What is Flyball For Dogs?

Flyball is a relay race between two teams of four dogs each. When the light turns green, the dogs in the first group take off down the track. Dogs must jump four hurdles, and catch a ball triggered by a flyball box pedal they hit with their paw. Then they return over the four hurdles to the finish line. Flyball for dogs is very beneficial for both dogs and owners. It provides the dogs with a way to burn off energy and includes the activities that dogs love. This includes running, jumping, fetching, and pleasing their owners. For dog owners, flyball is an excellent way to build a close relationship with your dog while having fun. It also provides a great opportunity to socialize with other dog owners. 

Dog playing flyball
Dog playing flyball

The Flyball Course

The flyball track lanes are 51 feet (15.54m) long with the height of the hurdles varying depending upon the Flyball Associations and Leagues of the location sponsoring the competition. The hurdle height is determined by the ulna’s length or the smallest dog’s shoulder height on the team.

For example, under current North American Flyball Association (NAFA) rules, this should be 5 inches (12.7 cm) below the withers height of the smallest dog, to a height of no less than 7 inches (17.8 cm) and no greater than 14 inches (35.6 cm).  United Kingdom Flyball League (UKFL) uses a patented ulna measuring device, measuring the distance between the ‘elbow’ and bone of the stopper pad with a minimum height of 6 inches (15 cm) and a maximum of 12 inches (25 cm). Current EFC (European Flyball Championship) rules limit the height to no less than 17.5 cm and no greater than 35 cm. 

The course consists of four hurdles placed 10 feet (3 m) apart from each other, with the starting line six feet (1.8 m) from the first hurdle, and the flyball box 15 feet (4.5 m) after the last one, making for a 51-foot (15.5 m) length. 

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 Tournaments

The flyball track lanes are 51 feet (15.54m) long. The height of the hurdles varies depending upon the Flyball Associations and Leagues of the location sponsoring the competition. This enables each team to compete fairly against teams of a similar speed. Dogs must be at least 12 months old to compete in 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.

What is flyball for dogs. Dog picking up ball in flyball

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 the track, leap hurdles and catch a ball while turning on the flyball box. It’s an incredible speed!  

Flyball For Fun

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.

Flyball is another fun activity that you and your dog can do together. The more of these types of activities you have to choose from the more fulfilling your and your dog’s lives will be.

Flyball 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 your dog has these training commands down well and loves catching a ball, it is advisable to sign up for flyball training with your local flyball club.

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. learn about the signs of heatstroke 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.

What is dog flyball? Dog playing flyballl
Dog playing flyball

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 of 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.  

Flyball History

Flyball started as a dog sport in California back in the 1970s 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 made its way around the world becoming increasingly popular with more than 16,000 flyball dogs registered in Australia, the United States, Canada, South Africa, Europe, and the United Kingdom.

Final Thoughts

For a great time with your dog, try flyball. Dogs love this game and, as long as they love to play ball, they will really learn this fast. Just be sure they have the basic obedience commands down, especially a good, solid recall and you will do fine!

If your dog loves to run and you love to ride your bike then dog bikejoring might be another sport you can participate in with your dog!

Please feel free to comment on anything in the post or missing from the post. I would love to hear from some people that have seen flyball or play it with their dogs.

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