Flyball is a dog relay competition. Teams of four dogs race each other over a set of hurdles to retrieve a tennis ball. It is a game played by high-energy dogs that love to chase balls. It is an exciting race for dogs and is the fastest growing dog sport in North America.
A flyball team consists of four dogs and their handlers, plus up to two alternate dogs and handlers and a box loader. All breeds, including mixed-breeds can play and compete.
In competition, two flyball teams compete against each other in two racing lanes side by side approximately 15 feet apart. The racing lane is 51 feet down and 51 feet back. Each lane contains four jumps, called hurdles, that are set 10 feet apart with the last hurdle being 15 feet from the flyball box.
The jump heights are calculated by subtracting four inches from the height at the withers of the shortest dog on the team. The minimum jump height is eight inches and the maximum is sixteen. There is typically a staging area of at least 50 feet behind the start/finish line to line up the dogs and give them enough room to get a running start.
A flyball box is a wedge shaped box with a spring-loaded front that releases a tennis ball when a dog steps on it — hence the name “Flyball.”
Like any other sport, there are rules. The first team finished without errors, wins. At a tournament, there is electronic timing to record the total time the team takes to finish the race. Typically drag racing style with “ready, set, go” lights and infrared timing sensors. A perfect start occurs when a dog is released far from the flyball lane to get a running start and hits the start line at full speed just as the “go” light turns green. The three remaining dogs on the team cannot pass the start/finish line before the preceding dog returns. All returning dogs must have jumped the hurdles and must have the tennis ball in their mouth as they cross the start/finish line.
Many people who are involved in flyball with their dogs do not compete but rather do it just for fun and demonstrations at local fairs, sporting events, business promotions, and all kinds of special events.
Flyball is governed by the North American Flyball Association (NAFA), which was formed in 1985. NAFA provides the rules and regulations, keeps track of the points earned by each dog registered with NAFA, and makes available specialized electronic racing equipment for tournaments to name just a few of NAFA’s duties.
Additional Information / Articles of Interest:
- Flyball Training Tips
- North American Flyball Association (NAFA)
- United Flyball League International (U-FLI TM)
Photo courtesy of: Wendy Beard – Pet & Action Photography, Ottawa, Canada
Reference Books & Equipment:
Above Photos courtesy of OVBCC
and Wendy Beard
Pet & Action Photography, Ottawa, Canada – www.muddypawz.net