The Facts About Flyball

When it comes to dog sports, there are a few that might come to mind–agility, tracking, and herding. Then there’s flyball. What is flyball? Getting its start in the late 1960s to early 70s, this relay sport has grown worldwide. Flyball is an exciting high speed relay sport for dogs in which teams of four compete against each other to jump four hurdles, release and catch a tennis ball, and run back to their handler until all four dogs have completed the relay. The team with the least mistakes and fastest time wins!

irish setter running in a field

How Does it Work?

This competitive and challenging sport takes a lot of focus, agility, and training. The relay consists of two teams of four (with two substitutes if needed). Each team races side by side down a 51-foot long course. The dog must make its way over the four jumps, trigger the flybox to retrieve the tennis ball, and jump back over the hurdles to the handler before the next dog is allowed to go.

If a dog makes a mistake by missing a jump, missing the ball, or passing another dog too early, it will result in a flag and they will have to rerun the course. However, the pressure isn’t just on for the doggy participants. This sport really does rely on the team as a whole. If a handler or box loader makes a mistake, the team will also get flagged. This could include releasing the dog before the race starts, or forgetting to load a ball into the flybox.

Who Can Participate?

The great thing about flyball is that any breed is welcome, small, medium, or large. The height of the hurdles on a flyball course is decided according to the shortest dog on the team, known as the “height dog”. While some breeds present an advantage over others with their speed and height, the sport doesn’t discriminate against any dog. In fact there are over 21,000 dogs that are registered for flyball. Known for being fast and super smart, the Border Collie is one of the most popular breeds to participate in this sport, along with Australian Shepherds and Jack Russell Terriers.

This relay sport also comes in four divisions–regular, multi-breed, veteran, and open. Each division has rules on what breeds can race together. In the regular division any combination of breeds can race together. With multi-breed division you can have the same breed on the team but all four dogs racing must be different. For the veterans’ class, each dog must be at least 7 years old. Hurdles are lower and speeds aren’t as quick for veteran competitors. Open division is the most flexible. Any combination of breed can race together, from any flyball organization, but the teams are not eligible for record times or regional championships.

spaniel in flyball

The Benefits of Flyball

Flyball has many benefits for not only the dog, but the pet owner as well. With all of the training that goes into flyball, you will have to spend a large amount of time with your pup, which is a great way to get some bonding time in. It also keeps your pup active and strong, all while enjoying a good dose of healthy competition.

Looking to meet some new people and friends? This sport gives dog lovers the chance to do just that. With all the traveling you will do with your pup to different tournaments and flyball events, you are bound to meet people from all over and make some new buds along the way.

How to Get Involved

Have a dog that you think would make a great “flyballer” or just want to find a hobby for you and your canine companion? There are plenty of classes or clubs you can join to get started. Start by researching online to find places locally that offer this sport.

This sport is fun, fast, and exciting, but also really cool to watch. Get your pup and join the fun with flyball. Trust us, you will not be disappointed.

border collie in flyball race

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