Flyball is a relay race between two teams of four dogs. Teams are lined up in lanes alongside each other, lights like the ones used in drag racing signal the start of a race. One dog from each team hurdles over the four jumps in their lane, triggers a Flyball box to get a ball and then returns over all four jumps to the start gate where the next dog is released. Jumps are between 7 inches and 14 inches in height, and they are set at five inches below the shoulder height of the smallest dog on the team.
Each team consists of four dogs racing in each heat, plus up to two reserves. Reserves can be interchanged after each heat. There are between three and five heats to a race, and a team has to win a majority of heats to win the race. At a competition each team runs around five to eight races. Teams are divided into divisions according to their best times, so teams get to compete with other teams of a similar speed. There can be anywhere from 3 to 10 divisions at a Flyball competition.
Flyball is a great way for dogs to expend energy, not only do they get to do all the things dogs love – running, jumping, and fetching, – but it gives them a mental challenge and their very own job. Flyball is also a great way for owners and dogs to bond – Flyball is as much about the relationship between the dog and owner as it is about the competition. It's a great way for dogs to socialise with other dogs and they learn to work as part of a team with other dogs. Dogs will often develop strong friendships with the other dogs they train and race with. And let’s not forget Flyball is fantastic for socialising with other owners as well!
At BDOC new dogs start in 'Baby Bullets' classes where they work on a range of skills including recall, jumping, learning how to turn safely on the Flyball box to trigger the ball, fetch reliably and to run alongside and cross (pass) with other dogs. To teach dogs the skills of Flyball we use 'backchaining' where the dogs learn parts of the different skills they need and as they master each skill they are put together until dogs can do a 'full run'.
All types of dogs do Flyball, no matter if they are big or small, fast or slow, young or old, confident or timid, they don't even have to be ball crazy. The only prerequisite is your dog should like to have fun. The only prerequisite for owners is a sense of humour and a love of their dog.
Dogs must be a minimum of 12 months of age to start Flyball racing and there is no upper age limit. While many dogs start training when they are young, our current veteran Flyball competitor didn't start training until she was 10 years old.
Dogs do not need any particular skills to start in Flyball. As most of the work is done off lead dogs need a fairly good recall – and this is something that is worked on in training. While dogs do not need to be ball crazy, it helps if dogs have some interest in chasing and fetching. Dogs should be well socialised.
If you are interested in trying Flyball put your name down on the list in the BDOC office. New intakes are taken 2 – 3 times per year.
The Belconnen Bullets Flyball Team competes in a number of competitions throughout the year. Owners nominate which competitions they want to attend and teams are formed around the dogs attending. Flyball competitions are held all over Canberra and southern NSW, and the Belconnen Bullets sometimes go interstate to the annual Flyball Nationals. Demonstrations are also held in Canberra and Baby Bullets are encouraged to have a go at demonstrations to get used to the feel of a competition environment. Belconnen Bullets also run competitions at the BDOC grounds.
In addition to getting ribbons and awards at competitions, dogs accumulate points which go toward Flyball titles. Owners can apply to the Australian Flyball Association for title certificates and each year BDOC gives awards to those dogs gaining titles.
For more information, please contact our flyball coordinators at firstname.lastname@example.org.