THESE adorable animals may come in all shapes and sizes, but they all have one thing in common.

Purebreeds, mongrels and rescue dogs, the rising popularity of flyball racing accepts breeds of all kinds.

Unlike greyhound racing, the flyball pits four dogs and their owners against rival teams in an action-packed race to snare the one thing all dogs love. The ball.

Throw in a few hurdles and an electronic gate to make sure each dog starts and finishes their lap on time, and you have a sport that racing organiser Steve Pitt calls 'a little bit addictive'.

"In 1993 I had a gentleman called Gary Hardwood who came to the Queanbeyan Dog Obedience Club in NSW," he said. "He did a demonstration for a few minutes with his one dog and a flyball box which didn't look anything like they do now.

"He said anyone who was interested should meet me at the park on Saturday, and I've been doing it ever since."

Mr Squiggle in action, training for the Flyball racing event to be held in Ipswich this weekend.
Mr Squiggle in action, training for the Flyball racing event to be held in Ipswich this weekend. Rob Williams

While speed is a big factor, the size of each dog can play a part in how competitive each team is. The height of the hurdles are determined by the shoulders of the shortest 'relay runner', which means having a small statured runner can be an advantage.

As a member of the Supersonics Flyball Racing Club, the sport is a chance for Pitt to spend time with his furry best friend and socialise with other dog-lovers.

"When you think about the Australian lifestyle we go to work, come home and give the dog a pat, feed it and throw a ball or stick around for it," he said. "For a large portion of the time the dog is by itself.

"Flyball racing provides an opportunity for the handler and their dog to build a relationship that is far over and above one that is built from spending five minutes together in the afternoon."

This weekend eight teams from interstate will contest the inaugural Ipswich Cup over two days at the Ipswich Showgrounds.

With more than 40 clubs across Australia, the sport is quickly growing and Pitt hopes this weekend will give Ipswich a taste of what flyball racing is all about.

A gold coin donation is the only cost of entry to this weekend's event, with all money raised donated to Working Breed Rehab, a rescue group who rehabilitate working breed dogs from pounds across Australia.



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