Flyball for Dogs: An Ultimate Guide for Your Athletic Pooch

April Saylor

April Saylor

. Reviewed by Sandra C. Mitchell, DVM, DABVP
Updated Aug. 14, 2023
A border collie jumps to catch a ball.

In This Article

What Is Flyball?

A jog through the park or a game of fetch may be enough activity for some, but many high-energy dogs need an extra challenge to be their happiest, healthiest selves. If your pup loves having a job to do or you need to ramp up their exercise or training time, flyball can keep your dog active and engaged.

Flyball is a workout for your dog’s brain and body. This team sport is designed to test your furry friend's speed, accuracy, agility, and intelligence. Seasoned enthusiasts and beginners alike are welcome in flyball. If your athletic pooch is up for a challenge, keep reading to learn more about how to get started.

Key Takeaways

  • Flyball is a great activity for pups who have a lot of energy to burn; it also gives them the chance to socialize with others.
  • Chat with your veterinarian before introducing your dog to flyball–to ensure they are in good health for the sport.
  • You can check your local community to find flyball clubs in your area.

What Is Flyball?

Flyball is an adrenaline-fueled dog sport that involves teams of dogs and their handlers competing against each other to complete a relay race. The objective is for the dogs on each team to jump over a series of four hurdles, retrieve a tennis ball from a box, and then go back over the hurdles to cross the finish line. The fastest team wins.

What's the Difference Between Flyball and Agility?

Both flyball and agility courses require dogs to navigate obstacles in a set amount of time. However, agility is not a team sport, but a singular one. Agility focuses on a dog and their handler working together to navigate and complete obstacles on a timed course.

Is Flyball Good for Dogs?

Flyball is an excellent form of exercise and is well-suited for active breeds or dogs who have a lot of energy to burn.

Flyball is a demanding sport; competing in flyball builds muscle, improves coordination, increases endurance, and gives your dog a sense of teamwork and accomplishment. Flyball is an excellent form of exercise and is well-suited for active breeds or dogs who have a lot of energy to burn.

Flyball also gives dogs the opportunity to socialize with others. It teaches them to follow cues, remain focused, and make quick decisions. If your dog solves complicated puzzle toys or thrives during games of hide-and-seek, the mental stimulation from flyball can prevent boredom and keep them happy.

What Dogs Can Play Flyball?

Any dog can play flyball, though the North American Flyball Association requires that puppies need to wait until they’re 15 months old to compete. While all breeds, sizes, and ages of dogs are welcome, some breeds are known for their flyball skills and excel in the sport. Winners typically include Greyhounds, Whippets, Border Collies, Jack Russell Terriers, Aussies, and Shepherd mixes because of their high energy levels, intelligence, and love for work.

While these breeds may be a natural fit for the sport, this doesn't mean other breeds can’t hold their own. Proper training and practice can help any dog thrive in flyball—especially with a lot of praise and quality time with their favorite human!

Talk to your veterinarian before starting any demanding physical activity with your pup, especially if your dog has any health conditions or injuries. Training and physical health are key before you consider entering your dog in any flyball competitions. Think of flyball as you would a track meet for human athletes. You wouldn’t want to run a race without some serious stretching and a training schedule leading up to the event. The same goes for dogs and flyball—proper preparation and exercise are a necessary part of any canine athlete’s health and well-being.

Talk to your veterinarian before starting any demanding physical activity with your pup, especially if your dog has any health conditions or injuries.

How Do You Train Your Dog for Flyball?

Training for flyball requires patience, consistency, and dedication. Other dogs and people are a big component of the sport, so reactive dogs or those that are nervous in new situations may benefit from working with a dog behaviorist before participating.

Seasoned competitors and training professionals recommend teaching each step of the flyball race one at a time. Add new elements to the training sequence as your dog gets more comfortable. Getting your dog ready for flyball means they’ll need to know:

  1. Basic obedience skills. Your dog should have a solid foundation in basic obedience skills, such as sit, stay, and recall. These cues are the building blocks for more advanced flyball exercises.
  2. How to jump over hurdles. Gradually introduce your dog to flyball hurdles by starting with low heights. Increase the height and number of hurdles as they get more comfortable. Use positive reinforcement to help build their confidence and keep them motivated.
  3. Ball retrieve. Teach your dog to retrieve a tennis ball. You can build your own ball retrieve wall unit or spring box like they’d use in competitions. Start by placing the ball a short distance away and have your dog stay until you give the cue to retrieve the ball. Gradually increase the distance of the retrieve from the box. You can also ask a second handler to hold your dog while you remain with the ball.
  4. Prepare for the relay race. Once your dog is comfortable with jumping hurdles and retrieving the ball, start practicing for the relay race by including other dog and human teammates in the course.

Always consider your dog’s needs above all else. Each dog has its own unique abilities and limitations. Adapt your dog’s training program to suit their pace, and remember that pushing them too hard can lead to burnout or injuries.

Does Your Dog Have What It Takes to Tackle Flyball?

Enrolling in a local flyball training class or joining a local flyball club is a great way to get started. United Flyball League International and the North American Flyball Association both have regional groups that offer expert guidance, a supportive community, and access to training equipment.

If you’re not quite ready for a team experience, you can also start by practicing individual steps at home until you feel ready to join a flyball club or training class. YouTube videos can help you learn the basics.

As you and your dog learn any new skill, the most important part is to have fun, be patient, and stay consistent. Flyball is meant to be a fun and engaging activity for you and your dog, so enjoy the process, celebrate small victories, and be patient with your dog as they learn. At the end of the day, your dog will be excited to just hang out with you and have some fun.

April Saylor


April Saylor

Freelance Writer

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