“Quick, rerun your dog!”
“Send her again; you false-passed!”
I tried to turn my little border collie around in the lane to run her again, but she didn’t understand what to do, so she laid down and peed herself in fright. The kindly judge walked over to me after the heat was finished and said, “That was clearly not a fault due to not pottying your dog, so I won’t record that as fouling in the ring, just as a loss.”
As a new handler with a green dog on my first day of flyball competition, I had no idea what had just transpired! I didn’t know what a rerun was, I didn’t know what a false pass was, I didn’t know what fouling in the ring was, and my poor dog didn’t know what to do either. Quite the recipe for confusion and failure, but we persevered, and that little border collie eventually earned more than 60,000 points and her Iron Dog title before she retired after 11 years of racing.
Before you attend your first flyball tournament, whether as a new club member or as a new handler with a new dog, there are a few things you’ll need to know. Some of these things you can learn on your own beforehand, some your club captain will need to teach you, and some you’ll learn in the ring as you go—but being prepared will make all the difference! Here’s a short list of “do’s and don’ts” to help you get the most out of your first flyball tournament!
- DO potty your dog before going into the ring
- DO bring (and wear) earplugs
- DO watch other teams racing to help you learn the rules of the game
- DO ask one of your teammates to answer questions and explain the rules
- DO stay out of the way of people moving flyball boxes—they’re heavy!
- DO wear comfortable shoes and clothing, as you’ll be moving around a lot
- DO have fun with your dog!
- DON’T let your dog greet any other dogs unless you check with their handlers first
- DON’T swear in the ring (or near it)—it’s a public sport!
- DON’T interrupt anyone who is waiting to go into the ring or just came out of the ring
- DON’T eat food right next to the ring, as you might distract a racing dog
- DON’T drop food/treats in the ring, and clean up immediately if you do
- DON’T forget to drink enough water to avoid the dreaded “flyball hangover”
If possible, attend a tournament at least once before you’re ready to compete. It will help you to understand the rhythm of the day, to meet the judges in your region, and to get a feel for what goes on without the added stress of running a dog. Flyball is a great sport full of great people, and having a good introduction to your first tournament will help you feel comfortable and excited to play for many seasons to come. Good luck!