Now that Kubo is nearly a year old, we are able to do a little bit more with him and we had always known that as a Border Collie, something to focus him would him be a good idea. We have been considering Flyball and Agility as potential sports for him and last week went to our first Flyball session.
I had been talking to the captain of the team beforehand via Facebook who asked what his recall was like … this made me worry straightaway. His recall is OK … most of the time … assuming there is nothing else he would rather be doing! I was honest about this and expressed my concerns. My main worry was that he would decide going to say hello to all the other dogs which would be an awful lot more fun. Thankfully, he is good at dropping the ball so that’s something. Little did I know at the time that he wouldn’t actually be going near a ball.
I was very nervous going in with no idea what to expect. The car park was full of 4x4s, vans and estates: when we got Kubo out of the car, they all erupted in loud barking. We were warmly greeted by the captain and told that we would be running according to the schedule stuck on the board. She then continued her duties and I stood with Kubo, unsure of what to do next. As someone who does get shy and nervous I panicked a little. How would I know when we were due up? I didn’t know any of the other dogs so I couldn’t use them to figure it out. What did I do when we weren’t training? Most people didn’t actually have their dogs on them and they were all discussing races and shows with lingo that I barely understood. I did get talking to a couple of nice people, obviously about their dogs, although I never actually got their names (I do know the dogs’ names).
The club was indoors at a sports hall and I learnt that when we weren’t running or involved we were sat on plastic chairs in the corridors, watching through the long glass window. It reminded me of when my Dad used to take me to swimming lessons when I was a child and he would sit in the spectator seating (probably falling asleep!) with all the other parents.
We were called in within the first half hour which I was grateful for but I really had no idea what to expect. I was told Kubo would be held, I would run next to the lane calling him and he would be released to run towards me and the finish line, getting a treat at the end. Simple enough but I would have to run?! I was not expecting this. Sure, I’ve seen Flyball before on the odd video but I’m not sure I ever paid that much attention to what the handlers were doing. Suddenly, the women in workout gear made sense and my jeans and Converse felt even more out of place. Before we could even get started I had to empty all my pockets for fear of my mobile, hair clips, assorted change, dog treats, poo bags and anything else lurking in the depths, flying out. The next challenge was getting Kubo to be held. He did not like a strange person holding him around the back legs (I’m sure there’s a term for where they hold the dogs…) which was totally new to him and he thrashed and fidgeted. Once I started running away though, his focus kicked in and after ‘Ready, Set, Go!‘ he was off!
He did come to me and had his treat (a little piece of beef) but the next minute he was gone! He didn’t go, as I expected, to greet another dog but instead had spied a tennis ball on the floor and being all exited, zoomed off to grab it and play. Once I’d managed to get him back with me and the floor was cleaned up of rogue balls, we tried again. It is no surprise that he is a much faster runner than me so I had to start further forward and run quicker to ensure I was past the start line but the time he got to me so he learnt to run past the gates.
A few more runs and I was knackered! He was actually really good and after the first ball incident he didn’t run off again. He was never keen on going back to be held but he clearly enjoyed the running after. I unfortunately forgot his rope as a play reward but luckily with such a food focused beast he was content with my excitement and treats as a reward.
We were then done for a while and sat back in the waiting area, watching through the glass. Kubo did not go back in the car even though almost everyone else put their dogs away. Interestingly, a lot of the dogs didn’t interact. Considering how many were there, Kubo only met a handful. I really thought it would be a bit of a social for the dogs but actually a lot of them I found didn’t mix well with others.
We waited a really long time before he got to go in again. We learnt a few more of the dogs names (no idea on their peoples’) and we overheard many conversations full of jargon I didn’t understand. Kubo fidgeted while I tried to keep him entertained and calm and I mostly played with my phone once I ran out of contributions about the common topic we were there for. I did say something to someone about trying Kubo on agility too to find which he prefers. They queried why I wouldn’t let him do both to which I replied ‘I need a life too!’… I was laughed at. Apparently I am quite naïve.
I spoke to one family who had multiple dogs in the household and I don’t mean two or three but six or seven! They had a really impressive van which inside was fashioned in a way that reminded me of bunk beds for multi-level dog housing.
The second time we went in, we continued running up and down the mat, but this time with another dog running the opposite way at the other end of the hall. Each time we brought the dogs closer together until they were running on lanes next to each other. Kubo held his focus and watched me, in fact, his biggest issue was by far going back to the scary lady who would hold him by the back hips – I was actually really proud of him! After this exercise that was us done. The training was still ongoing but we had been there for several hours already and I wasn’t sure how I could contribute so I managed to slink off.
Due to holidays, their shows and other generic life events, it looks like we won’t be able to go back to the club for at least a month which is a shame as despite all the sitting around, when he was working, Kubo really enjoyed Flyball.
The experience has left me with lots of questions though such as what is the etiquette in joining multiple clubs (since Kubo would have to wait so long before going back to this one)? If we go regularly will I really end up with no spare time for myself? I expected this with children but I don’t have them yet! Do dogs always go back into crates or cars when not working? Will I be expected to do the same? Why do people run other people’s dogs? How do people live with 7+ dogs? Will I ever understand the lingo? How long does it take a dog to get used to the hold?
It was a very strange feeling to be proud of a dog for essentially running up and down a mat but I was just really nervous that he would go off and do his own thing, maybe even be asked not to come back if he was a real troublemaker, so maybe a lot of it was relief!
We will be back and see how he gets on as there is a lot more to learn. In a couple of weeks I will also take him to agility to see how he gets on there. I kind of hope he really doesn’t get on at either one of the two as having to choose may be difficult and I do still want a life …