Flyball – The dog runs over the hurdles, catches the ball, turns elegantly, and runs back over the hurdles to his human, who cheers and motivates his four-legged friend in the meantime. When the round is done, both are out of breath but happy. Flyball is a fast-paced dog sport that is suitable for dogs of all sizes and breeds – as long as they love balls. But what exactly is flyball and how does this dog sports work in detail?
What is Flyball?
Flyball is a relatively young dog sport that originally comes from America. In the 1970s, Herbert Wegner invented the machine for his dog that shoots a ball into the air when you press your paw. He quickly became famous and registered a patent for the machine. Flyball has also been known in Europe since the 1990s and is now a recognized dog sport with tournaments and championships.
How Does Flyball Work as a Dog Sport?
Flyball is a team sport consisting of two teams, each with four human-dog teams. The process is similar to a kind of relay race. The first dog starts as soon as the traffic light is green and then has to run over four hurdles to the fly box. He then has to trigger it, catch the ball, turn it around, and, with the ball caught, run over the hurdles back to the dog owner. As soon as the first dog crosses the finish line, the second dog is allowed to start. The dog owner himself waits the whole time in the start-finish area. In the end, the team that finishes the fastest and has no mistakes wins.
The Rules in Flyball
There is now a comprehensive set of rules, with some points varying depending on the country. Here are the most important rules at a glance:
- There are two teams, each with four dog-human teams.
- Two lanes run parallel to each other.
- The distance from the starting line to the flyball box is about 15 meters.
- There are four hurdles and a flyball box on each lane.
- The hurdles are adjusted to the smallest dog in the team and are between 17.5 and 35 cm high.
- The dog owners must remain in the start-finish area throughout the entire process.
- A traffic light – red, yellow, yellow, green – gives the starting signal.
- The dogs must clear all four hurdles, trigger the flyball box with their paw, do the swimmer turn, catch the ball and then run it back over the four hurdles to the finish.
- As soon as all four dogs have passed the course without any mistakes, the time is stopped.
- The fastest team wins the competition.
If a mistake occurs, the dog has to repeat the run at the end of the relay, which in turn costs the whole team valuable time. Possible errors include:
- The dog crosses the start line before the other dog has crossed the finish line.
- The dog does not jump over all hurdles.
- The dog leaves the track.
- The dog catches the ball but doesn’t fetch it.
- The handler crosses the start/finish line.
Disciplines in Flyball
In flyball, there are different disciplines that the dog has to master successfully. This includes using the flyball box, hurdle work, ball work, retrieving, and turning correctly. Here is a little insight into the individual disciplines:
The box has been refined so that it is now a two-hole full pedal box. The sloping front is the surface that the dog has to touch in order to trigger the machine. In this way, the dog can combine turning and catching the ball. Turning is possible both to the right and to the left. The dog should slowly get used to the box and its function.
There are four hurdles in flyball that are set up about three meters apart. The height is adjusted to the smallest dog on the team. If the dog has already been active in agility, jumping over the hurdles is usually not a problem for him. Otherwise, this discipline must also be built up step by step. For the first jumps, you can be creative and design your own hurdles in the garden.
In flyball, catching the ball has to be spot on because the dog only has one try after pulling the trigger. To practice ball work, you can start by standing in front of the dog and throwing a ball up so that it can catch it easily. You can then gradually increase the level of difficulty.
The dog not only has to catch the ball correctly, but it also has to carry it back, i.e. fetches it. This should work well too, especially since he’ll have to jump over the hurdles on the way back with the ball in the catch.
The turning point
The turning point must be exact to save time and protect the dog from injury. When training, it is best to start with a turn around a pole and then gradually increase the obstacle at which the dog has to turn. If he is then well acquainted with the flyball box, these two elements can be combined.
Why is Flyball Useful for the Dog?
Flyball offers the dog good physical and mental exercise, coordination is promoted and the human-dog relationship is strengthened.
Why is Flyball Useful for the Dog?
Flyball provides physical exercise for the dog. His general fitness is trained as well as jumping ability, speed, coordination and retrieval skills. In addition, this dog sport also offers a mental load. The dog trains its ability to react and must also concentrate in order to carry out all processes correctly. Due to the overall workload, the dog is more balanced and therefore calmer and happier in everyday life.
Which Dogs are Suitable for Flyball?
The dog sport flyball is basically suitable for every dog that enjoys exercise and balls. Size or race is not important here. Nevertheless, there are some requirements that the dog should have for the dog sport Flyball.
Which Dogs Are Particularly Suitable?
The dog should definitely like to play with balls and not only like to catch them but also fetch them. He should have enough energy and enjoy movement. Social compatibility is also important, flyball is a team sport in which the dog not only has to get along with the other dogs in its team but also with the strange four-legged friends of the other team. Aggressive behavior has no place here. The physical health of the dog is particularly important, and this should be clarified with the veterinarian in advance.
When Can You Start Flyball?
The dog must be at least 12 months or an adult to start flyball. On the one hand, the training is also strenuous for the joints and, on the other hand, the dog must be able to concentrate well over a certain period of time.
Your Dog Must Know These Basic Commands
Yes, the dog should be able to use the usual basic commands, such as “sit”, “down”, “stay”, “off”, and “come”. This is the only way for communication between humans and dogs to work during training and also in tournaments.
Which Dogs are Suitable for Flyball?
All dogs of various sizes and breeds who enjoy exercise, balls, and retrieving.
The Requirements of the Dog Owner
In order to take part in flyball with your dog, the dog owner does not need to have above-average training, but basic fitness is helpful. The dog owner doesn’t have to run along, he stays behind the start-finish line throughout the game. Of course, he can cheer on the dog loudly. It can also be helpful to animate by running a few meters away from the dog.
In training, especially at the beginning, more physical effort is required, here it can also happen that the dog owner has to run with the dog. In any case, it is important that you are a team player and have fun training with other dog owners.
What Role Does the Bond with the Dog Play?
In order to have fun and be successful in flyball, a good bond with the dog is important. You have to be able to rely on each other and have good basic communication. After all, during the competition the dog only has to concentrate on its human and the learned process and must not be distracted by other things. The joint training will further strengthen the human-dog bond.
Tips to Get You Started: How to Teach Your Dog to Flyball
You can teach your dog the first steps at home, for example catching a ball out of the air. In general, however, training in a dog sports club is more effective, because here the dog-human team learns all the processes and disciplines right from the start and also receives valuable tips and tricks from experienced professionals.
In addition, flyball is a dog sport, so if you plan to compete, it makes sense to prepare your dog from the start. This includes training with distractions, other dogs, other people, and loud noises. The sequence for a competition can also be optimally coordinated.
When Do You Start Flyball?
The dog must be at least 12 months old or fully grown to start the dog sport flyball.
If the flyball training is going really well and you are a well-rehearsed team, you can also take part in tournaments. For example, many clubs organize friendship tournaments where the dogs can demonstrate their skills. There are also proper flyball leagues that you can make it to as a team. Here the division into different performance classes takes place so that teams with approximately the same maximum running time compete against each other.
Requirements for the Perfect Start: Equipment & Terrain
If you want to practice with your dog at home first, a few items are enough. For example, flower pots or other garden utensils can be used as hurdles and a stick as a start/finish line. Of course, a ball the size of a tennis ball is important. This should by no means be too small so that the dog cannot choke on it when catching it. Treats are also helpful as a reward, so the dog can be specifically motivated.
If you want to practice flyball as a professional dog sport, you should go directly to a club. This has all the equipment needed as well as a suitable space for the run to be set upon. If you practice at home, you should make sure that the terrain is as straight as possible and that there are no tripping hazards or holes in the ground that could lead to injuries.
Is My Dog Suitable for Flyball?
If your dog enjoys exercise, balls, and new challenges, then that is a good prerequisite for taking part in the flyball dog sport. Whether he is also suitable from a health point of view, you should definitely clarify with your veterinarian.
Many clubs offer the opportunity to get a taste of a dog sport. So you can try out whether you like flyball and whether this dog sport is something for you in the long term.