In this series of training articles, videos of these actual lessons will be included along with written explanations of what the lesson is intended to accomplish. Questions may be asked in the comments section with more details provided by the author.
The video series is titled "It Takes a Village" acknowledging that flyball training is faster and easier when the trainer/handler is able to enlist the help of others. Flyball is a team sport and the major feature and accomplishment of its participants is a very complicated series of behaviors that is both timed and performed in the environment of other dogs participating as well. The racing rings are normally very noisy and each dog must know its job and ignore a multitude of distractions.
Lesson 1 - Introducing Restrained Recalls
I train flyball by what I call "back-chaining". Flyball is a race which means the Finish Line determines who wins and who loses so, we want to teach our dog to RETURN to us as quickly as they possibly can. To accomplish this, we begin our very first lesson by introducing the "recall". Nearly ALL competitive dog sports include the recall in some fashion. In flyball, a fast recall is essential for all dogs who compete so, I begin training using restrained recalls.
Begin the lesson by having a teammate hold the dog or puppy a short distance away. You should have already determined what kind of reward works with your dog. Most flyball trainers use a tugging toy to reward their dog. This is because a tug is fast and easy to produce and is re-useable over and over again. Food is also used however, it is less desirable as a reward because it must be replenished and some competitors believe that digesting food during athletic activity is not good for a dog's health. My belief is use whatever works for your dog!
With your teammate holding your dog, get your dog's attention by calling his name. This is a very short, quick lesson repeated many times. As SOON as you see your dog look at you, say his name and run in the opposite direction offering the reward (or "motivator") to your dog. The restaining handler should release the dog as soon as they see you moving and the dog has their attention on you. The dog should be trying to chase you and committed to catching you!
The video should illustrate just how close you need to be to start out with and how you should motivate the dog to chase. In the beginning, these should be rapid fire lessons. as training progresses, we add distarctions and distance. Restrained recalls are used to warm up dogs preparing to race and so consider the restarined recall as a basic tool whenever flyball concepts are being introduced or reinforced.
The next lesson will show a dead ball retrieve. The puppy featured in these videos is a quick learner so don't be discouraged if you have to break down your dog's training into smaller parts before you put the "chain" back together for a flyball run.
Good Luck and Good Racing!