The Doberman - Versatility - Flyball


Flyball is a team sport for dogs and their handlers. Teams of 4 dogs each compete in a relay race in which each dog runs a course over 4 jumps to retrieve a ball. The dogs jump the hurdles and steps on a spring loaded box that shoots out a tennis ball. The dog catches the tennis ball and then runs back over the 4 hurdles. When the dog crosses the starting line the next dog goes. The first team to have all 4 dogs run without errors wins the heat. Electronic Judging System, which uses lights and infrared timing sensors, record the teams’ starts, passes, finishes, and individual dogs' times to the thousandth of a second. The record time for 4 dogs to run the course is currently 15.22 seconds. More common are times in the low to mid 20's. The competition is two-fold; the team races against another team for tournament placement and also against the clock for points toward titles. Dog teams run against other teams with similar average times. Teams that run faster than their average time can be disqualified from a tournament. The handlers are responsible for motivating their dogs to increase their speed to make the overall team time as fast as possible, yet staying within their average timeframe.

The ideal dog for flyball is one that is obedient, non-people and non-dog aggressive and who is not a resource guarder. Flyball dogs must be obedient. A solid recall is a necessary part of the game. Dogs must also be able to follow the sport’s sequencing of starting, running up the lane, over hurdles to the box and back to their handler. Flyball dogs must be great with people and other dogs. Flyball requires working in close proximity to running/yelling handlers and barking/running dogs. Flyball dogs must be focused on only their own ball and not the balls, tug toys or treats of the other dogs around them. The competition lanes can be tense and noisy places, dogs must be able to be focused on their jobs, which is one reason why Dobermans can make a great flyball dogs. Dobermans love having a job. Once a Doberman learns what is expected, what the rules are, the Doberman can be counted on to work well and give an excellent game performance. The breed loves competition, running fast, getting to the box quickly and back to their handler for their reward and praise.

One of the best Dobermans in flyball was a dog named Onyx owned by Clyde Moore (shown at left). Onyx has the distinction of having the 20,000 point North American Flyball Association (NAFA) title named after her. "The Onyx Award" is given to any NAFA flyball dog that has reached 20,000 points. The NAFA Onyx pin has a Doberman profile on it. Onyx started her racing career before the point system was administered by NAFA and would have probably been well over 50,000 if she had gotten points during her entire flyball career.

The two national organizations for flyball are the North American Flyball Association (NAFA) and the United Flyball League International, Inc (U-FLI).

Content contributions by Linda K Grskovich