Before Flyball

A precursor to Flyball was Scent Hurdling, something that a few California dog trainers started in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They simply combined scent hurdle racing with the dogs returning to a finish line with a tennis ball. When a ball launching gadget was added, the first flyball box was born, though Herbert Wagner is credited with making the first real flyball box.

Scent hurdling isn’t done as much as it used to be, but it’s not dead, and in some pockets of the world,  it’s making a come back.  At some Canadian Kennel Club Shows, scent hurdle races are put on during a lunch break or after Best in Show. 

Scent Hurdle Races consist of two teams of four handlers and their dogs, plus a platform steward. Both teams race their dogs who must jump over a line of four hurdles, but instead of getting a ball at the end, they have to find and retrieve the one dumbbell in four that has his or her owner’s scent.  He immediately returns back over the four hurdles to his handler, and then the next dog is sent to repeat the same performance until the fourth dog on the team has completed his run. Each time a dumbbell is retrieved, the steward places an “x” (or a Dummy Dumbbell) on the empty space on the platform. The first team to successfully complete the course is the winner of that heat. The first team to win two out of three heats is the winner of the race.

This challenging sport calls for intense mental concentration, and a lot of training and practice. Good scent-hurdle dogs are both fast and accurate, and not surprisingly, Border Collies take to it enthusiastically, but all breeds can participate. In the video below, we see a Papillon competing: The action begins at the :27 mark:

We don’t know how active it is, but there is a Canadian Scent Hurdle Racing Association.

If you’ve participated, we’d love to hear from you.

We weren’t able to find images of Scent Hurdle dogs for which we could get permission, so our image is of a Border Collie participating in Flyball. Image by Breeze uk – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

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