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An Introduction to BFA Flyball

About BFA Flyball
There are two different forms of Flyball: "BFA" flyball and "Crufts" flyball. Flyball is a fast dog sport consisting of two teams of four dogs (plus two reserve) which 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, 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 4" under the shoulder height of the smallest dog. Under BFA rules the jump height must be between 8" and 14"

The British Flyball Association
This is the organisation in Great Britain which promotes international flyball racing, based on the rules from North America where flyball originated some 15 years ago. As a member you receive the Flyball Record and are entitled to accumulate points at competitions in order for your dog to gain his/her flyball title.

  Current Titles Available:
  Flyball Dog = 200 points
  Flyball Dog Intermediate = 1000 points
  Flyball Dog Graduate = 3000 points
  Flyball Dog Advanced = 5000 points
  Flyball Dog Silver = 10000 points
  Flyball Dog Gold = 15000 points
  Ice Blue Moon Award = 20000 points
  Platinum Award = 25000 points
  Pearl Award = 30000 points
  Jade Award = 35000 points

BFA flyball is a fast team sport. Each dog runs in turn over four jumps, triggers the box which releases a ball and then returns over the four jumps carrying the ball. Any dog which 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 which wins the leg.

Competition Format
Competitions are usually classed as "open" or "multibreed", although "starters" and other fun classes are also held, together with mixed pairs, mini/maxi pairs, open pairs and singles shoot outs. In most competitions the teams are seeded according to their fastest recent times in competition. If the team has not run in competition during the preceding three 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.

Racing Lanes
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 enable the handler to judge the changeovers which are perhaps the most important part of the race.

Box
The BFA flyball box is totally different to the KC flyball box. The dog actually turns using the box which is specially designed to reduce the impact. Shock absorbent padding and the curved front are important safety features. Boxes can have 1, 2 or 3 holes for the ball. The box loader must keep his hands behind his back and stand up during the race (except when loading the balls) but may use verbal encouragement.

Balls
Standard (unpunctured) tennis balls are used, although "mini." and "midi" balls are acceptable for our smaller friends. Balls may not be thrown in competition. Jump Height The jump height is 4" 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 betveen 7" and 14". For safety the top slat is either made of bendy plastic or covered with protective foam. In KC flyball the jump height is fixed at 12".

Changeovers
As speed is of the essence, it is important that the dogs "cross" nose to nose on the start line. It takes a great deal of practice to build up the dog's confidence and for the handler to know when and from what distance to let the dog go. For example, some handlers will release their dogs 50' back from the start line when the preceding dog is jumping the first jump on the return run.

Electronic Starting and Change Over Lights
As BFA flyball is such a fast sport, it is impossible to judge the starts and changeovers by eye. An electronic system has been developed which can judge false starts and early changes, as well as providing a very accurate timing system.

Flyball Definitions:

Breed Restrictions
A breed in flyball is a KC registered breed. However there are exceptions, for example any cross-breed is classified as a single breed and a Border Collie/Working Sheepdog is classified as another single breed.

Cleverdogs
Basically a fun event in which a dog has to complete a short course of agility equipment followed by a run up and down the flyball lane.

Mini-Maxi Pairs
Team of two dogs of which one must have a shoulder height of < 16 inches.

Mixed Pairs
Team of two dogs which must be of different breeds.

Multibreed
A team, which when racing consist of four dogs of different breeds.

Open Pairs
Team of two dogs which can be of the same breed.

This article has been reproduced courtesy of Dogs Worldwide.com (Correct at time of publication)

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