Dogs
Photo of Julio

FLYBALL TRAINING

by Michelle Martin, Trainer

Flyball is a fast paced race that sets two teams of four dogs each, against each other in a relay race format. It's a fun sport that combines agility and a fast game of fetch.

If you think you and your dog may be interested in playing, the first step is to perform a quick test to see if you dog likes the ball. You can do this by simply rolling a tennis ball away from your dog to see what his/her reaction is. If your dog eagerly runs to the ball and picks it up, you have the makings of a flyball dog and should contact your local flyball club to see when they are offering classes (if they do not offer classes, they may be able to refer you to someone who is).

At home, there are things you can do to help your dog to become a flyball dog. The best flyball dogs are arguably the ones who can run down to the box and back the quickest. When your dog comes back to you, this is called a "recall". One goal is to have the fasts recall possible with your dog; one where your dog runs back to you just as fast as when he/she runs to the ball. You can accomplish this by practicing Restrained Recalls. This exercise requires assistance from another person as well as the reward your dog would be most eager to receive. This reward may be a game of tug, a throw of a ball, a dog treat, or maybe some small morsels of steak =). You are finding this "favorite thing" to reward your dog for coming to you quick! In a safe, open area with room to run, ask a partner to hold your dog. Use the "favorite thing" to tease your dog and then take off running while calling your dog enthusiastically. Your partner should release the dog as you are running away with the reward. When your dog "catches" you, reward him/her with their "favorite thing" and lots of praise. Make it fun! If your dog doesn't run straight toward you, then you may have to use a different reward that really gets their attention. It is also highly recommended that your dog knows "come" and will come to you in case of any distractions, such as another dog, a cat, or squirrel. If you are concerned with your dog getting distracted, use a long line on your dog so that you can reel them in should they lose focus on you.

Training Tips to recall

Practice your recalls only when your dog has the most energy.
Avoid practicing recalls when your dog is tired or relaxed. Your goal is to get fast returns.

Always make training fun and exciting!
Have a party! The more excited you are the more excited and enthusiastic your dog will be in wanting to get to you.

Finally, stop early!
Finish the training session with your dog wanting more and finish on a positive note!!! This is the most important advice I can give you and is what people have the most trouble with. Practicing recalls is a lot of fun, so it is easy to say, "just one more!". However, that "one more" can set you back if the dog is not as excited and gets distracted, or gets tired. The correct saying that applies here is, "less is more!" It's very true when it comes to training these fast recalls and stopping while your dog is excited and doing well will only make him/her more excited during the next training session.