The fourth annual North American Flyball Association CanAm Classic began on October 12, 2012, with hundreds of dogs on dozens of teams in the West Pavilion of the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis and ended on October 14 after nearly 1,200 races when Spring Loaded – Who’s Your Daddy beat 2011’s winner Rocket Relay – A in a single active ring.

One ring of eight jumping, ball-catching, excited dogs is actually pretty tame, considering the scene in the pavilion up to that time. Except during the final, six rings ran simultaneously – meaning 48 dogs, plus their handlers, took turns competing all day long for two full days and part of a third day.

“During racing, the building is loud with barking dogs and shouting handlers encouraging their dogs to run, with lots of frenzied activity by teams to get all their equipment, dogs and handlers to ringside before their races,” says Terry McClean, who didn’t race this year, but volunteered at the main score table instead. “Races were scheduled into the six rings, and teams had to check monitors or laptops or mobile devices to know which ring they would race in. It keeps everyone on their toes!”

So does the process of releasing subsequent dogs for their turns in the relay before the previous dog has crossed the start-finish line. Each dog is released well before the start-finish line so that it’s up to speed by the time it crosses the start line. If you watch the final race, you can see a couple of instances where dogs crossed the line early, disqualifying the run. (This video is not mobile-device compatible.)

For a primer on how flyball works, click here.

Prior to the CanAm, each team is seeded based on its best run of the previous year. “They are seeded in order from fastest to slowest in each class of competition and separated into divisions by their times,” McClean explains. “That way, each team is racing other teams that run at the same speed, ensuring good competition – and the most fun racing!”

McClean is the co-owner of the first and only flyball club in Wyoming, the Hole-In-The-Wall Gang Flyball Club in Laramie. She currently races with 8-year-old Border Collie, Brady; 7-year-old Australian Cattle Dog, Tink; and 8-year-old Border Collie, Gypsy, and has two dogs in training – 2-year-old Patterdale Terrier, Rancho Fiasco Truffle, and 1-year-old Jack Russell Terrier, Rancho Fiasco Tori.

“The CanAm Classic is run with a three of five format,” McClean says. The first team to win three of five heats wins the race, except in the Veteran’s class when the dogs only run three or four heats. The team that wins the most heats in the tournament is the winner of that class. The classic is made up of three separate tournaments, one each on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, then the championship on Sunday.

While Spring Loaded – Who’s Your Daddy won the Regular class, meaning the four dogs running can be of any breed and or any mixed breed, Ruff Enuff – Stuff took the cup in the Multibreed class. Every dog running on a team in Multibreed must be of a different breed with one mixed breed allowed.

“For the championship rounds for the Regular and Multibreed classes on Sunday, teams are seeded by their best times in Saturday’s tournament,” McClean explains. “The top eight Regular and four Multibreed teams are invited to compete in the CanAm championships on Sunday.” While those teams prepare to vie for the championships, the remaining Regular and Multibreed teams are seeded for Sunday’s tournament.

Veteran’s teams are made up of dogs 7 years or older and jumps are set at the 7-inch minimum. The Non-Regular class is any other than Regular, Multibreed or Veteran’s, for example, “all less than 12 inches tall, four dogs of one breed, four dogs from one litter or one set of parents, etc.,” McClean explains. The remaining class, Open, consists of any four dogs like the Regular class, “except that the dogs don’t need to be registered with the club that enters the team, so dogs and handlers from different clubs can race together.”

The Open and Veteran’s classes are seeded by their entered seed times, then race in five-team divisions.

As for scoring, it’s by the race, not the individual heat, for all but Veteran’s and Non-Regular. A team gets two tournament points for winning three of five total heats, McClean continues. “As soon as one team wins three heats, the race is over and that team gets two points,” she says, adding that “in the Veteran’s class this year, two points were given for each heat won.”

At the end of the three days, the ranking of the Regular class finalists was:

1. Spring Loaded – Who’s Your Daddy
2. Rocket Relay – A
3. Canine Mutiny – Black Pearl
4. Animal Inn – Fizz
5. Top Dog Racers – Full Throttle
6. Rocket Relay – Blue
7. Instant Replay – Blue
8. Fur Fun – Formula Fun

In the Multibreed class, the top winners were Ruff Enuff – Stuff, Rocket Relay – B, Rocket Relay – A and Spring Loaded – Multi.

The big surprise of the event for McClean was that Rocket Relay wasn’t able to repeat its wins of 2011 in both the Regular and Multibreed classes. That team had just broken the NAFA heat record in September, running the relay in 14.931 seconds. Up to that time, no team had ever beaten the 15-second mark.

For information about the North American Flyball Association, visit its website.