Flyball is a team sport for dogs that was invented in California in the late 70’s. Legend has it that Herbert Wagner first showed it on the Johnny Carson Show to millions of Americans. Soon afterwards, dog trainers and dog clubs were making and using Flyball Boxes. In the early 80’s the sport became so popular that the North American Flyball Association (NAFA) was formed. (U.S. and Canada) Flyball is actually now played around the world, in countries including Britain, Belgium, Australia & New Zealand, South Africa, Germany, and Finland.
Flyball is a relay race with 4 dogs on a team. The racing “course” consists of a starting line, 4 hurdles spaced 10 feet apart, and a flyball box. The first hurdle is 6 feet from the start line and the box is 15 feet from the last hurdle for a 51 foot overall length. The hurdles’ height are dependent on the height of the dogs in the team — 5″ below the shoulder height of the shortest dog on the team determines the jump height for all the dogs on that team. 7″ is the minimum jump height and 14″ is the maximum height.
The dogs jump the hurdles and step on a spring loaded plate on the box front, which shoots out a tennis ball. The dog catches the tennis ball and then runs back over the 4 hurdles. When the dog crosses the starting line the next dog on the team runs the course. The first team to have all 4 dogs run up & back without errors wins the heat.
Tournaments are usually organized in either a double elimination or round robin format. Double elimination is usually best of 3 or best of 5 heats. Round robin is usually best 3 out of 5 and the first team to win 3 heats receives 1 point towards their standing in the tournament. Teams can place overall in the tournament by accruing tournament points, by speed, or some combination of the two, depending on the structure of the tournament. Depending on how they place at a tournament, teams can also accrue points towards regional championship titles.
Individual dogs earn points towards flyball titles based on the team’s racing time per heat. For heat runs in:
– less than 32 secs: each dog on team receives 1 point
– less than 28 secs: each dog on team receives 5 points
– less than 24 secs: each dog on team receives 25 points