A large dog in a purple collar plays flyball

Is Flyball Safe For Dogs? {ANSWERED}

If you are considering introducing your dog to flyball then you might have a few burning questions before allowing them to give it a go.

Top of the pile likely being whether or not the sport is considered safe, or whether in fact there is always going to be an inherent risk of sustaining injury when playing the game.

Here we consult the opinion of experts in a bid to help you decide if flyball is safe for your Sporty Dog.

Overall the conclusion we came to suggests flyball is considered a safe sport for fit, healthy dogs. However, you should be aware that it is an intense form of exercise that involves drastic changes of speed and direction as well as high impacts if using the outdated equipment.

Whilst this post explores whether flyball is safe for dogs, another of our guides looks into the equally exciting but even more inclusive sport of dog puller.

Is flyball safe for all dogs?

Flyball is generally considered a safe sport for canines provided your dog is fully developed (no longer a puppy) and is in good health. 

Dogs need to be of at least a basic level of fitness in order to do all the running, jumping, turning, and maneuvers that take place during a flyball game.

Any sport can be dangerous if the athletes put themselves under too much stress and overwork their muscles. 

This is particularly the case for extreme sports, and flyball could be considered an extreme sport for dogs due to its high intensity and speed.

To prevent injury you’ll need to train your dog up slowly as well as help them warm up each and every time a flyball competition comes around. 

Whilst nowadays, flyball is generally considered a safe sport, but this wasn’t always the case.

In the past, dogs would have to come to an extremely abrupt stop on the ball mat and then spin around on the spot so that they could return to their handler.

This movement was frequently a cause of injury, with dogs sustaining strains and torn muscles while braking and causing long-term damage as the high impacts gradually wore on their joints. Chronic arthritis was a common issue experienced by veterans in the old version of flyball.

Now, however, flyball boxes have been altered to act more like a turning spring-board than a sheer wall, which has decreased the risk of injury and wear and tear on the dogs joints.

Nevertheless some dog owners still choose to kit out their family friend with ankle supports. 

Many dogs do still run too hard at the box, but injuries are considerably less common and often much less serious as a result of the change in box design.

A large dog attempting to catch a tennis ball whilst playing flyball
Image by suemack on Canva Pro

What are the dangers of flyball? 

Flyball is a super intense game, and with any intense sport you have to accept there will be some risk of injury. 

Over time, dogs may start to suffer from joint problems, and older dogs may be more prone to arthritis as a direct result of the exercise. However these symptoms are common in many other forms of dog sports too.

Repetitive strain injury is another common complaint seen in dog sports, and one that you should watch out for if taking part in flyball regularly. 

Vary the kinds of exercise that you get your dog to do to reduce the risk of this occurring and build rest days into your training schedule to aid recovery.

Other, more minor injuries that dogs can get from intense sports include things like pad burns from running extra fast on hard or artificial surfaces.

Take precautions too if you wish to practice flyball, or even simply run your dog daily. 

Dogs that are over-enthusiastic can sometimes become careless, which has been known to cause them to break claws or bite their tongues.

All of the above also assume that the dog is in good hands. Poor handling or a dog that is not fit for the sport is more likely to result in an injury being sustained.

Can small dogs play flyball safely?

As long as the dog is fit, any breed of dog can play flyball irrespective of their size. 

To make the course accessible the hurdles can simply be adjusted downwards for a small dog. A smaller ball may be necessary too, so that the dog can grip it comfortably without over extending its jaw.

Small dogs are not at any greater risk of injury than big dogs when playing flyball. They may need to train harder to develop greater speed needed to make up for the shortness of their legs, but they can play just fine.

A tricolor collie dog running with a tennis ball in its mouth
Image by Lisay on Canva Pro

Can young dogs play flyball safely?

As with all dog sports, a dog needs to have developed strong muscles and bones in order to play safely. 

To compete in flyball, a dog must be aged fifteen months or older, because young dogs are more vulnerable to stress-related injuries. 

As with all dog breeds, until they have stopped growing, they shouldn’t be permitted to do anything overly strenuous.

As a puppy, you can teach your dog the concepts involved in flyball, that’s fine, but they should not be introduced to the sport competitively until they are old enough to stand up to the stresses it places on their body.

If you are keen to get your new puppy engaged with flyball, consider teaching them safe turns and some of the common commands so that they are ready. Just don’t get them to compete until they have finished growing.

Which dogs should avoid playing flyball?

Before starting any new sport with your dog, it is important to consider the risks involved with the type of movements the sport entails.

Although there are no specific breeds that are banned from playing flyball and all healthy dogs should be able to safely enjoy it, it is worth assessing the risks with the particular weaknesses of your dog’s breed in mind.

If, for example, your dog is prone to back injuries, it may be a good idea to avoid sports that include an element of jumping.

Young dogs and very old ones may not be able to play competitive flyball safely but if it’s just for fun adaptations can be made (less hurdles, human hand delivering the ball instead of the box) to make the sport fit the dog better.  

Always put the needs and safety of your dog first.

Round up

All dog sports carry some risk of injury, however doing no exercise also has its failings (causes your dog to be overweight, have weak muscles and health issues). 

Many sports allow for a fun and interactive way to exercise and engage with your dog, and as far as flyball goes the reward is far greater than the risk, both on and off the competitive field.