Flyball is head-to-head relay race between two teams of four dogs. Each dog on the team goes over four jumps, retrieves a ball from a box, and then carries the ball back over the jumps. The next dog can’t cross the start line until the returning dog hits the line. If a dog makes an error, such as missing a jump, dropping the ball, or crossing the start line too early, the dog has to re-run at the end. The first team to successfully complete the course with all four dogs wins the heat.
Teams are divided into divisions based on the class and their times. They race in bracket-style formats to determine the winner of each division for the tournament. In addition, each individual dog earns points towards titles based on the team’s overall time in each heat. It’s a fast-paced event where dogs bark, handlers shout, and spectators cheer!
Any type of dog can compete in flyball. Mixes are welcome, as are all types of purebred dogs. It’s a great outlet for a dog with lots of energy. It’s not a good fit for aggressive dogs as the dogs pass nose-to-nose in the relay. Small dogs are an important part of each team as the whole team’s jump height is determined by the height of the smallest dog. Shorter jumps mean even the bigger dogs can run faster. Even dogs that aren’t as fast can still be competitive in flyball. Points are earned based on the total team time. Teams are divided into divisions where they compete with teams of similar speeds.
Flyball is unique because it is a team sport. Competitors are members of flyball clubs and compete as a team, not as individuals. So, part of the strategy is to put together a group of dogs and handlers who work together well. The element of practicing and competing as a club adds challenges, but also many, many rewards.
The North American Flyball Association (NAFA) sanctions tournaments in the United States and Canada. Each year NAFA hosts the CanAm Classic event which was awarded the Guiness World Record for largest flyball tournament. The event boasts nearly 200 team entries run in six rings of flyball.
Who are the instructors teaching it?
Two clubs are currently holding practices at Denver Dog Sports – Launch and Denver Speed Demons. Both teams practice on Sunday evenings 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. Launch practices on a weekly basis. The Denver Speed Demons practice on the first Sunday of each month.
How to get into the sport?
If you’ve never played flyball before, check out a local tournament to see the sport and meet some of the local clubs. Some of the local clubs teach beginner and foundation classes. In the Denver metro area, Denver Speed Demons and RUFF both teach classes. Live and Let Fly offers classes just south of Denver. Rocky Mountain Flyball offers classes north of Denver.