Flyball tournament held at Jeff State

Flyball Fun: Dogs compete in the 'Rescue Run' flyball tournament Saturday and Sunday at Jeff State. (Photos by Adam Short)

Flyball Fun: Dogs compete in the ‘Rescue Run’ flyball tournament Saturday and Sunday at Jeff State. (Photos by Adam Short)

The Dixie Flyers of Central Alabama held a two-day flyball tournament on June 6-7 at Jefferson State Community College in Clanton.

Created by dog enthusiasts in the 1970s, flyball is a canine sport that combines the competitive nature of racing and relaxed fun of fetching into one sport that both dogs and owners can enjoy.

Flyball races match two teams of four dogs each, racing side-by-side over a 51-foot long course. Each dog must run in relay fashion down the jumps, trigger a flyball box that releases a tennis ball, retrieve the ball and return over the jumps.

The next dog can be released to run the course at any time, but can’t cross the start/finish line until the previous dog has returned over all 4 jumps.

The first team to have all four dogs finish the course without error wins the heat.

Event organizer Lee Short said although Border Collies were by far the most popular breed in the competition, the North American Flyball Association (NAFA) accepts any dog, as long as he/she is physically able and doesn’t show any signs of aggression.

Other breeds commonly found at flyball tournaments include Australian Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Corgis and Russel Terriers.

The “Rescue Run” tournament, named after the large amount of rescue dogs competing, housed a total of 39 teams.

While many teams were competing in their home state, there were also teams from as far as California.

According to Short, many teams look to flyball as a break from the expensive and demanding sport of agility.

“I’ve never seen a dog that doesn’t enjoy to play flyball,” Short said. “It’s just fun for everybody involved: the dogs, the owners and the spectators.”

Although flyball tournaments are more about the bragging rights than the prizes, Short said the training process can be extensive.

“If the dog is a puppy, you can start him by stepping over the jumps and start working on the box-turn, which is a lot like a swimmer’s turn,” Short said. “Everyone involved has to be familiar with the dog before making up the team or beginning to race.”

In addition to the dogs themselves, there is one person releasing the dogs at the beginning of the track and another reloading the balls into the flyball box, which is a rubber box designed for dogs to push off of when turning.

The Dixie Flyers plan to host another flyball tournament at Jeff State in the future.

“We love hosting tournaments in this facility,” Short said.

The tournaments are free to attend.

According to Short, the Dixie Flyers raised close to $2,000 at the two-day event, with roughly another $2,000 in supply donations, and a large portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Shelby County Humane Society.

Short encourages anyone with a “busy” dog to join the sport.

“My dog needed something to do. She had so much energy,” Short said. “This gave her a job. She loves it, and so do I.”

For more information on flyball, visit flyball.org. For more information on the Dixie Flyers, visit flyballdogs.com/dixieflyers.

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