Illustration of the timing lights.

Timing Lights

The timing lights are similar to those found in drag racing. They help the teams, head judge and spectators know what is going on during the heats of a race.

  • The red light lets everyone know there was an error. Either an early start or early pass. The sensors at the start/finish line catch these errors.
  • The yellow lights are the count down to the green light for the start dog. They are generally 1 or 1.2 seconds apart and help the handler of the start dog get their timing right so their dog can get to the start/finish line when the light turns green. If they get there before the light turns green, they have a "false start" and get a second try.
  • The sensors at the start/finish line keep track of each dog's individual time which is digitally displayed at the end of the racing lane by the box loaders.
  • The sensors also give a read out of the total time, plus the light tree flashes the green light for the side that won the heat.

It’s Drag Racing for Dogs!

The Basics

  • Two teams of four dogs each (teams have a maximum of six dogs listed with two dogs used as substitutes) race against each other on two parallel lanes that are 51' long.
  • Dogs run one at a time down the course over four jumps until they reach the flyball box. At the box they trigger it to release a tennis ball which they catch in their mouths. Then they race back over the jumps to their handler.
  • Each dog is released in relay fashion to run the course but the previous dog's nose must break the laser barrier at the start/finish line before the next dog can begin the course.
  • The first team to have all four of their dogs down and back without any flags (mistakes) wins the heat.
  • The first team to win 3 heats wins the race.


Any mistake made by a dog, handler or box loader will get flagged. If a team has a flag they can either rerun the dog the mistake was made with or take a “No Finish” and forfeit all their points for that heat.

  • Dog Errors: If a dog early passes into another dog, misses any jumps, fails to catch the ball or spits the ball out before crossing the start/finish line they will get flagged resulting in rerunning.
  • Handler Errors: If a handler releases their dog too early and they reach the start/finish line before the dog in front has completed their run successfully, they get flagged resulting in rerunning.
  • Box Loader Errors: If a box loader forgets to load a ball or they point to a ball the dog didn't catch, they are flagged. (Again, the human error becomes the dog's mistake and the dog has to rerun.)

The Race

  • Two teams compete against each other in a ring. The judge officiates while the two line judges and two box judges help keep track of any mistakes that might happen.
  • The line judges' duties include watching for early passes, missed jumps and balls that are not carried over the start/finish line. They also keep track of which dogs are running in each heat and which team wins or loses.
  • The box judge keeps track of missed jumps, spit balls and box loader errors.
View of the racing lane from above.

Racing graphics by MARTHA THIERRY/Detroit Free Press.