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What Happens At A Flyball Class?

Flyball is a fast, fun and friendly dog sport that involves dogs racing against each other through an obstacle course to retrieve a tennis ball from a specially-designed box, and bring it back to their trainer, against the clock.

At Tug-E-Nuff Dog Gear, we’re proud to sponsor the UK-based Crossfire Flyball Team. The team run starter courses in Bracknell, Berkshire, for trainers and dogs who want to see what flyball is all about. We spoke to Crossfire member Diane Brown to a step-by-step breakdown of what happens when you sign up…

  1. Taster sessions
‘Taster sessions are a really good way for dogs and their owners to see if Flyball is the sport for them. We offer a gentle introduction to the sport, with the focus on fun more than anything else,’ Diane says. ‘The taster is also a good chance to see what the dog’s recall and general behaviour is like. If it shows potential, we usually recommend the dog comes along to our training course which is kept small and friendly with no more than six or seven dogs.’
  1. The Swimmers’ Turn
‘One of the first things we do on the training course is introduce the dogs to the training chute,’ Diane says. ‘It’s important the dog quickly masters what we call the ‘swimmers’ turn’ which means being able to spin around quickly inside the box that releases the ball, reducing the risk of crashing into it.’
  1. Meeting the Ball
‘Once the dog is confident in the box, we introduce the ball,’ says Diane. ‘When the dog can successfully pick up the ball, we reward them with a tug toy like the Tennis Ball Bungee or the Rabbit Skin Bungee Tug. We’ve found we get the best results when the dogs see the toy as their reward, not the ball. ‘After this, if the dog and owner are both happy, we start to fire the flyball box while the dog is in the training chute so they can get used to the sound. Some dogs don’t bat an eyelid, others need a little bit of time.’
  1. Building up runs
‘Only when the dog is ready and confident, we swap the training chute for the real flyball box and begin to introduce jumps on the run up to it,’ Diane adds. ‘We start slowly with just one jump, gradually working up to two, three and then four until, lo and behold, the dog is doing a complete run.’
  1. Ironing out errors

‘All dogs are different and will learn at different levels,’ says Diane. ‘Common problems in the early days include the dog failing to trigger the flyball box to release the ball, dropping the ball too early, and just going AWOL when they should be concentrating! ‘This is where lots of encouragement and positive rewards with a tug toy come into play. Usually, we are able to overcome these kinds of issues with time and practice.’ Flyball can be a hugely enjoyable sport for dogs and their owners alike. Once the basics have been mastered, you get the chance to join a club and practice regularly – for competitions or just for fun.

If you like the sound of signing up for flyball classes, find out where your nearest club is on the British Flyball Association website. Or if you're part of a Flyball team looking for new members use the comments box below to giving details of your club location and how potential members can get in touch :)

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