Head and shoulders of a Dalmatian flying over the jumps wtih the timing lights in the background.

The Start Dog

Start dogs are the only dogs racing that do not pass into another dog. AND, they get two tries to get their starts perfect (timer reading .000 seconds). But, they will have a dog passing into them on their return and will need to know, and be comfortable with, passing in case they have a flag.

A Border Collie coming back passing into a Staffordshire Bull Terrier with the start/finish sensors in view.

Passing

It's all about the timing!

A pass can make or break a race so learning to pass is very important. Once your dog has learned the basics (jumping the hurdles, triggering the box and coming back to you with a ball in it's mouth) it is time to introduce passing.

The Trust Factor

Most dogs will avoid colliding with another dog in their everyday life so passing close to one at high speeds is not something that most dogs are comfortable with.

Traffic Pattern: there is a natural traffic flow in racing that helps keep everyone safe and out of each others way. The handlers and dogs line up on the right and release from this side. Dogs coming back learn to move to the left and return into the run back area on that side.

Handlers Job: it is the handler's job to determine “when” to release their dog to get a perfect pass. Practicing running the team helps dogs get used to each other and comfortable with passing.

Start/Finish Line: everyone wants the perfect pass (nose to nose at the start/finish line) but it does take some time to master. The pass evaluator (person calling the passes) helps here. They will let you know how late, or how early, your pass was so you can adjust and have a better pass for the next heat.

There are a lot of factors involved in passing that need to be taken into consideration. Dog's speed, whether the dog you're passing into has the ball securely in it's mouth and their comfort level with close passing. Most dogs get caught up in the excitement and thrill of the race so that close passes doesn't bother them.