Familiar with flyball? It’s a fun way to give your dog a little bit of extra exercise. Flyball is a dog team sport in which canines complete a relay race through an obstacle course to retrieve a ball. One member from each team faces off against each other at the starting line, and then runs through a series of hurdles toward a box that releases a tennis ball. The dog must then retrieve the ball and run back through the obstacle course in reverse to start the next wave. Obviously, you must train your dog before he takes the field.
Flyball Competition Basics
Flyball was originally developed as a dog sport during the 1960s and '70s in Southern California. During the early days, dog trainers combined the challenge of scent hurdle racing with the retrieval of a tennis ball. Eventually, an apparatus was added which launched the tennis ball for the dog to retrieve. The first official flyball tournament was held in the United States in 1983, but it has since grown and expanded into other countries, including Canada, Australia, South Africa, and parts of Europe. The largest international flyball championship is held in Europe; among its host countries have been the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, and the Czech Republic.
Not only is flyball a challenge for both dogs and their owners, it also provides an entertaining way for the two to interact. Training a dog for flyball provides the dog with physical exercise and can offer valuable mental stimulation, too. This sport is particularly beneficial for high-energy breeds like Border Collies and terriers. One of the main benefits of flyball competitions is that it is available for mixed breeds and non-pedigree dogs. Many dog competitions, like conformation, are only available to purebred dogs. Flyball is also one of the only non-hunting dog sports where both humans and dogs work together as part of a team.
Training Tips for Flyball
Before you start training your dog for flyball, you need to make sure that he is healthy enough for vigorous activity, so have him cleared by your vet first. Puppies are not recommended for flyball training because their bones and joints have not been fully developed yet, so they could be prone to injury. Training involves teaching your dog to traverse several different types of obstacles and to retrieve a ball. It is essential to train your dog for obedience prior to flyball training, because you will need to issue commands to your dog and be able to expect him to follow them. Your dog should also be used to listening to you.
Many flyball trainers utilize backward chaining techniques when training their dogs for flyball. Rather than starting from the beginning and teaching the dog to run through the entire course, you should begin by teaching your dog to return over the first hurdle, then over the second, the third, and so on. Keep working with your dog until you are releasing him from the sight of the flyball box so he runs through the entire course in reverse. Then you can teach him the remainder of the obstacles.
Flyball is a fun and challenging way to bond with your dog and give him not only some physical exercise but valuable mental stimulation as well. If you have a high-energy breed and need a way to ensure that your dog’s needs for exercise are met, flyball may be a good option. Visit www.flyball.org or www.u-fli.com for more information and to find a team near you.