Flyball is a relay race between two teams of four dogs. Each dog must run over a series of four jumps, retrieve a ball from the flyball box, and then return back over the jumps, after which the next dog runs.
Jumps are spaced 10 feet apart. The spring-loaded box is 51 feet from the start line, and shoots out a ball when the dog hits the padded front of the box.
As soon as the outbound dog crosses the line, the next dog may legally enter the course. To complete a successful run, each dog must go over all the jumps, trigger the box, and bring the ball back over the finish line. If a dog enters the course too early, goes around a jump, takes the ball from the box without triggering it, or does not bring the ball across the finish line, that dog must re-run the course.
Any healthy and well-behaved dog is welcomed in flyball, and everything from tiny chihauhas to larger golden retrievers can be seen at tournaments. The basic concept - run to the box and bring back a ball - is very simple for most dogs to understand, although some dogs are disturbed by the moving surface and loud noise of the box. The real challenge of flyball, however, is doing everything properly when there are seven other dogs going crazy in the small area of the competition with several handlers calling out for the dogs and waving tugs, and balls rolling around everywhere!
Portland Tail Blazers Flyball Club attends tournaments in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. Teams in our region host a dozen or more tournaments each year, and a dozen or more teams may show up for a tournament, with nearly a hundred races being run each day of the tournament. Each race may consist of 3, 4, or 5 heats.
Teams win points for each heat they win, and at the end of the day awards are given out for each division. In addition to team awards for placing well in the tournament, dogs earn title points for each heat run successfully under certain time limits. The first title for a dog is awarded at 20 points, with additional titles at 100, 500, 1,000, 2,500, 5,000, 10,000, 15,000, 20,000, and then after every 10,000 points. A very few dogs have even earned the newest title by achieving 100,000 points.