Owned by Pugs

Meet Cujo - A Flyball champion turning heads


February 28th, 2007

We all know that the pug is a special breed of dog, but I think it is safe to say that pugs are not generally know for their athletic prowess. But a small pug name Cujo, hailing from the city of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, is taking the Flyball world by storm and proving that a pug has what it takes to be a flyball champ.

Like many of us that share our homes with pugs, you might not be sure what flyball is even about. Flyball is a sport where your typical doggie participants are Whippets, Border Collies and other sporting dogs. You know, the kind of dogs that are full of energy and constantly fetching a ball or stick at the dog park? Flyball events consist of a series of team relay races where dogs race down a 51 feet lane and release and catch a tennis ball from a specially designed flyball box. Once the dog has retrieved the tennis ball they must race back down the lane to the starting line. After one dog has returned the next dog on the team is set to race. This is repeated until all four dogs on the team have had a turn. The team with the fastest time wins the heat. The 2 teams go head-to-head racing to win 3 out of the 5 heats. On a good day, Fido can go home after the 3rd heat if his team is on a roll. Since it is a relay, one of the true obstacles can be running towards your competition and avoiding the temptation to turn around and grab a hold of his tail!

Cujo racing down the laneCujo, an All-Star Flyball pug, has managed to excel in this activity that seems to be geared towards sporting dogs. His performance is amazing and he has a real passion for the event. He is a petite and lean pug standing at just under 13 inches tall and weighing in at not quite 16 pounds. He is only 1 of 2 pugs participating in flyball competitions in Canada and the only pug currently in his club, the Flyball Fanatics. Cujo is sort of a ringer for his team mainly because he is the height dog. Since the height of the hurdles is set based on your shortest dog, Cujo gets the bar lowered for his teammates, but still must make jumps that are difficult for his stature. The same advantage is given to each team, so it is a good idea to have smaller dogs on a team so that the hurdle doesn’t have to be much of a jump for a larger dog. So, usually teams will have a small dog like a Jack Russell on their team. Jacks are great jumpers, though. Pugs, however, are not the typically the first small dog thought of to be terrific in the field of athleticism.

Cujo has perfected his catchCujo was only 6 months old when he first attended a flyball event. Once introduced to the sport there was no turning back. Like many pugs, Cujo will do almost anything for food, so he was pretty easy to train. First he learned on the clicker (which is a must for the sport) and then he learned to fetch, jump and of course to avoid all other distractions, like other dogs running down the lanes. The hardest thing for Cujo to do was to catch the ball when it was triggered out of the box, but with loads of practice, Cujo not only got the hang of it, but he is now a show stealer!

Cujo is no different than many pugs in the sense that his mouth is small and not conducive to grabbing hold of a regulation sized tennis ball. So, Cujo requires smaller tennis balls for the competition. The club ordered special balls from a pet store in California. Now he has over 200 size 1.5 Happy Dog brand tennis balls. This will be plenty to last him throughout his flyball career.

Cujo with his mom NatCujo’s first flyball tournament was in September of 2006 which was just a mere 7 months ago. He is already ranked 3rd among pugs registered with NAFA (North American Flyball Association). Talk about pug power! Cujo has now achieved over 1000 points. That gains him Flyball Dog Champion Silver status. Points are earned based on speed. While Cujo isn’t the fastest on his team, he is still a top competitor! Cujo’s average time down the lane is 6.7 seconds with his fastest time being 6.5 seconds. Most dogs run an average of 4-6 seconds. Wow, not bad for a pug! Most of the dogs in Cujo’s club are Border Collies, Australian Sheppards, Jack Russells, Shelties and mixed breeds. All are dogs known for their speed. So, for Cujo to be on such a fast footed team is an achievement in itself! Cujo really is an all-star!

Think you’re interested in getting your pug into flyball? Make sure your pug is in tip top shape, then check out NAFA’s website. The site provides detailed information about the sport and it will give you a listing of tournaments in your area. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to go watch a tournament for yourself first to see if this is an endeavor that both you and your pug would be passionate about. You can also see a picture of Cujo in action at NAFA’s website in their news archives. Cujo has a brother named Yogi that is getting into the sport, too. He is a little younger than Cujo and will need to develop and mature a little bit, but flyball seems to be in his blood as well!

Click here to read an update on Cujo

A special thanks to Nathalie, Cujo's Mom, trainer and flyball companion for sharing Cujo's wonderful story!