What is Flyball?

Flyball began in North America in the 1970's when a Californian, Herbert Wagner, developed the first tennis ball launcher for his ball crazy dog.

After demonstrations at his obedience club, Wagner gave a demonstration on the Tonight Show, and the revolutionary idea was introduced into Toronto and Detroit. The first formal Flyball competition was held in 1981. The North American Flyball Association (NAFA) was founded in 1984.

Flyball racing is a fast and exciting sport, not only for the spectators and handlers, but for the dogs as well. There are four dogs and handlers on a racing team. As the teams line up, the excitement builds. With each dog eager to compete, sometimes it's all the handlers can do to hold their dogs. 

A set of drag-race lights starts the race, and the first dog from each team is released. Racing head-to-head, each dog sprints down its lane, hurdling a set of four jumps, ten feet apart.

At the far end of each lane is a Flyball box. Each dog must step on the pedal of the Flyball box, triggering a tennis ball to be thrown from the cup. The dog catches the tennis ball "on the fly" (thus "Flyball"), launches off the box in a "swimmer's turn" and rockets back over the four jumps with the ball. As each dog returns over the hurdles, he passes the next dog nose-beside-nose over the start/finish line in relay-race style. The closer the two dogs pass, the less time is lost in the change-over, and the faster the racing team's time. Ideally, all four dogs on each team will glide through the course in a smooth relay race. But anything can happen, adding to the excitement of the sport. Sometimes a dog will fumble the ball, veer outside the jumps, or interfere in the competition team's course.

If a dog misses a jump, or fails to return with the ball, that dog must run again. Racing is electronically timed by laser, accurate to 1000th of a second, and the first team to have all four dogs successfully complete a run wins the heat.

Can My Dog Run Flyball?

Flyball is a sport open to all dogs, of all sizes, including mixed breeds.  Athletic dogs, large and small, excel in the sport. 

To begin Flyball training, dogs must: 

  • Have a solid recall in an open field, even with distractions.
  • Be well socialized.
  • Be healthy, athletic and not overweight.
  • Enjoy retrieving a tennis ball. If your dog also enjoys a game of tug, that's a plus!

Interested in Classes?

Marin Running Riot is currently looking for new dogs and their handlers to join the team. We offer fun classes that introduce you and your dog to this exciting and fun sport. If you would like more information on our classes, please contact:

Michelle Martin-Largent