Flyball: The Dog Relay Race

Is your dog a speedy guy? Does he listen and follow commands well? Does he love tennis balls? Then flyball may be just the sport for your CBF!!

Flyball is a relay race where dogs must cross 4 hurdles placed 10 feet apart from each other. After the last hurdle, the competitor must touch a spring-loaded box with his paws, which releases a tennis ball. He then picks up the ball and races back over the hurdles to the starting point, where the next racer on the team takes off. Teams consist of 4 members with 2 teams at a time competing against each other. The team with the best overall time and the least amount of penalties wins. One of the great things about this fast sport is that any canine, no matter the size or breed (or mixture thereof), can compete, since the height of the hurdles is determined by the height of the smallest competitor's shoulders. The hurdle height is a minimum of 7 inches and a maximum of 14 inches. The first hurdle is 6 feet from the starting line, and the box holding the tennis ball is 15 feet after the last hurdle, for a total distance of 51 feet. The score is based on how fast the team completes the run and how many penalties. Penalties occur if a competitor fails to drop the tennis ball, misses a hurdle, or the next dog on a team is released too soon. In the Beginning...

Flyball started around the late 1960s in Southern California when some dog trainers came up with the idea of combining hurdling with returning a tennis ball to the trainer. The game was taken a step further when a man named Herbert Wagner invented a box to release the ball, and, as they say, the rest is history. Wagner also demonstrated the sport on the Late Night with Johnny Carson show. The first competition was held in 1983. Since then, the sport has spread worldwide, from the United States and Canada to Europe and Australia.

Breeds with a strong herding instinct, such as Border Collies and Australian Shepherds, seem to excel at flyball, but since this sport is open to all canines, you'll often see mixed-breed dogs racing nose-to-nose with their purebred competitors. Smaller, lighter pups, such as Jack Russell Terriers, are also terrific at the game; the only drawback for a small guy to compete is that they sometimes have to use their entire body weight to trigger the ball release. But the competitors all seem to really enjoy it--at least it looks and sounds that way by all the excited barking, smiling faces (both canine and human), and wagging tails! Plus, it's a great way to burn off some energy, strengthen the bond between you and your CBF, and have fun with other pets and their owners. Competition

Competitions are usually hosted by a local club but are sanctioned by a national governing body, which also licenses the judges for the competition. Teams are normally seeded into groups with similar speeds in order to make the races more close and competitive. Events usually last for two days, and the team with the most wins becomes the overall winner.

The current world record, which was just set on September 14th, 2008, is 15.023 seconds! (Wow--that's REALLY fast!!) Think your pup has what it takes to be a champion at this sport? Can't wait to join in the fun? Here's where to get more information:

1. North American Flyball Association (NAFA)

2. United Flyball League International (U-FLI)

5. Junkyard Dogs All-Rescue Flyball Club (located in southeast Michigan--my 'home turf'!!)

Check with local trainers or breeders to find out if there's a club in your vicinity. You may also visit for a forum, photos, comments, etc. posted by enthusiasts for the sport.

Your CBF is primed and ready to race for the tennis ball! Interested in something a little different for your dog if he's a bigger guy? Check out our page on Skijoring!!

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