Flyball is a course exercise for dog teams and at the same time a competitive sport. The discipline originated in California in the early 1970s as a pure ball catch game, to which jumps were later added. Today, flyball is played with two teams of four dogs each, from which the dogs compete in succession on a multi-lane course. The flyball course includes four obstacles that the dog must overcome. Then he triggers a ball throwing machine and has the task of catching the thrown ball from the air.
The flyball team
A flyball team consists of four teams, consisting of a dog and a handler. The teams compete against each other as relays, which means that as soon as one dog has completed the course, the next can start. The dog handlers lead their dogs from the outside, but cannot actively intervene in the competition. In addition to the four starting teams, each team can set up two reserve teams. For the competition, the team is divided into a performance class based on a self-selected reference time. If the team is at least 0.5 seconds faster than the reference time in the competition, it automatically loses the run. This prevents strong teams from dividing into weaker groups.
The course consists of two parallel lanes on which both teams compete at the same time. The dogs have to overcome a total of four hurdles over a distance of approx. 16 meters before they reach the ball throwing machine. This ball machine or flyball box is operated by a simple mechanism with the paw. The dog has to catch the thrown ball in the air, complete the course again with the ball in its mouth and then cross the finish line. The hurdle height is chosen so that it is 10 centimeters lower than the shoulder height of the smallest dog in the team. However, it is always between 20 cm and 40 cm.
Course of the competition
The first dogs of both teams start at the same time. If a dog completes the course without errors and crosses the finish line, the next dog from his team can start. If all participants from a team have successfully completed the course, the competition is over. However, there is a possibility that a dog will make a mistake; For example, this would be an omitted hurdle, an early start or incorrect operation of the ball machine. In these cases the dog has to start again. Other possible mistakes are leaving the route, losing a ball and entering the route by the handler.
Training goals and requirements for the sport of flyball
In the sport of flyball, stamina and endurance, but also disciplined work and the dog’s ability to retrieve are trained. Sport in a playful way promotes the dog’s social behavior, strengthens its self-confidence and conveys joy in regular exercise. Flyball focuses on speed and retrieval as well as independent action, so that the dog is challenged not only physically but also mentally. Last but not least, Flyball dog and owner offers the opportunity to be active together and to act as a team.
As a sport, flyball is basically suitable for all healthy dogs. The minimum age to participate in a competition is 15 months. Since the hurdle height is adjusted to the size of the smallest dog in every competition, equal opportunities are always guaranteed; This regulation also prevents injuries caused by high jumps. Another advantage for less agile dogs is the reference time, which is set by the handlers based on their individual performance. The reference time offers the opportunity to group the teams according to their performance in different strength classes. This ensures that only teams that have the same or similar level of performance compete against each other.