What Is Flyball ?
Flyball is a dog sport in which teams of dogs race against each other from the start to the finish line, over a line of hurdles, to a box that releases a tennis ball to be caught when the dog presses the spring-loaded pad, then back to their handlers while carrying the ball.
Flyball is run in teams of four dogs, as a relay. 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. The hurdle height is determined by the ulna's length or the smallest dog's shoulder height on the team (depending on the association). 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).
Flyball provides an entertaining and active way to interact with one's dog and other dog enthusiasts in an enjoyable environment while allowing the dogs exercise and enjoyment. It is an especially effective way to burn off dogs' energy with a high drive to work, such as Border Collies and Staffordshire Bull Terriers.
A large part of flyball's popularity stems from the fact that it is one of the competition activities available to mixed-breed dogs, allowing rescued mutts and non-pedigree dogs to shine alongside their purebred canine counterparts. Though herding dogs currently dominate the courses, many champion teams have mutts on them. Dogs earn titles and awards based on points earned by their team in racing.
As the sport has developed, better dog training regimes have been introduced as knowledge has increased within the sport. Specific training has been developed to promote the dogs using the ‘swimmers’ type turns on the Flyball box when catching the ball and turning.
Flyball is not limited to the breed's size, as smaller dogs such as Patterdale Terriers, Jack Russell Terriers, Whippets and even miniature poodles, often compete with great success in mixed-breed teams (teams consisting of dogs of various sizes and breeds). Smaller dogs are often prized as the hurdle height is based on the height of the smallest dog in the team, commonly known as a height dog. Their only limitation is whether they can trigger the release pad, and small dogs often have to fully jump on it to do so.
Flyball is one of the non-hunting dog sports in which dogs and people work as a team. Many casual pet owners use their flyball time more as a way to relax and socialize with other dog owners than as a competition, and many champion flyball dogs are essentially pet dogs with a hobby, rather than dedicated sporting or working dogs. On the other hand, modern flyball has become the fastest-growing team sport, a sport for dogs, handlers and coaches. First division teams have well-trained dogs and handlers and are trained and coached to perform.