Flyball sounds like a sport Rube Goldberg would have invented to give his dogs some exercise.
In flyball, teams of four dogs compete in a relay race down a 51-foot lane. They must hurdle four barriers and then jump on a box, which launches a tennis ball in the air. A dog must catch the ball and race back over the hurdles until it crosses the start line; then the next dog on the team goes. And they have to do all of that without stopping to sniff the other dogs racing next to them.
"It's a great way to form a bond between handler and dog," says Linda Kriete, a captain of the Columbia-based 4 Dog Night team. "If you get that bond, you can get them to do anything."
Kriete says that some dogs can pick up the basics in a month if their trainer works with them daily but that most dogs take about six months to become proficient. Any breed can participate, though herding dogs such as collies and shepherds tend to be the easiest to train, Kriete says.
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-- Paul Williams