What is Flyball?
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.
Teams of four dogs race, as a relay, against each other from a start/finish line, over a set of four low jumps/hurdles, to a box that releases a tennis type ball to be caught when the dog presses the spring-loaded pad, then back to their handlers while carrying the ball. Each dog must return its ball all the way across the start line before the next dog crosses, ideally with the dogs nose-to-nose at the start line. The first team to have all four dogs cross the finish line, error free, wins the heat.
There is no limit on the size and breed of dog that can compete, Norfolk Flyball has had everything from a tiny Papillon to a large German Shorthaired Pointer successfully racing in its teams. Smaller dogs are often highly prized within a racing team as it is the height of the smallest dog that determines the height of the jumps/hurdles that the whole team race over.
Dogs do not have to be ball obsessed, and in some ways, it can be easier if they are not, as you will be able to reward them with their higher value treat or toy on returning with the ball.
Flyball is very inclusive and family friendly. Mobility issues can be overcome with help from other team members, either running with the dog for encouragement or even helping release and catch the dog as well. It is also possible for older children to be a dog handler, Chloe who handles her dog Yogi Bear joined the club when she was 10.
Competitions can be great fun for the whole family, with the whole team camped together, helping for the racing and then relaxing together in the evening after racing has finished. We have been known to attempt a game of rounders on occasion.
Flyball events are held most weekends across the country, sanctioned by United Kingdom Flyball League (UKFL) or British Flyball Association (BFA). Currently we race regularly at events sanctioned by United Kingdom Flyball League (UKFL) and try to attend one event a month with at least one team. Due to our location in the country the events are a bit of a drive but over the summer months there is often the opportunity to camp which helps with the longer days. Racing usually begins between 8 and 8:30am and can go on until around 6pm, but the length of day can vary a lot. However long the day and whatever the weather we always have a great time.
Some events offer the opportunity to train dogs not ready to be in a full racing team in what is called 'Pre cadets'. Here the dogs can train in a full racing ring but without any other teams present. The dog can be trained individually or with other dogs.
There can also be 'Little league' racing which is the next step up from 'Pre cadets'. Here a team of dogs that are not yet ready for full league racing, race against other teams but train aids can be used and often there will be netting between the two lanes, separating the two teams racing.
League and little league racing is always split into divisions which are groups of teams who's team time (time for all four dogs to complete a heat) is similar. Usually the divisions have up to 6 teams within them. By grouping the teams in this way, it should mean that the teams are relatively evenly matched and gives all teams a chance of winning the division that day. The fastest teams in flyball have a racing times of around 15s and the slowest teams can be around 30s.
The teams will race every other team in their division at least once over the course of the day in a set of heats (between 3 and 5 usually). There will always be a gap between races to allow the dogs to rest. The winner of the division is the team that wins most heats throughout the day.
At the end of the day presentations are held where some dogs may receive awards for the amount of racing they have completed over time, and teams will receive awards for their placings within their division.
After presentations we either all head for home if we are not camping or back to our camping area where we'll often eat, drink, chat and play some games together as a team to relax.
- Name: Lucy
- Name: Zack