Flyball is a team sport for dogs. During a game of flyball, teams of four dogs race against each other in a relay type race. One at a time, the dogs sprint across the course, jumping several hurdles until the reach a box that releases a tennis ball when they hit a spring-loaded pad, once they retrieve the ball, they sprint back down the field to their starting location. Each dog on the team runs the course once. Dogs must return successfully with their ball before the next dog can start. The first team to have all four dogs successfully complete the course error free wins. If a dog drops his or her ball, or the next dog goes too early, appropriate penalties are applied.
The average flyball course is 51 feet long. It has four hurdles that are set up ten feet apart. The height of the hurdles is determined by the withers height of the smallest dog on the team. The hurdles are set 5 inches below the shoulder height of the smallest dog on the team to a minimum of seven inches and a maximum of 14 inches.
The sport of flyball started in the late 1960s- early 1970s in California, America. The first flyball tournament was held in the United States in 1983. Today, the sport is played almost worldwide and can be found in most of Europe, Canada, Australia, Japan and South Africa.
Unlike many of the other dog sports, flyball is open to all dogs, no matter their size, breed or pedigree. The sport is dominated by high energy Border Collies and Terriers, but every breed is welcome and so are all mixed breeds. Large amounts of rescued dogs are seen participating in flyball. They only size limitation in flyball is that all dogs must be big enough to trigger the ball release pad, for very small dogs this may mean they have to jump completely on the pad instead of just hitting it with their paw like the larger dogs can.
Dogs need to be at least a year old, have basic obedience training, be in good health and be good with other dog and people to participate in flyball. There is no mandatory retirement age for dogs; they are welcome to participate in the sport for as long as their health allows. Dogs ten years and older are often seen in flyball competitions. Dogs do not have to be ball crazy to enjoy flyball; they just need to have a love of running and retrieving.
Training a dog for flyball usually begins when the dog is around 6-9 months old and takes several months. Dogs need to learn to respond to a recall at top speed; how to carry a ball; how to trigger the flyball box; how to wait their turn; and how to ignore all the other dogs and excitement and focus on running the race. The two most important and hardest things a dog must know are the off lead recall and ignoring the many distractions.
Flyball is an extremely popular dog sport. In North America, there are over 700 flyball clubs with over 20,000 dogs registered for the sport. Flyball is an excellent way for dogs and their owners to get out and have some fun socializing with other dogs and people. Flyball is great exercise, socialization, and tons of fun!