Dog sports - Disc dog! No Frisbee attached!

Narrated from: Dog Sports

You’ve all been to the park, where often someone would be throwing a flying disc and a dog would speed up, catch it and then bring it back, panting smugly. But did you know that a whole sport is based on this free time bonding activity?

Disc dog is the official name of a sport more commonly known as Frisbee dog. The word “Frisbee” is trademarked though, and the manufacturer insists that there is a distinct difference between their brand and flying discs as a whole!

The sport originated in the 70s, and its popularity reached its peak in 1974. It was on August 5 that young Alex Stein, an Ohio student, jumped the fence of a nationally broadcast baseball game. He had with him three flying discs and a loyal companion – his dog Ashley. Alex threw the discs and Ashley amazed the whole stadium with his catching abilities. It was later estimated that the dog ran at 35 miles per hour and leaped nine feet into the air! The match was interrupted for seven minutes and the commentator actually started to announce the flying disc action on the field.

Today disc dog is quite a popular dog sport, both as a competition and as a free time activity. There are several organizations that run dog tournaments – the best known are Skyhoundz, UFO and USDDN. Competitions are organized not only in the USA, but also in Japan, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Canada, and Australia. The aim of a competition is based either on accumulating points by catching discs for a set period of time, or on a routine – the so called free style, which is judged subjectively by a jury – just like figure skating.

Disc dog is easily accessible – any dog could can a disc! Unlike many sports, there is no pedigree required and mixed breeds can do just as well as their pure-bred cousins – many World Champion disc dogs have originally been rescued from animal shelters.

Catching discs is considered to have a positive effect on dogs. It is a perfect way of channeling your dog’s excessive energy and sometimes helps solve neurotic problems - hyperactivity, aggression, destructive behavior and so on. Training your dog to catch a flying disc could also be a first step towards other sports and general obedience improvement.

If you wish to train your dog to catch discs, there are several things you must do:

  1. Select a disc – it would be a good idea to obtain a disc designed for canine play. Such discs should have opposed grip strips that would allow you to grip the disc tightly even if it is covered in… well, dog slobber. The disc should also be puncture-resistant in order not to fall apart in your dog’s mouth. Always consider the details – dogs with a sensitive mouth, for instance, would prefer a softer, more flexible disc.
  2. Introduce the disc to the dog – if your dog has never before encountered a flying disc, it would be a good idea to get the dog used to the disc before you start throwing it around. A convenient way of doing that is to use the disc as a food-bowl. You should also teach the dog to take the disc from your hand - this will bring the dog's attention to the new object.
  3. Fetch! - Instead of giving the disc to the dog, start throwing it in the air. At first, you should do it gently, and never aim the disc directly at your dog. The basic idea of the sport is for the dog to catch the disc in the air – so give it lots of praise if it does that. It would be a good move not to allow the dog to take the disc once it has fallen on the ground – this should help the dog get the idea more quickly.
  4. Learn to throw – you need to train too. If you aim for perfection and expect your dog to become a good catcher, you should be able to throw the disc properly instead of letting it loose in a random direction yelling: “fore!”
  5. Freestyle – once your dog starts catching flying discs in mid-air, you could start training on a higher level. You could develop your own free style routine – but this would take a lot of training. You must practice different moves with your dog and combine them in an aesthetic manner. Freestyle competitions are judged by a jury, and this judgment is based on criteria such as canine Athleticism, Degree of Difficulty, Showmanship, and so forth.

In the end, even if you are not planning to participate in the World Canine Disc Championships, there will always be a park only a stroll away. All that it takes to have a lot of fun is a Frisbee (or some other type of trademarked flying disc), and a loyal friend to fetch it and bring it back!

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