him not to dig holes in your lawn!

For a complete guide to the AKC Earthdog Rules and Regulations, click here.

For the Earthdog Test Procedural Manual, click here.