When one thinks of a dog the old clichés comes to ones mind of a kid in the yard throwing a ball while the devoted dog runs and retrieves the ball without fail. However not all dogs are turned on by a ball or dog toys for that matter. A non ball orientated dog is a major problem if you want to get into flyball. If this is your problem not all is lost if you have a food motivated pooch.
Luckily most English Springer Spaniels are will do anything for food, and my boy was no exception. What I did was to cut a flap into a tennis ball and filled it with small yummy treats. Taking baby steps I slowly introduced this good smelling ball to my dog.
Once you have your ball filled (you can even let your dog watch you load it up) offer it to your dog. If he takes it that is terrific, but don't be surprised if he doesn't at first. What you are looking for is your dog to at least touch the ball with his nose or mouth. As soon as this happens praise and make the ball cough up a treat for your dog. Let the dog see that treats come from the ball. You want your dog to associate the ball with getting a yummy stuff. Remember to keep your training short and to always end on a good note.
Work your way up to getting your dog to put the ball in his mouth and then to have him release it, don't forget to praise and teat. Then work on having the dog to hold the ball in his mouth in an ever increasing length of time.
The next step is to work on retrieving. With you and your dog facing in the same direction hold onto his collar. The dog can either be standing or sitting at your side, in front of you, or between your legs. With your special tennis ball filled with treats, gently roll the ball a few feet in front of you both and immediately give a command like "take it" and release your dog so he can retrieve the ball. When you do this make it sound fun and exciting to help motivate your dog. Remember to roll the ball and not bounce it or the treats may pop out. Once your dog grabs the ball call him back to you. If your dog picks up the ball that is great, if he also brings it to you that is perfect. But don't be concerned if he drops the ball on his way back to you. Praise and treat. Just keep making baby steps toward your goal while making this fun and happy. Slowly increase the distance you roll the ball.
When your dog has a good grasp of what you want from him you are ready for fine tuning. This is the stage when you want your dog to be able to bring the ball to your hands. Up to this point it wasn't a problem if the dog dropped the ball in front of you instead of handing it to you. In flyball, the dog needs to be able to hold and carry the ball over all the jumps and across the finish line. If he doesn't, the team will take a penalty. Teaching your dog to bring you the ball will help insure he will bring it over the hurdles and all the way to the end. In fine tuning you only want to give a treat for a ball in the hand retrieval. A dropped retrieval is just ignored.
Now your dog is ready to join the rest of the dogs in flyball training. Have fun!