Flyball is a fast dog team sport consisting of two teams of four dogs (plus two reserve) that race against each other over identical courses. Each dog has to jump four jumps in a row and then trigger the box which releases a tennis ball. The dog then has to return over the four jumps, carrying the ball. When the first dog's nose has crossed the start/finish line, the next dog can go. Any dog that makes a mistake should re-run as the last dog. Four dogs participate in any one leg, although one or two extra "spare" dogs are permitted to be swapped in between legs. A race usually consists of three or five legs. Two teams race against each other and it is the fastest "clear" team that wins the leg. Any dog, any size, any breed, can play flyball. All compete over the same course. The only concession made for smaller dogs is the jump height, ie 5" under the shoulder height of the smallest dog. Under BFA rules the jump height must be between 7" and 14".
Competitions are usually classed as "open" or "multibreed", although "starters" and other fun classes are also held, such as mixed pairs, mini/maxi pairs, open pairs and singles shoot outs. In most competitions the teams are seeded according to their fastest time over the last 3 sanctioned tournaments. If the team
has not run during the preceding 4 months, then a seeded time must be declared by the team captain. This means that racing may be split into divisions according to time. If there are not too many teams competing, a "double elimination" format may be used, where having been beaten twice, a team is then placed in a division for a "round robin" consolation competition. The teams which are "out" first go into the lowest division etc.
There are 2 main types of boxes used. The Boomerang box, which has a curved front, and the CanAm flat fronted box. Both are fitted with shock absorbent padding especially designed to reduce the impact since the dog actually turns using the box. Boxes can have 1, 2 or 3 holes for the ball. The box loader may use verbal encouragement, but must keep their hands behind their back and stand up during the race (except when loading the balls).
Standard (un-punctured) tennis balls are used, although "mini" and "midi" balls are acceptable for our smaller friends. Balls may not be thrown in competition.
The jump height is 5" below the shoulder height of the smallest dog running in the leg (such "height" dogs must be measured by the judge), with the proviso that the jumps must be between 7" and 14". For safety the top slat is covered with protective foam. In Kennel Club flyball the jump height is fixed at 12".
The dimensions are very important - 6' from the start line to the first jump, 10' between jumps and 15' from the last jump to the front of the box. Additionally markers are placed at various intervals back from the start line to