In the United Kingdom there are two types of Flyball sports that dogs can compete in - International Flyball or Crufts Flyball. There are similarities but also major differences but whichever type of Flyball you watch or participate in, they are both very exciting sports for both handlers and their dogs.


In both types, there are 4 jumps of the same design and with the same spacing between the start/stop line, the jumps and the trigger box, which releases the ball.


In Crufts flyball

  • the timing is by stopwatch;
  • errors are sorted out by stewards;
  • the height of the jumps remains the same (12" or 30cm) regardless of the size of dogs running;
  • the Crufts trigger box is only used for the Crufts competition
  • Crufts flyball final takes place at Crufts, an indoor venue on concrete covered by a carpet which can burn the dog's pads; the associated heats usually take place outdoors in the few months before Crufts
  • No motivators are allowed to reward the dog for a job well done
  • Dogs are not allowed to wear harnesses but only flat collars which means that the dogs are often "hanged" by the handler before release and, on return, the dogs are "grabbed" by the collar to be kept "under control"
  • All this in front of a large public crowd; the "entertainment" (when the audience become more voluble) is usually when the dog goes wrong.......


The design of the flyball box is very primitive compared to that in International competitions. The dog runs up to the box and is supposed to stop and press the pedal on the front with a paw. This pedal triggers the catapult at the back of the box, sending the tennis ball into the air so that the dog can catch it as it flies to the front of the box. Sadly, this is often not what actually occurs.


Through the dog's sheer enthusiasm to get the ball, plus the speed generated from running 51ft to the box over the four hurdles, the dog presses the pedal and often leaps into the air trying to catch the ball, rather than waiting for the ball to come to the dog. This often results in the dog not catching the ball and then losing confidence in its abilities to do the game correctly.


Unfortunately, over the years many dogs have sustained injuries from either running so fast that they hit the front of the box, twisting in the air in an effort to get the triggered ball faster, or from subsequently landing awkwardly on the box and injuring itself. Many of the dogs' injuries are because the dogs have not been trained correctly on how to use the box, therefore they are learning bad habits which are difficult to eradicate later. Ideally, the dog should be taught for a long period of time to run to the box, stop and trigger the box at a standstill, with little or no forward movement before the jumps are added to this training. Then speed should be added for the competitive side of this sport.


Unlike the International type of Flyball, who have "round robin" competitions (ie each team races the other teams of similar times in their Division) throughout the year both indoors and outside, Crufts flyball only takes place at eight qualifying shows in the UK. The shows are knockout competitions with the top two teams qualifying to compete at Crufts the following Spring. It is possible for teams to turn up at a show and only get two or three runs in a heat, be knocked out in the first round of the competition and do nothing for the rest of the show! Very frustrating and incomprehensible for the losing dogs, who wonder why all the fun has stopped so suddenly.


Other differences between the two types of flyball are that no toys or motivators are allowed in Crufts flyball competitions, nor are harness allowed to be worn - only collars. There is no electronic timing used and all judging decisions are by use of stopwatches and the naked eye.


For further information about Crufts flyball we recommend the link - http://homepage.ntlworld.com/alakat/Home/Home(crufts)target.htm


This web site has been written by Sally Hopkins (unless the author of the web page is stated otherwise).


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