Flyball

 

Flyballbuynow Flyball is a dog sport in which teams of dogs race against each other from a start/finish line, over a line of hurdles to a box that releases a tennis ball when the dog presses the spring loaded pad. The dog catches the ball and runs back to their handler while carrying the ball.

Most dogs that compete wear a harness and benefit from a harness with a handle on the top for holding the dog. The Zima Multi-Sport harness is ideal for flyball and is available in a choice of fleece or water-repelling foam. The harness is offered in a choice of 6 sizes and is colour-coded by size. We also offer a custom fitting service if your dog does not fit into a standard size harness. Custom-fit harnesses are offered in a choice of red, grey, black, blue or green.

Some flyball competitors also like our fleece and foam walking harnesses  for flyball due to the choice of colours offered.

We can also make custom colours of harnesses in team colours with the team logo sewn on; please contact us for further details.

Flyball is run as a relay in teams of four dogs. The course consists of four hurdles placed 10' (3m) apart from each other, with the starting line 6' (1.8 m) from the first hurdle, and the flyball box 15' (4.5 m) after the last one, making for a 51' (15.5 m) length.

The hurdle height is determined by the shoulder height of the smallest dog in the team. Under current North American Flyball Association (NAFA) rules this should be 5" (12.7 cm) below the withers height of the smallest dog, to a height of no less than 7" (20.3 cm) and no greater than 14" (40.6 cm).

Each dog must return its ball all the way across the start line before the next dog runs across. Ideal running is nose-to-nose at the start line. The first team to have all four dogs cross the finish line error free wins the heat. Penalties are applied to teams if the ball is dropped or if the next relay dog is released early.

History

Flyball started as a dog sport in the late 1960s and early 1970s in Southern California. Some dog trainers combined scent hurdle racing with the dogs bringing back a tennis ball to the finish line. Then a tennis ball-launching apparatus was added and the first flyball box was born. Herbert Wagner is credited with making the first real flyball box, and he also demonstrated flyball on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

The first Flyball tournament was held in 1983 in the USA. Flyball has now expanded into many countries including Australia, Canada and South Africa, and in European countries such as Belgium, Great Britain, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands and Poland which have national flyball tournaments and also hold joint annual European championships.


Nature of the sport

Flyball provides an entertaining and active way to interact with your dog and other dog enthusiasts in an environment that is fun while allowing the dogs exercise and enjoyment. It is an especially effective way to burn off the energy of dogs with a high drive to work, such as Border Collies and 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 dogs and non-pedigree dogs to shine alongside their purebred canine counterparts. Though herding dogs currently dominate the courses, many champion teams have crossbreeds on them. Dogs earn titles and awards based on points earned by their team in racing.


Flyball is not limited to the size of the breed as smaller dogs such as 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.

Competitions

Competitions are usually hosted by a specific local flyball club but under the sanction of a national governing body. The host club may be devoted solely to flyball or to many other types of dog sports. The host flyball club uses head judges who are licensed by the national sanctioning organisation and the club will apply to the national sanctioning organization for permission to hold a competition on a specific date or weekend; most competitions are two-day weekend events.

Although competitions may vary, teams are normally seeded into divisions against other teams of similar speed. This allows the races to be closer and much more exciting. Each team in the division will usually race against all the other teams in a round robin format. The overall winner is the team with the most wins.

In competitions all teams will also be trying to improve their own individual team's best race time. Teams that underestimate their speed may 'break out' of their division in competition. The break-out time for a division is typically set at one second faster than the to- seeded team in each division. The break-out rule is intended to encourage teams to seed themselves accurately, as any heats where a team breaks out do not count and are recorded as losses.

The largest single regularly held flyball competition is the North American Flyball Championships. In the 2009 Championships there were about 300 teams competing held over a three-day event.


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Harnesses for flyball need to be comfortable for dogs to wear, but at the same time easy to hold onto him before he races. We recommend our multi-sport harness as it based on an H-back design which offers an excellent grip on top of the harness. This is a specifically designed dog harness for flyball, bike-joring, ski-joring, scootering or canicross. It has the same great ZIMA neck, as the X-Back sledding harness and is fully padded with fleece or water-repelling foam with an adjustable belly band. Some competitors also like to use the Xtra Dog fleece or foam walking harnesses too.