A Beginner’s Guide to Flyball

Find yourself looking for a new game to enjoy with your dog? If your dog is quick and loves to play fetch, then he might love playing flyball even more! Flyball is a type of relay race where teams of dogs alternate jumping over hurdles and retrieving a tennis ball.

So it’s like fetch, but with hurdles?

Not quite. The twist of flyball is that to get the ball a dog has to activate a spring-loaded box, which then ejects the ball. From there, the dog has to retrieve the ball, ideally in the air, and race back to their team so the next dog can take a turn.

Dying for more information on this fun game? Read one for more details.

How It Works

Flyball races feature two teams competing on a 51-foot course set with four jumps. Flyball teams consist of at least four dogs and two humans. One human is the handler who is there to communicate commands to the dogs, the other is a box loader, who sets the tennis balls into the spring box as the dogs compete.

Each dog navigates the jumps on the course until they reach the end and activate the box to eject the ball. Ideally, the dog will catch the ball in the air with their mouth, and then races back to the start. The dog with the ball in their mouth has to run through the line before the team’s next dog can go. Each dog on the team must successfully complete the course, and the first team to finish without any errors wins.

Can My Dog Learn To Play Flyball?

Short answer, yes! One of the best things about flyball is that any dog can play. The only dogs that shouldn’t play flyball are ones that have medical restrictions that will pose a risk with all the running involved in flyball. However, training your dog to play flyball is going to require a time commitment from both you and your dog.

Dogs that tend to excel at the flyball include breeds that are known for herding or retrieving. Many of the skills and training principles that exist in successful herding dogs and hunting retrievers are shared in excelling at the sport of flyball. Don’t have a herding dog or a retriever? No worries, your Bulldog, Basset Hounds, or even Chihuahua can be trained to play flyball.

How Can I Train My Dog To Play Flyball?

If you’re interested in learning more about flyball, and how to effectively train yourself and your dog to play, consider looking for a flyball chapter in your area. For a basic overview of how to train your dog, here are some of the steps you will want to take.

Step 1: Start With Commands

The first step to teaching your dog to play flyball is to instruct them to catch the tennis ball with their mouth, and not release it until you command them to. If your dog has been trained to hunt, and play fetch using voice commands, this step will be a breeze. Start by engaging your dog in brief sessions of fetch each day. When your dog brings the ball back to you, give him the “release” or “drop it” command and give him a treat when he responds correctly. The goal should be that you can throw the ball and your dog will remain still until you command them to fetch.

Step 2: First Hurdle

Once you have the voice commands down, the next step in training your dog for flyball is to teach him to jump over hurdles. While there is four hurdles on a flyball field, start by training your dog one at a time. Set up a single hurdle in a flat area of your yard and stand in front of it with your dog. In order to have your dog leap over the hurdle, throw the tennis ball over it and verbally command your dog to fetch it. Similar to the last step, a good regimen of training is to do this for about 15 minutes a day until they get it down.

Step 3: More Hurdles

Once your dog has the first hurdle down, it’s time to set up a second hurdle about 5 feet away from the first. As you did before, toss the tennis ball over both of them for your dog to fetch. You may need to walk your dog over the hurdles the first few times until he gets the hang of it. Using treats as rewards is always a helpful tool. Once your pup is able to leap over both hurdles and bring you the ball, then you’re ready to add a third and fourth. After they have the hang of leaping over four, your dog is trained to run the entirety of a flyball course. Once your dog gets the hang of the two hurdles you can add a third and eventually a fourth until your dog is running through a mini flyball course.

Step 4: The Flyball Box

Once your dog has mastered the hurdles, it’s time to introduce him to the flyball box. Your first step will be to train the dog to press on the box so it will release the ball. Handing out Scooby Snacks as a reward each time he presses the box correctly is a great way to train him. Make sure you use a specific command to teach your dog to press the box.

You’re Ready for Flyball!

Once you and your dog have gotten through the four steps of training, you can start playing flyball! To find more dogs that are trained in your area, explore flyball groups on Facebook to learn more about flyball competitions, trainings, and gatherings near you.

For more info about training your dog, check out PetPlace’s index of dog training articles.