Flyball Basics

Flyball may be a great option in dog sports for you and your canine companion if you have a breed that requires more exercise than a daily walk. Some breeds just have a bit, or lots, more energy to burn off and flyball training may be a good way to expend it. In short, flyball is a fetch, hurdle-jumping relay race against another team of dogs. Let me explain…

What is Flyball?

There are two teams of four dogs that race against each other, side by side, on a 51 foot course. On the course, there are four hurdles the dogs must jump over spaced ten feet apart. Each dog, one at a time, runs down the course jumping each hurdle, in turn. Then retrieves a ball before racing back to the beginning of the course, jumping the hurdles along the way, with the ball in their mouth.

Each dog is set loose down the course, one at a time, as the dog before him crosses the finish line. Down the course, over each hurdle, to a spring-loaded box that ejects a tennis ball when the dog steps on it. The dog retrieves the ball and hurdles his way back down the course to the finish line to send off the next dog. The team whose final dog crosses the finish line first wins.

Australian Cattle Dog releasing tennis ball

Who Can Compete?

Any size and breed of dog can compete in flyball. The hurdles on the course are determined by the smallest dog’s height on the team. This is known as the “height dog”. The height of the hurdles is based on their height at the shoulders. While any breed can compete in flyball, breeds known for retrieving and herding typically do the best.

How Can I Train My Dog for Flyball?

  • Start with the basics. Teach your dog to fetch and not release the ball until commanded.
  • Move on to teaching your dog to jump one hurdle by getting him to fetch a ball on the other side of the hurdle.
  • Once your dog can jump one hurdle, add a second hurdle placed ten feet apart. Continue adding hurdles up to four.
  • Finally, teach your dog to jump on the spring loaded pad that will release the tennis ball.
  • Now you’ve taught your dog all the parts of the course. Put them all together in order and team up with three other dogs to race!

Flyball isn’t learned overnight. You will need to work with your dog in small increments of 10-15 minutes at a time. Practice two-to-three times a day, consistently, until your dog gets each skill down. Remember to continue practicing the other skills you have already learned while learning new skills. You will be “flying” down the course in no time.