Seattle FlyDogs performing for Seattle Storm fans!
See dog run. See dog fly. FlyDog Fly©! Seattle FlyDogs©!
Welcome to the world of Flyball! Flyball is an international, competitive, canine team sport. With regional, national, and international tournaments, Flyball is one of the most popular dog sports in the United States. According to the North American Flyball Association there are over 400 active clubs and 6,500 competition canines. Fly Ball originated as a scent detection hurdle racing club in California nearly 50 years ago. One evening, at the end of the run, tennis balls were thrown to the dogs as a treat. Soon after the Flyball tennis ball launcher was created.
Ricochet showing off his skills at the Museum of Flight
Flyball is a dog hurdle race that consists of two teams of four dogs. The dogs race side-by-side jump over hurdles, land on the tennis ball launcher, catch the balls, and race back. This is done as a relay with the winner being the team that has all four dogs finishing the course first. As with human sports there are ability-based divisions, so teams race against other teams with similar finishing times.
Flyball is highly competitive and there are many different clubs in the Northwest. The Puget Sound is part of Region 7, which includes British Columbia, Washington State, and Oregon. There are many flyball clubs in the Seattle area and some are non-competitive community focused like Seattle FlyDogs.
Lola shows us how its done!
Seattle FlyDogs is the largest Flyball club in the Puget Sound with over 30 dogs and 40 humans in attendance each week on Sundays from 4pm-7pm. We had an opportunity to sit down with Tammy Foss, membership director and founder of Seattle FlyDogs.
Seattle Pup Magazine: Hi Tammy, Can you tell us a little more about Seattle FlyDogs?
Tammy: Seattle FlyDogs is a community-based Flyball club focused on teaching all breeds and all speeds. It is an inclusive club, and no one is ruled out no matter if they are fast, slow, short, tall, skinny, fat, or handicapped. If someone wants to participate, and they can participate safely they are welcome to join the Seattle FlyDogs. You may have seen us perform. We have performed for the 4H Club, Hoopfest, PAC12 basketball games, the Seattle Storm and the Museum of Flight in addition to several summer festivals around the Puget Sound including the cities of Mill Creek, Marysville, Auburn, Renton, Kent and Burien.
Seattle Pup Magazine: How did you get involved with Flyball?
In 2006, my husband and I joined a Flyball club with our six-year-old pup, Siena. Siena learned the skills of Flyball at her own pace and the club was very patient. Fast forward 2 years. Siena at age eight was starting to slow down as she aged. In the end, that club wanted to move into a new, more competitive direction. The club’s mission changed, and Siena and I didn’t make the cut. I loved the sport, and Siena did too so I called the other clubs in the area to find that no one would take us, all but one and that club was starting to dissolve. We joined, and Siena became one pup in the 5-dog team.
How did you start Seattle FlyDogs?
After a few conversations I took over the management of the old team. My husband and I are both marketers by profession, and we re-branded and absorbed the members and equipment. Soon after, we started offering lessons at a facility and began gaining traction and attention. Ten years later Seattle FlyDogs has met and trained over 400 dogs, graduated over 60 and maintains a roster of 20+ active FlyDogs, and just by word of mouth and social media roughly 30 new students find us each season.
What can someone expect when they start classes?
Seattle FlyDogs runs classes in drop in fashion and include all walks of life and breeds. Classes run September through May, and during the summer the club takes a break from training and focuses on public performances. We evaluate pups for physical safety, behavioral safety, and personality safety. Everyone in the club is trained to do evaluations. The checklist includes jumping hurdles safely, sitting on command, retrieving the ball, and coming back to the owner (recall), as well as its reactivity to equipment and other dog stimulation.
A lot of dogs come to our classes without ball drive. With new students we are not looking for ball drive. The most important thing for a dog to be able to do is to come back to its owner. Seattle FlyDogs believes that any dog can learn flyball. Some just may take a little longer than others. If the handler is patient and keeps coming back, we never give up.
Recall is really the most important skill and is something we evaluate for on the first day when the dog and their human start class. We do not provide behavioral training, so dogs that require behavioral training are referred out.
Creating a place of fun is our priority. When your pup becomes a student in Seattle FlyDogs, they will receive titles and certificates as they progress just like in martial arts! Every dog comes in as a Dog. Then they become a MightyDog©, then a HotDog©, and then a SuperDog©, and ultimately graduates from the training curriculum as a FlyDog©.
Once students become FlyDogs, what can they expect?
We encourage students to graduate and become members of the club. We want everyone to participate in Seattle FlyDog performances and sometimes we include our SuperDogs. At some public performances, spectators are invited into the ring. Waivers need to be signed or posted for participants and spectators.
Seattle FlyDog members also can compete in 3-5 tournaments yearly. Occasionally, members in other clubs even travel to other regions to compete. Tournaments are accessible to the public, but are not advertised as public events. This is because there is some risk with having several dogs off leash in a dynamic, ever-changing environment.
At a tournament, the dogs will be competing with dogs they do not know. In sports like nose work, barn hunt, Frisbee, agility, and dock diving, the dogs and handlers compete individually, but in flyball 4 dogs are running off leash at one time and at tournaments this could mean also in multiple rings.
Every performance and every practice is different. You never know how a dog will respond. A sound, a smell, a person they know on the sidelines, or even a photographer, and sometimes a rogue ball or noisy dog could draw the dog off course. In Seattle FlyDogs the dogs know each other and have trained together. But in competition the dogs and their humans are in unknown territory around dogs they do not know. That makes it fun and exciting, but also inherently risky.
What is the one take away you would like Seattle Pup readers to know?
Seattle FlyDogs is a friendly club and is the largest most inclusive Flyball club in the Puget Sound. We encourage all people and all pups to join us sometime. We are supportive of our members who want to run with more competitive clubs and help them on that transition. And we support other club members who just want a place to come practice with their dog. We are 100% accepting! You can find us on Sundays, www.seattleflydogs.com
Over here at Seattle Pup Magazine we encourage dogs and their owners to get out there! For links to other canine sports teams in the Puget Sound area please visit our “Meet Your Pack” page. Would you like to see your club, organization spotlighted on Seattle Pup Magazine? Contact us!