Flyball is a relay race between two teams, each team consisting of four dogs. Each dog must jump four hurdles, catch a ball by triggering a flyball box pedal and then return over the four hurdles to the finish line.
Benefits of Flyball for Dogs
- Flyball is a great way for dogs to burn off energy. It includes all the things that dogs love to do; run, jump, fetch, compete and please their owners.
- Another wonderful thing about flyball is that any dog can participate in it regardless of breed, size or shape. You'll have more chance of winning a competition if your dog has a lot of energy and is well coordinated, but if you’re doing it for the sheer fun of it – which is a worthy reason on its own – any dog with the ability to fetch can participate.
- For dog owners, flyball is a great way to build a close relationship with your dog while having fun.
- Flyball also provides a great opportunity to socialize with other dog owners.
Flyball dog Training
If your dog can fetch and catch a ball in his mouth, he’s perfect for flyball. Basic commands such as sit, stay and heel will also be useful. Once you have established these foundations, sign up for flyball training with your local flyball club. To find a flyball club near you, contact your national flyball association (there’s a list at the end of the article).
Dogs need to be relatively fit to play flyball. Some people achieve this by swimming or bike riding with their dogs. In the warmer months, your dog also needs to be acclimatized to running in the heat. Read about the signs of heat stroke and how to keep your dog cool
The brachycephalic (short-snouted) dog breeds such as the Bulldog are not suitable for this strenuous sport due to their restrictive breathing, especially during exercise and when hot. Breathing troubles are also exaggerated if dogs become overweight.
Training will require patience, perseverance, persistence and daily commitment, but you will soon find that the rewards are well worth it!
An important aspect of flyball is the fast ‘swimmer’ type turns a dog must do on the flyball box while retrieving the ball. Specific training has been developed to help your dog learn to do this.
There are two racing lanes set up side-by-side divided by a set of drag racing lights that provide the count down to start. When the last light turns green, the dogs are off! The lanes are 51 feet (15.54m) long and the hurdle height is set 5 inches lower than the shoulder height of the smallest dog in the team.
At the end of each lane is the flyball box loaded with a tennis ball. The dog must trigger the box by stepping on a spring-loaded pad, then leap in the air to catch the released ball.
- Missed jumps and dropped balls require the dog to rerun the course after the rest of the team has finished.
- If the first runner crosses the start line before the light is green, it is a foul.
- As soon as the first dog’s nose returns across the finish line the next dog can go. If a dog starts early, it is a foul.
The first team to have all four dogs cross the finish line error free wins.
Flyball races are grouped into performance-based divisions with the fastest teams placed in Division 1 and so on, enabling each team to compete fairly against teams of a similar speed. Dogs must be at least 12 months old to compete at flyball.
Most competitions are two-day weekend events. There are typically 18 to 32 heats for each team at a competition.
The European championships are now the largest international flyball championships and are held in a different country each year. The North American Flyball Championships are the largest tournaments where over 800 dogs compete over a three day event.
The world record time for a flyball team to complete is just over 14 seconds (14.182 seconds). That means it took less than four seconds for each dog to cover the 102 feet (31.8 meters) of track, leap hurdles and catch a ball while turning on the flyball box. It’s an incredible speed!
The amazing team that set this record is Touch N Go from the United States. The team consists of Slayer, Detail, Action and Custom, a family of Border Collie-Whippet mixes. Detail, Action and Custom are from the same litter while Slayer is their half brother.
video of Touch N Go winning the world record.
Flyball started as a dog sport in California back in the1970s when some dog trainers combined scent hurdle racing with retrieving. Herbert Wagner invented a box to launch the tennis ball for his ball crazy dog and this later became the flyball box. The first formal competition was held in 1981 in the United States.
Since then, flyball has spread around the world with more than 16,000 flyball dogs registered in Australia, the United States, Canada, South Africa, Europe, and the United Kingdom.
Flyball Near You
To register your dog for flyball, contact the flyball association in your country. Some are listed here.
- The Australian Flyball Association
- UK Flyball League
- British Flyball Association
- North American Flyball Association
- United Flyball League International (actually North American and not trully international)
- Belgicshe Flyball Belge
- South African Flyball Association
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