Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Grand Rapids, MI
Ball drive can be good or bad. It's good to have a dog that is comfortable retrieving and likes having a ball in his mouth. But TOO much drive for tennis balls in particular can be something to overcome. I had this phase with Pan. We had to train him that the tennis ball is not the reward, it is neutral. Otherwise you might get a dog that drives really fast into the box but returns slower and/or a dog that is always running around trying to bite loose tennis balls (that was Pan!).
Tug is not necessary. I think at least one third of the dogs I see on my own team and at tournaments are getting rewarded with food, or just praise, or some silly little game but not a tug. For me the tug is easier because it gives my dogs something to target as they come back (rather than going after a loose ball or another dog).
Any sport can be tough on the dog. It's important to have a lean, healthy dog. With large dogs like GSDs, training a correct box turn is absolutely critical. Poor technique can damage the dog's shoulders.
I'm pretty sure there are at least a half a dozen teams in the Chicago/Northern IL area. Contact U-Fli and NAFA, those are the two main flyball organizations.
Coke (All-American 7/7/06)
Nikon (GSD 9/7/08)
Indy (All-American 5/10/12)
Legend (GSD 10/22/13)
Rainbow Bridge Kenya (GSD)