The History of Flyball
Flyball, an offshoot of scent hurdle racing, was introduced in California in the early 1970s by Herbert Wagner. Scent hurdle racing was already popular around much of the country. In scent hurdle racing the dogs must go over four jumps and pick up one of four articles - the article scented by the handler. Each article is numbered 1 through 4. The dogs wore racing jackets identified with the same number as their article. Herbert Wagner did a Flyball demonstration on the Tonight Show. Soon, dog training clubs around the US and Canada were putting on Flyball demonstrations at dog shows, nursing homes, county fairs and schools. Many of the clubs had scent hurdle teams, making the transition to Flyball easy. Furthermore, Flyball added another dimension to their programs. Dog training clubs, most notably Sportsmen's Dog Training Club of Detroit and McCann vs. McCann in the Toronto area, introduced Flyball to the Great Lakes area. Other dog training clubs in the area picked up on the sport and tournaments were soon organized.
The NAFA was founded by Mike Randall on November 7, 1984, following a near diaster at the Met in Toronto, Ont in November 1984. With $10,000 in prize money, tournament director Herb Williams failed to secure any judges or provide any rules for competition.
As you can see, the BC ratio was a lot lower then! We didn't do running starts or passes; we usually just held our dogs at the line and passed when the returning dog was back. Teams mostly used the Ultimate Never-Fail flyball box, which is the style with the arm extending off the back of the box; they were built and sold by Jim Cogswell who ran a Pembroke Welsh Corgi with Canine Express. And there were a few top teams who could even break 25 seconds!
There were no start lights and no passing lights. All of the starts and passes were called by the line judges, who also used hand-held stopwatches to time the races. The race was started by the head judge; the judge would do a basic "ready, set, go" and blow the whistle on the "go". As you can imagine, a lot of the dogs were very keyed into the whistle and got quite excited when they heard it! It was very strange running with the lights for the first time and not having that start whistle.
I have a few old programs from some of the tournaments we hosted. Entered in the 3rd annual Genesee County Open in April 1986.
"Recalling the Old Days"
By "Beckie Randall"
I remember also when we were incredibly excited to run 27 seconds. Everyone used the free arm with a can style box back then. The team that won was usually the team that had 4 dogs that could do the run with the fewest mistakes. There were no passes - really. You just sent your dog when the other dog got back.
At the World Series one year, (a very long time ago) I seem to recall that Hamilton ran a team of all GSD and ran a very slick time of just under 30 seconds. We were all very impressed. This was the fastest time we had heard or seen. (This may have been 1980 or around then, maybe 81) A very good all Doberman team beat us in a race at the Sportsmen's Demo in Toronto one year - I don't remember their team name. This was also very early in history (pre-NAFA® days). I think there used to be an all Dobe team in California a while back (88?)
Thanks, Deb for recalling those old days - I'd almost forgotten.
North Carolina Blockade Runners
(formerly of Ann Arbor Front Runners)
Flyball in the north of England
In 1996 Flyball started in the North of England when a group of agility enthusiasts from Wakefield dog Training club attending shows around Britain, went to one in Reading where they saw flyball first demonstrated by a man called Roy Hunter who apparently travelled to the United States quite often to Dog related events.
Later that year the enthusiasts travelled to a dog show in Wilton, Middlesbrough where again they took part in a flyball demonstration as well as agility.
Wanting to learn more about this new found sport for dogs, the enthusiasts from the Wakefield Club contacted Anton Wittwer and Ken Hickman who were at this time establishing flyball in the South of England and an association had been started called the British Flyball Association.
A training day was arranged later that year and it was run by Anton and Ken, all went well and more and more people became interested. It was also during the year that the enthusiasts from the Wakefield Club set up and Registered with the BFA a team called the Wakefield Optimists who were the 21st team registered with a TRN of 021. They attended 2 sanctioned tournaments that year.
Flyball Boxes in those days were made by the interested clubs to a common specification which was usually a wooden frame with foam rubber padding at the front and a single hole which held a tennis ball, which was ejected by a trigger mechanism activated by the dog jumping onto the front of the box with its paws
In 1998 the Wakefield Optimists attended 5 BFA Sanctioned Tournaments in the South and the Midlands gaining a fastest ever time of 21.30 secs.
In 1999 the Optimists had a change of name to become known as the Wakefield Tykes TRN 046 and many more clubs began to put on BFA Sanctioned Tournaments.