If you are looking for a fast paced, fun and interactive activity for you and your dog in a family friendly environment, Flyball is where it’s at! It’s truly a sport for all dogs and abilities.
Dogs love to run and be active with their pet parents and that is what the game is all about. It is the adrenaline sport of the dog world where dogs are encouraged to bark, play tug and just all around act crazy and excited. To say the dogs love it, would be an understatement, they go absolutely nuts for it.
Flyball is a game run in teams of four dogs as a relay where two teams race each other. The course consists of four hurdle jumps, 10 feet apart from each other with a box that releases a tennis ball when the dog presses on the spring at the end. The dog must return all the way back across the start line before the next dog crosses.
Who all can play?
All breeds are welcome! Dogs of any size can play, from Chihuahua to Great Dane and everybody in-between. As each team has four dogs, it is actually an advantage for the team to have a smaller dog. The heights of the hurdles are determined by the shoulder height of the smallest dog in a team.
All dogs are ‘seeded’ against teams of similar speed. This means that your dog would be running against a dog with similar abilities. Although a winner will be determined for each game, all dogs are encouraged, cheered for and celebrated. There is even a class of racing called Multi Breed where each team is required to have four different breeds of dogs running and another class called Veterans where all the dogs must be at least seven years old.
Since Flyball is played off leash, you must have very good control over your dog off leash so that no one gets hurt, so basic obedience is a must. You cannot compete with your dog until he is one year of age which is about the same amount of time it could take to train your dog to play Flyball.
Rules of the game…
Basically the rules are to send your dog down to the Flyball box to get there ball and bring it all the way back across the start/finish line without having an early pass, going around any jumps or interfering with the other team.
Each lane is 51 feet and there are two lanes per ring. Six feet from the start line is the first jump and every 10 feet after that is the next three. Fifteen feet after the last jump is the box line. There is four jumps in each lane which can be anywhere from 7 to 14 inches in height.
Each team needs a minimum of four dogs and can list six (so two backups). There always has to be one dog who is declared the height dog who runs in each race. Points are awarded with every heat the dog’s team runs without faults. Any time less than 24 seconds are worth 25 points. Time under 28 seconds are five points and times under 32 seconds are worth one point.
Starting with basic obedience training, the first thing we teach the dogs is how to do a recall to their toys/treats. Then we teach them the Flyball box after which time we start introducing the jumps. Once they can do it all, we then start introducing the other dogs in the other lane as well as passing. We take a full year to train our puppies and practise twice a week. Most teams practise once a week or maybe just a couple of times a month. We start training our puppies at 10 weeks of age with some simple things like recalls and target work. Some may just take a bit more patients to train.
To standardise the rules, keep records of tournaments and guide the development of Flyball racing, the North American Flyball Association, Inc (NAFA) was formed in 1985. There are numerous titles a dog can earn in NAFA based on how many points he has. They start as low as 20 points and go all the way up to 100,000 points. The dogs receive a certificate, pin and/or plaque with every title.
- The current North American Flyball Association Regular Class world record is held by the Rocket Relay team from Ontario, Canada. The record time is 14.93 minutes.
- The current North American Flyball Association Multi Breed Class world record is held by Spring Loaded team from Michigan, USA. The record time is 15.36 minutes.
- Flyball started in Southern California in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
- The first tournament was held in the USA in 1983.
- To standardise the rules, keep records of tournaments, and guide the development of Flyball racing, the North American Flyball Association, Inc (NAFA) was formed in 1985 by a group representing 12 teams from Michigan and Ontario.
- NAFA has over 700 registered clubs with more than 16,000 registered dogs.
(Dave Walt is a member of Rocket Relay Flyball Club (http://www.rocketrelay.com/), which is the fastest club in the North American Flyball Association. The club has 26 members and 72 dogs in it. They have won numerous championships as well as run many world records. They also do Flyball seminars and run a Flyball training website with members worldwide. He is also a NAFA Supervising Judge.)