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.


International flyball is played all over the world and has become a very popular sport.


In International flyball,

  • there is electronic timing and software associated with indicating which dog has gone wrong;
  • the height of the jumps can be altered to accommodate smaller breeds of dogs;
  • BUT the main difference is the International design of trgger box which is used all over the world;
  • the location of the ball in the box can be changed to accommodate each dog's natural preference and also regardless of its size;
  • Competition is all year round with many leagues and competitions, usually at outdoor venues;
  • Motivators are allowed to encourage and reward the dogs for a job well done;
  • Harnesses are allowed so the dogs are restrained with pressure on their shoulders/skeleton;


There are various designs of International flyball boxes , as well as different trigger mechanisms. Most teams have their boxes made to detailed specifications so that the box suits the team's requirements. For instance, a team with large dogs needs the ball holes to be high up on the ramp, while smaller dogs cope better with a ball hole nearer the ground. The resulting design may be to have a left and right hole near the top with a lower central hole for the team's "height dog".


The term "Height Dog" brings us on to another progression from the old style of Crufts type competitions - that of jump heights. Although there are slightly different rules on the maximum and minimum height of jumps throughout the world (see the links at the bottom of this page for further information), there is a consensus of opinion about the fact that the height of the jumps is dependent on the height of the shortest dog in the team.


In the UK, for instance, the minimum height that a team can run their dogs over is 8", and the maximum is 14". Dogs are measured by the height of their withers and the jump height is calculated by being 4" lower that this measurement (eg if a dog measures 17" at the withers, it is allowed to jump 13" high jumps). Once a dog has been measured by three different Head Judges, who all agree on the height of the jumps that the dog should compete over, a Height Card is issued by the BFA so that the dog does not need to measured at every competition in the future. This Height Rule encourages teams to run at least one smaller dog (height dog) in their team so that the jump heights for the rest of the team's larger dogs can be set at this low height. This is a great way of opening out the sport to breeds other than the very popular Border Collies that often seem to dominate this exciting sport. If you own a small dog that loves doing all or most of the DOG-GAMES, you will be very sought after in the flyball world! After all, the team can run faster when the jumps are nice and low!


Talking of breeds - dogs do not have to be pedigree in order to play flyball. Whatever, its history or parentage, it is very welcome to have a go.

Handlers are allowed to use motivators when competing in International Flyball, as long as the rewards do not distract any other dogs (eg. Squeaky toys and the throwing of toys is discouraged). They are encouraged to put well fitting harnesses on their dogs and the "hanging" of dogs on the start line (ie holding the dog while it's front paws are off the ground) is strongly discouraged.


One of the biggest differences between International Flyball and Crufts Flyball is the electronic technology that is used. Laser beams at the start/finish line can sense when a dog crosses the line, whether there has been a bad changeover (ie the incoming dog has not crossed the finish line while the next dog begins it run too early and breaks the laser beam first), and can detect false starts when the first dog of the team begins the race too early. Meanwhile, the set of start lights indicates the countdown to the start of the race, which lane has a false start, when bad changeovers occur, and sometimes which dog has been faulted and needs to run again after the fourth dog in the team has run. All these aids help record exact times and reasons for faults and reduce the amount of stress and concentration needed to judge which team came first and in what time, using only the naked eye and a stopwatch.


Flyball is an ideal sport for all the members of your family to join in and be part of. Teams need helpers to adjust the height of jumps, transfer balls from one end of the lane to the other, be a box loader, keep records of dog and team times, team leaders, time keepers, hold dogs for restrained recalls, box and line judges etc etc… Encourage your other halves and kids to come along to training (and especially to shows) - the more the merrier! They will be made very welcome.

For more information about International Flyball try these excellent web links-

  • British Flyball Association - I particularly recommend reading their "New to the Sport" page, whose link is to the right of their home page. You can contact your local area representative, via this BFA web site, for information about established flyball teams in your area.
  • Bassett Allsorts Flyball team website - A friendly and informative flyball club website based in the UK. It gives you a flavour of what is happening in the sport.
  • www.flyballdogs.com -.So much information to read, and so many useful links! You'll spend hours wandering around this website. Has plenty of links with many overseas flyball organisations and teams.


DOG-GAMES has also got strong links with StarDogs Positive Training in Greece, and have helped them start flyball and agility training (in the cooler months of course!). Although much of the site is in Greek, Yiannis Arahovitis speaks excellent English and German and is happy to reply to any e-mail questions you may have on these sports, or any other dog related issue.


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


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