Teaching a dog to play flyball is not an easy task. After all, it is an incredibly physically demanding sport that requires dogs to run at fast speeds, jump up, grab a ball in the air, and make a turn, repeatedly. Doing that is very physically demanding, which is why a dog needs to be physically mature and have all of its muscles and joints fully developed to be able to handle it. In addition, flyball is a team sport, which means that you will need to ensure that your dog is socialized with other dogs and handlers. Luckily, ball-crazy dogs seem to be able to get the hang of it in no time!
If you would like to teach your dog how to play flyball, start by learning what flyball is all about and attending flyball competitions. Other than that, you could use two different methods to have your dog get the basics of flyball.
Some people will make or buy personalized cat shirts, others will train their dog to jog with them every morning or take it to work – we all have different ways of showing our love to our pets. And then, there are those who want to invest their time and effort into training. If your Fido has mastered the basic commands, flyball might be a fun challenge. If you would like to learn more, below, you will find a short guide that will present you with the basics of flyball and the methods that you can use to teach your dog to play it.
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What Is Flyball?
Flyball is an exciting dog sport that involves teams of dogs flying down an obstacle course, one at a time. To clear the course, a dog has to jump four hurdles and reach a flyball box, which is a spring-loaded box located on top of a ramp.
The dog presses the box, which releases a ball at the top of a ramp. The dog has to use the ramp to catch the ball and make a turn. Having caught the ball, the dog has to make its way back through the course and cross a special gate. When it reaches the gate, the next member of the team can start racing down the obstacle course. The first team to have all of its dogs cross the finish line wins. Today, the sport is extremely popular in the United Kingdom and North America, with multiple flyball competitions taking place all over the world.
METHOD I – Focus on the Ball
The first method is based on playing fetch with a tennis ball. First of all, you will have to teach your dog that it has to keep the ball in its mouth until it reaches you. If it does just that, you can reward it with a treat. Ideally, you should keep each training session ten to twenty minutes long and repeat until the behavior is established.
Next, start adding hurdles in the process of playing fetch. Start with one and reward your dog for jumping it. When it jumps one hurdle without any issues, start gradually adding hurdles and increasing the distance between each hurdle.
When all four hurdles are in place, simply throw the ball straight down the course and praise your dog when it clears the course and comes back with a ball in its mouth. Then, present your dog with a flyball box and teach it that it needs to press the box for the tennis ball to come out.
Once the dog understands that it must press the box to get the ball, return to the beginning of the course. Show your pet that it has to clear the course, direct it to retrieve the ball, and return to the finish line with your dog by your side. In a few weeks, you should be able to start sending your dog to get the tennis ball on its own. If need be, you can always return to the previous steps.
METHOD II – Break It Down
The second method is based on breaking the entire obstacle course down into individual components and combining the said components one by one. You start by teaching your dog how to jump hurdles and how to fetch a ball without dropping it. Then, combine these two activities and have your dog retrieve a ball placed at the end of an obstacle course without dropping it.
Once you take care of that, you will have to show your dog how a flyball box works. You can use treats and a clicker to help your dog figure out that it needs to press on the flyball box to release the ball. Following that, teach your dog how to turn. You can do that by setting up a pole in front of the flyball box and having your dog run around it and return to you.
Lastly, teach your dog how to launch off an inclined flyball box and have it return to you after running around the pole. Having followed all the steps listed above, start putting the behaviors together one by one until the entire obstacle course is complete.
If you have an energetic dog who loves playing fetch and wants to do it all day long, flyball is something you definitely need to look into. It is a great form of exercise that is guaranteed to help your dog stay mentally and physically stimulated.
However, it is essential to realize that flyball is a physically demanding sport that can take a long time to master. You will have to be patient and consistent in order for your training to work. For best results, it is recommended that you ask a friend or a family member to help you accompany your dog around the course. That way, you might be able to teach it various behaviors much faster. Good luck!