Sincity Dogs Flyball Team puts agile pups through their paces

Pups and their owners file into the Sincity Dogs Flyball Team’s practice hall on a Wednesday night. Suddenly the space is full of barking, the sound echoing from every corner of the room. This is where the friendly canines gather to blow off steam and show off their agility.

The sport of flyball centers around two teams of four dogs each. They race down a 51-foot course, jumping over hurdles along the way, and trigger a box that releases a ball. The ball is then retrieved, and the dogs return it to the finish line.

The height of the hurdles is determined by the smallest dog on each team, which is often known as the “height dog.” Dogs of any breed and age can participate.

“For the people, it is like any sport,” said team captain Yvette Chevalier. “It is a hobby, something that people share and have in common. For the dog … it gives them a job, something besides sitting in a yard by themselves or sitting on a couch. For working and hunting dogs like border collies, it makes them feel like they are working, and they get pleasure out of it and instinctual satisfaction.”

According to the nonprofit North American Flyball Association Inc., flyball started in the late 1960s and early ’70s when a group of Southern California dog trainers created scent discrimination hurdle racing, then put someone at the end to throw tennis balls to the dogs when they finished the jump line. A tennis ball-launching machine was built, becoming the first flyball box.

The first flyball tournament was held in 1983. Sincity Dogs started in 1997 and currently has only six members but is looking to recruit more people. Jolen Cummings and her dog Pippin have been a part of the team for just less than a year.

“I got her as a puppy from the Sincity Flyball team leader,” Cummings said of her border collie. “She has been great and loves flyball. It does not matter if we win or lose; it is so exciting, fun and a rush and great exercise. I love the look of intensity when Pippin is racing down the lane towards the ball box, and she is very focused. Then when she gets the ball and comes back, it is pure joy. She loves it so much.”

For a while the Sincity Dogs team shared a practice space with another local team. Chevalier said it did not grow much during that time, something she attributed to the location. In July, the Sincity Dogs began practicing at a new indoor training hall in a warehouse at 4221 W. Charleston Blvd.

“We were practicing way off Boulder Highway and Tropicana (Avenue), and because of that, we were not getting new members,” Chevalier said. “We wanted to be closer to home, so that is why we moved to the Summerlin/southwest area. Most of us live within 10 miles of here.”

The team currently is scheduled to practice at 8 p.m. Wednesdays and 7:30 a.m. Saturdays. The first evaluation is free. A Friday play session for prospective dogs is planned for 6 p.m. Fridays. Dog owners who decide they want to continue with flyball can request to be invited to join the team.

Brielle Romeo has been a part of the team for six months. She said flyball provides an opportunity for her Australian cattle dog Zaya to exert her energy positively.

“She is a cattle dog, so she likes to keep busy,” Romeo said of Zaya. “She is very active. We heard about the team from someone that goes to the same dog park that we do. We came and checked it out, and we loved it. It is such a great environment for us and our dog to be in. Zaya is so happy when she is racing.”

For more information about the team, email Chevalier at lawofficeyvettechevalier@gmail.com, call 702-544-0085 or visit the team’s Facebook page at facebook.com/TerriblesK9Racers.

For more information about the North American Flyball Association, visit flyball.org/aboutflyball.html.

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