Every living creature needs activity, as in the wild life they have hunting and social games. You should know this by now from the example of your dog. Surely, the amount of activity that is necessary always depends on the breed, but in general, every canine requires some. The best way to provide your pet with regular movement is through games. Adding the elements of reward and competition will spice up the entire experience for a dog.
Such activity as flyball combines the features of a game and of a sport. It has the components of competition — the dogs are racing against each other — and demonstration of trained skills — the animals need to retrieve a tennis ball and deliver it to their handlers. Below is some essential information about the sport, its history, how it is played, and what purposes it serves.
The history of flyball
Flyball as a dog sport started when scent-based racing was combined with dogs bringing back a tennis ball. It all evolved in Southern California between 1960s and 70s (2). With the pace of time, a flyball box was introduced and added — the thing launched a tennis ball when a dog triggered the spring. In 1983, the first flyball competition was held by NAFA in the USA, and two years later, an official book of rules was released. Since then and until today, both dogs and their trainers and owners around the world are playing this exciting sports game.
How the game is played
According to the above mentioned rules, there are teams of four dogs each and four hurdles that serve as obstacles. The hurdles are placed at a particular distance from each other, with the smallest distance being between the starting line and the first hurdle and the biggest distance after the last hurdle and before the box containing the ball. The height of the hurdles depends on the height of the smallest dog participating in the tournament (7).
The latter means that there is no restriction as to which dog breeds can play flyball. However, different associations have limitations regarding the height. For example, the North American Flyball Association has determined that hurdles should vary between 7 and 14 inches, and this year’s European Flyball Championship has slightly smaller heights due to the different measurement system (1). The smallest dog in the team is called the height dog, and it can be anything as petite as a Patterdale Terrier or a miniature poodle.
The team in which all four dogs have completed the relay the fastest is the winner. An important condition for the team’s victory is that the animals do not make mistakes during the run — they should jump over the hurdles and not drop the ball while running back, they also should start in time.
National and international competitions
This entertainment of a dog relay is held worldwide annually. For example, more than 300 flyball tournaments are sanctioned by the North American Flyball Association each year (2), and this is only in the US. The most massive championships are being held in Europe, especially in such countries as Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, and the United Kingdom. You can see more information on the tournaments which interest you on the official NAFA website (2) or the respective societies by countries or regions, including Australia (3), Belgium (4), United Kingdom (5), Germany (8), and South Africa (9). Also, you can see the list of organizations which hold flyball competitions around the world or subscribe to a newsletter on the Flyball Home Page (7).
The role of flyball in dog training
Although there are dog breeds that are more fast and more active, any canine can participate in the sport. The only thing that matters is the dog’s ability to fetch and follow the rules. Among a variety of dog sports, there is one which is especially appealing to both animals and humans, flyball. This sport is an exceptionally good way to both compete and enjoy group activity. It helps the animals stay in good shape and constantly work on their skills while finding themselves in the company of their own kind. Apart from being a sport, flyball is perfect for providing the dogs and their owners with the opportunity to socialize. The people, handlers and trainers alike, cooperate when cheering for their team. At the same time, the dogs are happy to play too.