Flyball began in the 1970’s when Herbert Wagner developed the first tennis ball launcher. The first Flyball tournament was held in 1983. Flyball racing is governed by the North American Flyball Association (NAFA), which was formed in 1985 by a group of 12 teams from Michigan and Ontario, Canada. Today, NAFA has more than 700 clubs with more than 16,000 dogs participating. Another club, United Flyball International (UFI) began in 2005 for the purpose of promoting Flyball.
Flyball races are fast-paced and offers more than enough excitement for all involved, including the spectators. Races consist of two teams, with four dogs on each team. They race side-by-side over a course that is 51 feet long.
The course consists of a starting line, four hurdles spaced ten (10) feet apart, and a box. The first hurdle is six (6) feet from the start line and the box is fifteen (15) feet from the last hurdle for a fifty-one (51) foot overall length. The hurdle height is dependent upon the height of the smallest dog on the team. The dogs jump the hurdles and step on a spring loaded box that shoots out a tennis ball. The dogs catch the tennis ball and then run back over the four hurdles. When the first dog crosses the starting line the next dog goes, etc. until all four dogs have run.
All dogs are allowed to compete in Flyball and can compete to earn NAFA titles in sanctioned tournaments. These titles are earned based on points and the time it takes for the dog to complete each race.