How to Train Dogs for Fly Ball

Fly ball training builds a strong bond between dog and owner.
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Fly ball competitions are organized obstacle course relay races for dogs of all breeds. Each dog must jump over a series of hurdles to a box that releases a tennis ball when pressed. The dogs then turn around and race back over the same hurdles and cross the finish line with the retrieved tennis ball in their mouth. The return of one dog triggers the start of the next dog on the team until all dogs have completed the course. Training dogs to compete in fly ball requires consistency and patience.

Step 1

Train the dog to play fetch using a tennis ball in 15 to 20 minute sessions until it is regularly bringing the ball straight back to you without dropping it. Reward the dog for a good effort with small treats. Offering a treat will often get the dog to release the tennis ball so it can be thrown again.

Step 2

Set up a single fly ball hurdle in a flat area and stand with the dog in front of the hurdle. Toss the tennis ball over the center of the fly ball hurdle and encourage the dog to retrieve it using audible encouragement. Practice this procedure in 15 to 20 minute sessions until the dog jumps the hurdle to retrieve the ball and again to get back to you three times in a row. Praise the dog generously for completing this task.

Step 3

Add a second hurdle about five feet in front of the first. Stand with the dog and toss the tennis ball over both hurdles. Walk forward with the dog to keep it on track to jump over both fly ball hurdles and retrieve the tennis ball. Set up a third and fourth hurdles and continue the training in 15 to 20 minute sessions until the dog is repeatedly clearing all four hurdles in both directions and retrieving the tennis ball.

Step 4

Introduce the dog to a fly ball box by loading the tennis ball into the box and giving the dog praise and a treat for pressing on the box to make the ball pop out. Smaller dogs may need to get a running start to exert sufficient force to eject the ball. Start the dog at your side and continue sending them to fetch the ball from the box at increasing distances until the fly ball box is approximately 50 feet away.

Step 5

Set up the fly ball hurdles so the first one is six feet from the start, with the second, third and fourth hurdles ten feet from one another. The fly ball box should be placed fifteen feet past the fourth hurdle. Load the fly ball box and start the dog at your side. Release the dog to charge over the hurdles and retrieve the tennis ball.

Step 6

Practice with the dog on the full fly ball course for 15 to 20 minute intervals twice a day for a couple of weeks. Reward the dog for completing the course as fast after it finishes as possible. Train alongside other dogs to increase the dogs comfort in fly ball competitions.


  • Hurdles are set to accommodate the height of the shortest dog in the team. Set practice hurdles at a height that the dog can clear without scraping.

Items You Will Need

  • Tennis ball
  • Small dog treats
  • Fly ball hurdles - 4
  • Measuring tape
  • Fly ball box
  • Favorite dog toy (optional)