Flyball, a ball-retrieving relay sport for dogs, is a fun way to socialize your canine companions, introduce them to competition and build their confidence, according to Linda Smith, of New Salem.
Smith is the team captain for York County-based Clean Break Flyball, which competes under the North American Flyball Association, or NAFA. Smith's team is hosting the Spring Fling Flyball Tournament April 11 and 12 at the York Expo Center.
If you have a dog, perhaps you want to test his or her prowess in the sport. If you're feeling frisky, maybe you want so see how you would do in such a competition. Set up your own human flyball course following the tips below.
DRAFT A TEAM, LAY THE GROUND RULES
You will need four people for each team, and four tennis balls per team — one for each team member.
The race is an all-out sprint.
Each member of a four-person team runs 51 feet one way, jumping four hurdles both ways, to retrieve a tennis ball and bring the ball back to the start line, running 102 feet entirely.
BUILD THE COURSE
Hurdles can be made out of anything that can be jumped, so long as all four of them are the same height. Dogs typically jump over upright boards. Be creative when making your hurdles: Stack books, boxes or random furniture items.
Height of the hurdles is determined by the shortest dog — or person — on the team. The "height person" is measured from shoulders to the ground. That number is rounded down to the nearest inch and another 5 inches are subtracted to establish the jump height, making it advantageous for a team to have a child.
ELECT A BALL PERSON
Dogs have to activate a box, which is much like a pedal, in order to release the tennis ball. The best method is to get all four paws onto the box and push off, much like a swimming turn.
To make it practical for humans, the tennis ball can simply rest on a stand.
Each team will need a designated ball person, who is tasked with putting a new tennis ball on the stand — about waist-high — once the first and subsequent balls have been retrieved.
PLAY BY THE RULES
The second, third and fourth people in the relay cannot cross the start/finish line until their preceding teammate has completed his or her run by crossing the start/finish line. If this rule is broken, the violator must complete his or her turn and go to the back of the line to go again, making for an additional run.
If a runner drops a ball, he or she must run again.
A team completes its heat once all four members of the relay cross the finish line without dropping a ball or false starting. The world record is 14.657 seconds. How do you stack up?