Friday, June 24, 2011

Flyball practice, and a rule clarification question

Well, first off, flyball practice went great. Koira ran really well. She did drop early twice, but we were practicing reruns in anticipation of our tournament coming up in two weeks, and she did her reruns clean each time. Plus, she didn't take much time to set up for the reruns, which is nice, since some dogs can take forever to reset (of course, she didn't get her tug because of the ball drop, so I didn't have to argue with her about that part of it). She is finally seeming like a flyball dog. When the start dog's handler starts getting their dog revved up, Koira stops barking and stares, until the start dog passes by, then she looks up at me and barks for her turn.

Pallo was running good, though he got really distracted in one heat by Zip, a super excitable Belgian Tervuren on our team, whose barking got just a little bit too excited for Pallo to ignore. He ran to the side when released, and I had to reset him and release him again before he ran down the lane. On the next heats I made sure to redirect his attention back to the racing lane instead of Zip, and he refocused really well. He loves running with loud, excited dogs, loud, excited handlers, and fast, fluffy dogs. The team he'll be running with at the tournament will give him all of that. Hopefully it will mean a recipe for success for him, and for the rest of the team.

Now the slightly more technical flyball talk:

Before we began practice last night, our instructor/team leader Patty talked with the whole team, and specifically our newest members who will be running dogs or helping out, about some technicalities of tournaments, especially reruns. If a dog messes up during their run, a flag comes up, and the judge will stick out one finger, meaning one rerun is needed for the heat to be finished "clean" and a time be awarded. It is up to the team and the dog's handler if they want to rerun the dog.

Pretty much the only reasons to rerun (at least for our team) are to win the race (which only applies if the other team has at least one rerun as well) or to correct a problem the dog had (such as running around a jump or dropping the ball). There are plenty of reasons not to rerun, including the most basic of not wanting to tire out our dogs, not wanting a dog to continue making mistakes and build a bad pattern, etc. For our team, a team captain will be paying attention to let us know which dog needs to rerun, and if the other team has any reruns. It is up to the dog's handler to decide if they want to rerun their dog. If the dog is not rerun, the team takes no time for the heat and is written NF, for No Finish.

This brought up a short discussion as to reasons a dog would have to rerun. There are plenty of them, but basically, a mistake on the course such as: an early pass, missing/going around jumps, not triggering the box, not returning with the ball, or returning with the wrong ball (can happen when a loose ball is on course and a dog picks that one up to bring back instead of the one that was in the box) are the most common. There are four judges in addition to the head judge at a race, two on each racing lane, one box judge and one line judge, that will raise a flag to indicate to the head judge that an error occurred requiring a rerun.

The Question:

Now, I have a question for you. I would like to hear from flyball competitors, about what judges do with this situation in your region/organization, as well as from any one else who wants to weigh in on what they think should be done:

The situation is this: A tournament race heat is being run. The box loader cocks the box, loads a ball, then stands upright again, calling for the dog. The box loader doesn't notice that the ball they loaded has rolled out of the hole in the box, onto the ground. The dog approaches the box, does a turn triggering the box, picks up the ball from the ground, then returns. As a box judge, sitting to the side to indicate errors at the box, would you flag this as an error, or not?

For a little context, I will quote the relevant statutes from the NAFA rulebook as it is posted online:

Section 8.3, Subsection (i): "Flags. Dogs that receive a flag must be rerun after the initial four dogs in the order they were flagged. Racing infractions requiring the rerunning of a dog include:
(iv) Does not trigger the box;
(v) Dog takes the ball from the cup without first triggering the box;..."

Also relevant to the situation is part of Section 8.3, Subsection (a) which states: "... Each dog is to hurdle the four jumps in succession, trigger the box, releasing the ball, retrieve the ball and return over all four jumps and the start/finish line with the ball in its mouth..."

This is a situation I have been in, as a box judge, and I know what I did, what that particular judge decided, and additionally know what I think should happen here. But, I want to know what other people have done, would do, or think should be done. And, if needed, I will submit a proposal for a clarification of this rule to NAFA.

And a blog hop too:


  1. Thanks for a great tutorial on fly balling with your dogs. I never knew it was such a great sport to practice with our fur friends.

    Lovely - thanks so much for my first laugh of the morning!

    I'm dropping by the pet blog hop today - stop by to see the gorilla at the Calgary Zoo enjoying a little fun:

    Please leave a comment back today - I'd appreciate it!

  2. It is definitely a flag. Box loader error. The ball has to be in the box when the dog triggers it. See you in Salem :)

  3. Hi there!
    We came over from Saturday Blog hop day and hope to be friends with you :)

    Autumn & Jasmine

  4. We would fault it (we call it a fault over here not a flag!)

    The dog dod not get the ball from the box dso it's a fault :-)

  5. I am pretty sure that would be flagged in our region. Box loader error.

  6. Yeah box error for sure. Dog has to take the ball out of the box... and trigger the box.