Flyball is a competitive team sport which is run on a knockout basis. It first became popular as a sport in America and made its debut in the UK at Crufts in 1990. Flyball is a fun and energetic sport your dog will love.
Two teams of four dogs compete at the same time, each using a parallel 'racing lane' down which each dog in turn runs, clearing four hurdles in succession before triggering a pedal on the Flyball box.
A tennis ball is then released which the dog must hold before returning over the hurdles to the start line. The first team to have its fourth dog across the finish line, with any part of the dog's body, wins the race. Each dog must cross the finish line before the next dog can start, and handlers aim to launch their dog so that it will cross with a returning dog just at the line.
If a run is not completed correctly the dog must re-run at the end of the line (for instance if the dog drops the ball, misses out a hurdle or starts too early, if the ball-loader assists the dog, or the handler crosses the start line while their dog is running). Usually the best of three runs decides which team proceeds to the next heat but five runs are also sometimes used. Each team consists of four handlers plus a 'box loader' and some reserves, although teams often also provide stewards.
The area needed for a Flyball race tends to be fairly large. Dogs can run at terrific speeds therefore require a good distance at the end of the race in order to slow down. A wide area at the end of the hurdles is also necessary to allow dogs enough room to pick up the ball and reverse direction safely! Any design of commercially produced flat-fronted Flyball box may be used provided the principles of safety are maintained.
There are 4 pieces of equipment required for Flyball:
The hurdles should be 10 inches high for all classes and all sizes of dog and be painted white. For safety, the top rail must be flexible or padded.
Any flat fronted commercial Flyball box may be used provided the safety of the competing dogs is not at risk.
There has to be a Backstop Board in place as dogs can really hurtle over the course and there has to be something there to slow them down!
The balls that are loaded into the box must be un-punctured tennis balls. There is a risk that dogs could choke on something smaller, or damage themselves with something larger.
Every year the Crufts hosts a Flyball final where sixteen teams strive to become Crufts Flyball champions in front of a massive, noisy and enthralled audience in the NEC Arena. For more information about this exciting event, click here.