A DROMARA dog-training centre has shown a lead in not only fielding Northern Ireland's first and only 'FlyBall' team but claiming a resounding victory into the bargain.
FlyBall, explained Irene Hull, who with Maxine Bray set up K9ARC (Animal Recreation Centre) at Aughnaskeagh Road in 2005, is a "fast, exciting, four-dog/handler team sport".
Teams of dogs compete alongside each other and the fastest clear team wins.
Dogs are released, one at a time, to clear four jumps, press a peddle to release a ball and return over the jumps towards their handlers.
All must complete the course accurately to achieve a clear round.
K9ARC first introduced FlyBall to the Northern Ireland public at the Country and Game Fair in Moira in 2005.
Said Irene, "The first ever FlyBall competition was held in Dublin, Ireland, on Saturday 13 June and the K9ARC FlyBall team competed and beat all comers."
Bringing the winners' ribbons back to Dromara was a diverse team including three sheepdogs and a Staffie/Boxer mix, with a miniature poodle in reserve; several are rescue dogs.
The handlers and their dogs are Siobhan and Jake, Claire and Fendi, Jean and Max, and Gareth and Max, with Iren and Soda in reserve.
Said Irene, "All train on a Wednesday evening at K9ARC, along with several other dogs who will soon start their own competitive journey, and/or many just love it as fun and good controlled exercise for their dogs, in this fast, furious, spectacular dog sport.
"They already give K9ARC's first FlyBall 'Champions' team serious competition on a weekly basis.
"The great thing about FlyBall is that any dog can compete, as long as it likes tennis balls, along with any handler of any age or any ability, so it is a fully accessible dog sport."
Meanwhile, K9ARC continues to pursue its aims of delivering quality training and facilities for dogs and handlers and raising the standards of training, facilities and venues available for both pet and competition dogs in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.