In this article, Nadine Lewis and her border collie Sasha have graciously agreed to share their amazing journey together to become confident Flyball competitors. Get an insight into the fascinating and fun world of Flyball competitions – a competition that border collies can truly excel in!
My name is Nadine Lewis and I sent a photo of my border collie Sasha going over a Flyball jump to Border Collie Fan Club and was then asked to do a little piece about her journey from being a scared little girl to a confident flyballer. Here is her story…
Just over 5 years ago my husband and I were blessed to welcome Sasha into our home and into our hearts. Sasha was 12 weeks old when we met her, she was the last remaining puppy from an unplanned litter from two Welsh working border collies. Arriving after a long trip to meet Sasha, we were shown an extremely scared and nervous little bundle of fur. My heart melted. We met her Mum who hadn’t been socialised due to her being a working dog, so she too was extremely nervous, cringing away from us. This should have been a warning sign but Sasha had stolen our hearts and she was coming home with us.
She settled into our home and made friends with the elderly Border Collie we had at the time but I found she was extremely nervous and scared when outside of her comfort zone; to the point where she would wet herself, would not approach any new object and even tried to run away from her bum when she had noisy diarrhea! We tried a socialising class as soon as we got her, but her fear was enormous and it really didn’t work. I also found it difficult taking her anywhere where strangers and/or their dogs were present as her fear was so great that she’d try to hide behind me, shaking and wetting herself. I reached the stage where I couldn’t take her anywhere which would cause her such distress. She also showed signs of fear aggression if she felt trapped and/or threatened.
The good news was that Sasha was still very active and quite ‘ball obsessed’ even as a puppy – she would repeatedly take her ball to anyone she felt comfortable with for them to throw for her!
When she was nearly two years old I happened to see a Crufts Flyball video and wondered whether this would be something Sasha would take to and whether it would boost her confidence. So I approached a local Flyball team (Bristol Ball-istics) and explained my ‘issues’ with Sasha. They were super supportive and invited us to attend a training session. With great trepidation, Sasha and I arrived at their first training session in January 2015 and as feared, Sasha was incredibly nervous. Flyball training sessions and competitions involve an awful lot of noise from the dogs and people.
But, the Bristol Ball-istics were tremendous with Sasha. The club captain and trainer advised fellow team members to keep themselves and their dogs away from her and kept handling of her to a minimum (i.e. only handling her when holding her to practice run-backs). This is where someone holds the dog at the box and the handler runs to the end of the jumps. The dog is then released to run to the handler over the jumps and get their ‘reward’, which is usually a tuggie or a treat. The dogs are box trained, (ie. trained to jump onto the box with all four paws), which triggers a ball that they then catch. This was a bit of an initial effort for Sasha as she really wanted to get the ball, but would sometimes shy away due to someone being nearby. After a few training sessions, however, Sasha was doing full runs and she was clearly starting to love it.
A few months later, Sasha entered her first starters competition and performed brilliantly! Since then she’s progressed in leaps and bounds and I find she is so obsessed with Flyball that when at a competition she pays little to anyone or anything else. As mentioned earlier, Flyball competitions are extremely noisy with dogs (and handlers) being hyper excited and barking, screaming, shouting etc… Finding that this no longer bothers Sasha makes me really happy for her! In fact, she now joins in with the barking!
By participating in Flyball, Sasha is doing something she really loves, she’s working (which is what Border Collies love to do), she’s keeping fit and, most importantly, she isn’t scared when flyballing.
Sasha is now in her third year of racing and has progressed to running with the Bristol Ball-istics top team who are currently the 9th seed in the UK. Our fastest time recorded is 16.29 seconds.
Sasha will always be a nervous little girl with weird things going on her head when not playing Flyball or when outside of her comfort zone and she’ll always be wary of strangers, noises, etc… but Flyball has made such a massive difference to her life and we are so glad that we have found something that has made such a positive impact in both her life and ours.
Looking for a Good Book To Help Train & Raise Your Border Collie? We Recommend…
About This Book..
Historically, Border Collies are known as a working dog breed. Due to this very fact there are certain dog behaviors and instincts particular to Border Collies only. These behaviors and instincts define the personality of the dog. Understanding these behaviors and instincts is imperative if you desire a well-trained/behaved dog. This book is based on years of experience and thorough research helping you to choose, raise, train and live in harmony with your Border Collie. This book has been written by truly taking into consideration the breed as well as its abilities as this aspect is often ignored by owners of this dog. The content of this book will provide you with an insight of how a Border Collie relates and interacts with its owner and the outside world. Once you’ve read this book, you’ll be better equipped to own and take care of a Border Collie so that it becomes the wonderful companion it’s meant to be!