Porsche the First and Only Flyball Corgi in Germany

One day my brother told me that our town Lenting had a new canine club. "They engage in something crazy, 'fly' or the like". This aroused my curiosity. Could it be flyball, I wondered, because so far I had only read about this sport in the breed book of our late Border Collie.

I got busy searching the internet and found out that only recently there was a club called "Lentiger Jura Flizzer", which indeed had put a flyball team together. The name of the trainer sounded familiar and I sent her an e-mail asking whether they would allow me to watch the training, together with my one year old Cardigan Corgi.

A week later, we entered the dog training facility "Am Bergfürst" for the first time. As it happened I knew Steffi, the trainer, from the training classes I had attended with my mother's Doberman some years ago. It was Steffi who had founded the new club and had already achieved their first success with the newly formed flyball team, in that they gained the European Championship in their first season!

At that time, the team was comprised of mainly long-legged dogs like Border Collies and Australian Shepherds, and they had for quite some time been looking for a so-called "height dog". That's what you call a dog that is lower at withers and thereby defines the height of the hurdles for the entire team. All dogs only need to jump as high as the lowest dog. With his 32 cm at withers, Porsche was the perfect candidate, but first he had to be tested for his flyball aptitude. So we started by watching the training of the other dogs.

Once released from his owner Jutta, the Border Collie Sam "Full Speed" raced with unbelievable speed over the four hurdles, turned on the box, grabbed the tennis ball and returned again over the four hurdles, to his owner. This left Porsche and me with gaping mouth, so to speak. It was really awesome! Porsche was then allowed to make acquaintance with the so-called "dummy box" used for learning the technique. He did very well and seemed to quickly understand what it was all about. When running over the hurdles (height 20 cm) he showed what a Cardigan is made of! Swift as a weasel he ran and jumped, which left Steffi completely stunned: "I thought he would be clumsier! But he is really agile!"

Clumsy indeed!" I thought to myself.

For a Cardigan Porsche is quite sporty and leggy, weighing barely 16 kg and is very agile and active. On that day, Porsche started his career as a team member of Lentinger Jura Flizzer. We trained once a week. First I had to find out which way Porsche turns when he fetches a ball and returns. That was quickly assessed: Porsche is a "lefty". He always turns to the left when coming back. This is important, for the box loader needs to know on which side the ball has to be placed during Porsche's run.

With this basic knowledge we were ready for the next step. Stick a pole in the lawn and send Porsche to the pole at a distance of about 5 m, and with the command "Around" make him take a close left turn around the pole and return to me. Once this worked properly, a dummy box was placed behind the pole and within few lessons, Porsche learned how to correctly turn on the box, grab the ball and bring it back.

The same year, after only few months' training, Porsche was allowed to run his first training tournament at home. Because each year our club arranges the final competition of the Bayern Cup for flyball, it was the ideal possibility to let Porsche run the first tournament on familiar terrain. As he was just a little more than one years old, he was, according to the rules at the time, allowed to participate in the first few runs of the tournament. Already at that time he showed his personality, which we appreciate so much in our team. He doesn't get distracted and carries on with his job, regardless of how many dogs around him bark like mad while owners shout their heads off. Porsche just carries on unperturbed.

After this first successful tournament, Porsche became a regular member of our team and during the flyball season, we drove to various tournaments across Bavaria and the rest of Germany. Twice we started at the German Championship tournament, and Porsche was soon known as "The Corgi" because he is the only Corgi in Germany who, so to speak, participates in flyball tournaments as a professional. I wonder whether there are other Corgis engaged in Flyball within Europe?

Since right at the beginning, Porsche completes the course at the same time, within about 5.6 seconds. For a low rider this is a remarkable time, but for obvious reasons he cannot compete with the Border Collies who partly make it in only 3 seconds. Porsche's forte is his sovereignty and strong character. After an exciting day in the arena, where dozens of strange dogs run around barking and steaming up each other, many a sensitive Border Collie will eventually get nervous and begin to make mistakes, or simply stop altogether because they can't take any more. As for Porsche, he couldn't care less.

He got his nickname "Swiss clockwork" because regardless of how hot, noisy, stressful or nerve-racking a tournament is, he is always fully concentrated on his run and doesn't make any mistakes. Porsche doesn't skip any hurdles; Porsche never drops the ball; Porsche doesn't rise to provocation and doesn't attack other dogs; Porsche doesn't stop up or run in the wrong direction. Even if a strange dog comes across his course, he doesn't get irritated. Instead, he fetches his ball, evades the crazy intruder and returns to me over all four hurdles. He is not only our height dog but has, during the years, developed into one of the most reliable dogs of our team. That is why he often is saved for the important runs, because in the heat of the moment we can always count on him. Without him we wouldn't have gained the Bayern Vice Champion title in 2018.

Whoever says that Corgis cannot engage in flyball because their physique is not made for this sport has not seen Porsche in action. Because Porsche lacks depth of brisket and has a rather straight front, contrary to the breed standard, he is very good at jumping and runs fast and untiringly. He loves to play ball which is of great advantage in this sport, and he masters the turn on the sloping box to perfection. We train this regularly, because only with the right technique the dog does not hurt his joints and back when hitting the box at great speed.

Right from the start, all our dogs are wearing tailor made Velcro bandages on their forelegs to support the joints and avoid injuries, a precaution which so far not all teams in Bavaria take. The measuring of a Corgi's stubby legs for these bandages was quite a challenge. Several times a year Porsche sees a sports physiotherapist and is also examined by the vet.

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Porsche loves flyball and I will let him carry on as long as he is physically 100% fit to do so. Should the day come when this is no longer possible, our club offers a range of other activities for him to do and have fun. He will probably never lose his enthusiasm for flyball, but it will be up to me to stop him before he gets hurt. Many clubs even let senior dogs run flyball, but not our club.

Porsche, alias Foxhouse Aragon, is now 5 years old and time will tell how physically fit he still is, and for how long he can go on. However, he is not a piece of sports equipment but is my furry little chum whose health will always come first!

Beate Zeller

English translation: ANo