What is flyball? 

Flyball is a relay race between two teams of four dogs. Racing side by side, one dog from each team must go over four hurdles, trigger a flyball box pedal, catch (retrieve) a ball and then return over all four hurdles to the start/finish line where the next dog eagerly awaits.  Flyball encompasses all things that dogs love to do - jumping, catching, retrieving, competing and striving to please their owners. Flyball is a sport in which any dog can participate, regardless of breed, shape or size.  Flyball does not interfere with obedience training. In fact, the sport reinforces the disciplines taught in obedience class.

Flyball began in North America in the 1970's when a Californian, Herbert Wagner, developed the first tennis ball launcher for his ball crazy dog. After demonstrations at his obedience club, he gave a demonstration on the Tonight Show. The revolutionary idea was then introduced into Toronto and Detroit, and after a few small competitions the first full-on competition was held in 1983. The earliest known Australian flyball activity was in 1982 in Perth (WA). Now North America, Britain, Belgium, Japan, Germany, South Africa, Poland, Netherlands, Italy, Canada and Australia have an estimated 20,000+ dogs and 4,000+ teams active in competition. 

Flyball is a team sport. Each team consists of four dogs racing in each heat, plus up to two reserves. Reserves can be interchanged after each heat. There are between three and five heats to a race, and a team has to win a majority to win the race. Races are run as single elimination, double elimination, round robin or a combination. A flyball course consists of two racing lanes, side by side down a 51-foot (15.54m) course. There are two sets of hurdles and flyball boxes. Each team's racing lane consists of 4 hurdles spaced at 10 feet (3.05m) intervals. The first hurdle being 6 feet (1.84m) from the start/finish line and a flyball box is placed 15 feet (4.57m) after the fourth hurdle. The flyball box ejects a ball after the dog triggers the pedal on the front of the box.

Each dog must run in relay fashion down the hurdles, trigger the box, retrieve the ball and return over the hurdles and across the finish line so that the next dog can be released. The first team to have all four dogs complete the course, without error, wins the heat.  Missed hurdles and dropped balls require the dog to rerun the course after the rest of the team has finished.

Jump heights for each team are set at 4 inches (101.6mm) lower than the shoulder height of the smallest dog in the team. The minimum height is 8 inches (203.2mm) and the maximum 16 inches (406.4mm).  Competitions are run in divisions, based on where the teams are seeded. The fastest teams are put in Division 1 and the slower teams in Division 2 etc. this enables every team to have a fair go and be competitive in their division.

The Australian Flyball Association was formed in 1996, adopting the rules of the North American Flyball Association (NAFA). The objective of the AFA is to promote responsible dog ownership through the sport of flyball. When the general public see how much fun the dogs and the handlers are having, it is easier to encourage these people to become involved in organised dog activities like flyball, obedience and agility.


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