Complete Guide To Flyball Do you have an energetic dog who loves training, being active, and is motivated by toy balls? Flyball might be the perfect activity for him or her to participate in!
I first was introduced to the sport by one of my clients that participated regularly with her Australian Shepherds. I regularly recommend Flyball to any ball-crazy dog patient of mine that comes into the office!
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What Is Flyball?
Flyball is a team relay race for dogs. They must run down a 51 foot long course over 4 jumps to a “Flyball box”, which they must use their paws to release a ball from, then return with the ball over the 4 jumps to the start of the course. Watch a Flyball demonstration video by the American Kennel Club (AKC) here; as you can see, dogs of varying breeds love to participate!
Dogs compete in Flyball races in teams of 4. When the first dog of the team returns to the finish line, the next dog in the team may be released to complete the course. All teams participate simultaneously, side by side. The first team that has all 4 dogs complete the course without a mistake wins.
Flyball is a relatively new canine sport; according to the North American Flyball Association (NAFA), dogs first played Flyball in the late 1960s and the first formal Flyball competition took place in 1983.
Why Participate In Flyball?
Flyball offers benefits to dogs and owners alike, such as:
- Training your dog for Flyball is a great bonding opportunity for you and your dog.
- High energy dogs need training and exercise to be satisfied; Flyball helps you provide both for your dog.
- Training and competing with your Flyball team or club offers a good foundation for friendships for both you and your dog.
- Flyball can help your dog maintain a healthy weight and stay physically fit.
- Flyball can boost your dog’s confidence.
- In competitions held by The North American Flyball Association (NAFA), Flyball teams are matched against teams of equal abilities, making the competitions more fair.
What Do You Need To Get Started In Flyball?
To get started in Flyball, you will need a few things:
Your dog should have mastered at least basic obedience commands before starting Flyball training. If your dog has not mastered basic obedience, training for Flyball will be more difficult if not impossible. The good news is that it is easy to do obedience training at home; you could even start today.
High Value Treats
As with any activity that requires training, you will need high value treats to get your dog’s attention and help make the experience positive.
Getting started in Flyball is a little different than getting started with other canine sports because it does require special equipment. If you are able to locate a Flyball club near you, there should be equipment available for training sessions.
If you wanted to test your dog’s interest at home, you could create 4 make shift jumps by upcycling cardboard boxes and having an assistant wait at the end of the course with a tennis ball to be retrieved.
If you decide to seriously pursue Flyball, or you want to get your dog’s energy out and be able to train effectively at home, you may want your own equipment to practice with. To find Flyball equipment to train with, the North American Flyball Association (NAFA) has a list of equipment suppliers here.
Who Qualifies To Participate In Flyball?
Something that makes Flyball great is its inclusivity; both purebred and mixed breed dogs are welcome to participate in Flyball.
Dogs of varying sizes may participate; the height of the jumps are adjusted based upon the height of the participating dogs.
Canine competitors must register with the North American Flyball Association (NAFA) to receive a Competition Racing Number (CRN), further detailed on page 6 of their official rule book. Dogs may not even warm up at a NAFA event without having a CRN.
For titles earned in competitions held by NAFA to be recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC), the canine recipient must be registered with the AKC, further detailed here.
How To Get Started In Flyball
Getting started in Flyball is not difficult, but it is not a sport that can started home because you need special equipment. Follow the below tips to get started in whatever order makes the most sense for you and your dog.
- The North American Flyball Association (NAFA) has complimentary training videos to help you get started with the basics of Flyball training. Watching these videos can help you determine if this activity is something your dog would enjoy.
- Review the North American Flyball Association (NAFA)’s Official Rules Of Racing to help determine if this sport is something that your dog would enjoy participating in.
- Locate a Flyball club near you on the North American Flyball Association (NAFA) website here. By locating a club, you can find opportunities to observe the sport to see if it is a good match for you and your dog. Most clubs offer classes and resources for beginners as well.
In North American Flyball Association (NAFA) sanctioned Flyball tournaments, teams earn titles and awards based upon points earned by their performance. Points are awarded as follows:
- If a Flyball team completes a race in under 24 seconds, every dog on the team that raced is awarded 25 points towards a title.
- If a Flyball team completes a race in under 28 seconds, every dog on the team that raced is awarded 5 points towards a title.
- If a Flyball team completes a race in under 32 seconds, every dog on the team that raced is awarded 1 point towards a title.
The North American Flyball Association (NAFA) recognizes the following Flyball Titles and Awards in Flyball Competitions:
- Flyball Dog “FD” (20 points)
- Flyball Dog Excellent “FDX” (100 points)
- Flyball Dog Champion “FDCh” (500 points)
- Flyball Dog Champion-Silver “FDCh-S” (1,000 points)
- Flyball Dog Champion-Gold “FDCh-G” (2,500 points)
- Flyball Master “FM” (5,000 points)
- Flyball Master Excellent “FMX” (10,000 points)
- Flyball Master Champion “FMCh” (15,000 points)
- ONYX (20,000 points)
- Flyball Grand Champion “FGDCh” (30,000 points)
- Hobbes Award (100,000 points)
- Multibreed Dog “MBD” (20 points)
- Multibreed Dog Excellent “MBDX” (100 points)
- Multibreed Dog Champion “MBDCh” (500 points)
- Multibreed Dog Champion-Silver “MBDCh-S” (1,000 points)
- Multibreed Dog Champion-Gold “MBDCh-G” (2,500 points)
- Multibreed Master “MBM” (5,000 points)
- Multibreed Master Excellent “MBMX” (10,000 points)
- Multibreed Master Champion “MBMCh” (15,000 points)
- MB ONYX (20,000 points)
- Flyball Grand Champion “MBGDCh” (30,000 points)
The Iron Dog Award
In 2011, a award was made available: theNAFA Iron Dog Award. To qualify for this award, a dog must earn 1 NAFA point for 10 consecutive racing years. This award is distributed annually at the conclusion of each NAFA racing year. Recipients receive a special plaque for their achievement.
Tokens of Achievement
When dogs receive a Flyball title or award, they may receive certificates, pins, patches, or plaques. Title Patches are available for purchase through regional Flyball directors should you want to show off your dog’s Flyball accomplishments.
American Kennel Club (AKC) Title Recognition
The American Kennel Club (AKC) records titles awarded to dogs in events held by the North American Flyball Association (NAFA). To have your dog’s Flyball titles recorded, complete the AKC’s Flyball title application form.
Flyball is a great way to bond with your dog, make training fun, meet his or her exercise needs, stay fit and healthy, and find friendships. While some breeds may gravitate towards Flyball more than others, any dog who is motivated by toy balls may find joy in participating. Locate a Flyball club near you to get started.