Flyball Challenges Dogs, Owners Class in Algonquin Teaches Skills That Tests a Dog's Speed, Intelligence and Agility

By Harmon, Elizabeth | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), November 14, 2001 | Go to article overview

Flyball Challenges Dogs, Owners Class in Algonquin Teaches Skills That Tests a Dog's Speed, Intelligence and Agility


Harmon, Elizabeth, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Elizabeth Harmon Daily Herald Correspondent

As the youngest members of the Northwest Obedience Club's Friday night Flyball class, 10-year-old Becky Gabrys of Elgin and her dog, Penny, aren't intimidated by hard work. In fact, Penny can barely contain her excitement.

While instructor Jean Matusek gives instructions, Penny tries to grab a tennis ball that Becky holds just out of reach. In the process, the exuberant 1-year-old border collie knocks over part of a fenced-in track that classmates Gidget, Simpson, Kelly and Keesha have successfully navigated. But at Becky's signal, Penny gets the chance to strut her stuff.

She races down the track, leaping gracefully over a series of short jumps. At the end of her run, she slides to a stop then rushes back to Becky, ready to do it all over again.

"She's getting the hang of it," Becky said. "It's fun, but hard too."

"It's a good thing for Penny and Becky to do together," said Becky's mother, Amy Gabrys. "Penny's smart and energetic, and it's good to teach her things to keep her sharp."

Flyball might look easy, but it's actually a complex series of skills that tests a dog's speed, intelligence and agility.

"It's a relay race for a team of four dogs where they go over jumps, trigger a box to release a ball, grab the ball and run back," Matusek explains.

It's also an increasingly popular competitive sport for dogs and their owners. Northwest Obedience Club has offered the class for about a year and a half.

Since the not-for-profit organization was founded in Palatine in 1952, NOCI's focus has broadened from teaching basic obedience to helping pets and their owners compete in sports such as flyball, agility events and conformation, which longtime member Jean Bauman describes as a beauty pageant for dogs.

A move last year to an 8,000-square-foot facility at Strandell's Pet and Equine Store in Algonquin has enabled the club to offer more classes and events. These range from beginning obedience training for puppies to the advanced skills needed for flyball, agility and conformation competition. …

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