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Disc Sports

7 Things You Need to Know About Doggie Disc Sports

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If you’ve ever watched a movie about a dog, you’ve probably seen incredible disc sport antics. It’s an impressive feat to watch – an athletic dog leaping high into the air to snatch a flying disc before it can land, before returning to the ground at a run in one smooth motion. I can’t say that Janice or Leroy have ever been that graceful in their lives, the big goofs – though that doesn’t stop them from enjoying a game of Frisbee.

It all started at the dog park, where a lot of my stories begin. There’s always something interesting to see at the dog park, and that’s a truth you can bank on. This time around, we saw a beautiful Border Collie named Abbie performing some high-flying tricks that just knocked my socks off. And that got me thinking about disc sports and dogs.

Doggie Disc Sports Products On Amazon

Click Below To Go To Amazon Rating Price
Chuckit! Paraflight
KONG Flyer
ChuckIt Flying Squirrel
KurgoWinga Disc Thrower
Gulpy Water Dispenser

Dogs and Discs: A Long History Together

The concept of chasing a flying disc toy began long before the game actually came into popularity. Dogs have a natural instinct to chase and capture small moving things, due to their wild natures being predators who rely on small mammals like rabbits for food. If anything, the fact that the disc is faster, can hover, can change directions, and is harder to capture than a ball, makes disc sports far more realistic for a dog than fetching a ball.

The origins of fetching a disc can be seen in skeet chasing, in which a dog is trained to go after water fowl and other birds by chasing a clay “bird” that is shot into the air. This practice, and others like it, go back centuries to when hunting was an essential duty for a dog if they and their families wanted to eat.

But the disc game that we know today, the one that is featured in competitions and involves cool tricks and daring feats, was revealed to the world in the 1970s. Since then, both people and their dogs have been obsessed with this game. Here are seven things you need to know about disc sports.

1. The Criminal Start to the Sport

As a game to play with your dog in the park, disc sports have been around for ages. But as an official sport recognized in competitive obedience events, disc sport got its start in 1974, and the story of how it happened is a doozy.

In August of 1974, a baseball game was happening between the Cincinatti Reds and the L.A. Dodgers. The game was a nationally broadcast game, with famous announcer Joe Garagiola filling in everyone at home with what was happening on the field. This was no tiny event; hundreds of thousands were tuned in to this game.

During the game, a Whippet named Ashley made a surprise entrance onto the field by hopping the fence, followed shortly by her 19-year-old owner, Alex Stein. The pair were finishing up their summer break from college, and had been working on disc tricks for years. With a pair of flying discs, Stein and Ashley wowed the crowd with leaps and snags. In fact, the umpires were able to calculate Ashley’s top speed at 35 miles per hour, and highest jump at nine amazing feet! In fact, the game was so entrancing that Garagiola started announcing what the dog was doing, rather than reporting on the baseball.

This went on for a full eight minutes before Stein was arrested, and this nationally televised showcase, however brief it may have been, was all it took to get some traction. Later, Stein and others went on to create the Frisbee Dog World Championship competition, and Stein still works in the sport today. How’s that for a beginning?

2. Two Types of Competitive Disc Trials

In the world of competitive disc trials, there are two main events: the Distance/Accuracy trial, and the Freestyle trial.

Distance/Accuracy is just what it sounds like. The dog is tested on the location and distance of both the catch and the landing. Often the point of this trial is to see how many discs the dog can catch in a short amount of time.

Freestyle is a very showy trial where dogs are judged based on the artistry and skill they display in catching discs. Sometimes this involves multiple discs thrown at once, the dog being launched off the handler’s back, agility feats, and more. This is the trial that gets so much attention from the public.

3. The Game is Tough on Humans, Too

In most competitive trials, handlers must be able to throw the disc within a specific area, at specific distances or speeds, and also assist their dog with special feats. This can be a very athletic game for people just as much as dogs. In disc sports more than any other canine sport, the person and the dog are a team.

4. Joint Issues Plague Disc Dogs

One thing that needs to be carefully monitored in competitive disc athletes is the health of the joints, especially the hips. When dogs are doing a lot of extreme jumping, twisting, stopping suddenly from fast speeds, and agility feats, there is a chance they could injure their joints. Dogs should always be trained to land on all fours to reduce the chance of joint impact.

5. Disc Sports Are Extremely Accessible

One of the great things about the world of disc sports is how easy it is to get involved. You don’t have to have expensive equipment or meet up at a fancy venue with a special track to play disc sports. You just need the right type of disc.

Many people who get involved with disc sports in their backyard start with a hard plastic disc, AKA a Frisbee. You don’t often see the phrase “Frisbee sports” related to this game, mostly because Frisbee is a trademarked brand. These are good starters for teaching a dog if it’s what you have laying around, but you should never let a dog play with one of these unsupervised. Chewing on a plastic disc is bad for their teeth.

When playing disc sports, it’s better to use a soft chewable disc that won’t be hard on the dog’s teeth and mouth. Discs come in all kinds of weights and sizes, so that you can choose what is right for your dog. Some competitive events have requirements for discs, but when you first start, just choose something that works for your dog.

A few of the more popular options for beginners include the ChuckItParaflight, a soft canvas flyer with rubber edges to keep the shape in air; the Kong Flyer, made with the same tough rubber as Kong toys; and the ChuckIt Flying Squirrel, a canvas and rubber flyer with a unique shape that encourages chasing.

6. Not All Dogs Are Good Disc Dogs

The sport officially welcomes all breeds, although there are some dogs that seem simply made for disc sports. But it’s more important to realize that not all dogs are built in a way that makes disc sports healthy for them. Slim, athletic dogs with a medium build are generally going to be the best bet for disc sports. Dogs that are very large with lumbering limbs, or dogs that are very small with not much spring in their step, will find it more challenging – and that can lead to injuries if the dog tries to over-compensate. If your small dog just loves to chase and jump, check into local organizations that have a special division for small dogs, where you’ll be able to get away with lower throws.

7. You Can Make Disc Sports More Accessible for You

Not all people are good “disc sports people”, either. It definitely takes a lot of stamina, arm strength, depth perception, and other skills to compete with your dog in these events. If you just want to play in your backyard and don’t want to wear your arm out, you can always use a tool like the KurgoWinga Disc Thrower. This thing can throw discs a couple hundred feet into the air, so your dog can have a ton of fun, without a lot of effort on your part. It’s a good way to help a very active dog get the exercise they need even if you aren’t able to be super athletic.

Training Your Dog to Chase Discs

It doesn’t take much to train a dog who has a natural inclination to chase, to retrieve discs. The first part is to make sure that you see an interest in the disc from the dog at all. Introduce a soft disc at playtime and see what happens. Or just toss the disc like you would a ball, or roll it on the side, and see if your dog chases it. If they do that, chances are they would make a great disc athlete.

Once you’ve gotten used to just playing with the disc, try throwing it short distances. Give tons and tons of praise when the dog returns the disc, or possibly even use training treats or bits of kibble to encourage this behavior. Be sure that at this stage, you’re throwing the disc at the dog’s height so they don’t have to jump, and just for very short distances. Throw the disc towards your dog, but not at them.

The next step is to find a fenced-in area and start increasing the height and distance of your throws. The fenced-in area ensures that your dog can focus on the catching and you don’t have to worry about them running into traffic or anything like that. Be sure to move very slowly with this game, and ensure that your dog is very comfortable with commands to come back to you, drop the disc, return the disc, and chase.

Warning Signs During Disc Sports

There are some things that you should monitor during a game of disc catching. This is not just a typical game of fetch; this is an athletic feat that requires a lot of extra energy. Therefore, your dog will be at greater risk for overheating, dehydration, and more. Watch out for any of these signs:

  • Heavy panting
  • Excessive drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Disorientation
  • Favoring a leg or foot

If any of these signs show up, you need to stop playing, get your dog into the shade or indoors, and get them a small amount of water. Check on the foot or leg that is being favored. Foot pad injuries get infected very fast and need to be treated right away. Joint injuries should be seen by a vet as soon as possible. If you’ll be playing disc sports away from your home, be sure you have some kind of portable water bowl on you. I like this Gulpy Water Dispenser because it takes up less space, but a bigger dog may need an actual collapsible bowl like these. Just be sure to always have water on you – when playing a sport, the question isn’t if they’ll need water, but when.

Doggie Disc Sports Products On Amazon

Click Below To Go To Amazon Rating Price
Chuckit! Paraflight
KONG Flyer
ChuckIt Flying Squirrel
KurgoWinga Disc Thrower
Gulpy Water Dispenser

The Final Verdict

Canine disc sports are exciting feats of amazing athleticism and now that I know more about them, I want to start training Janice and Leroy to be a little more graceful with the disc. They may not be world-class athletes any time soon, or ever, but it’s a seriously awesome way to burn off all that extra doggie energy, and it’s one of the most impressive dog tricks I’ve ever seen.

In the meantime, though, I’ll be watching some disc sport trials to get my fill. It’s always cool to watch animals doing something they clearly love with lots of skill, and I also admire the handlers who put in so much time and effort for their own part. I had a lot of fun learning more about disc sports, particularly the way the sport got its start. Now I just have to get two lazy pups outside and excited about chasing something in this heat.

Sources:-

http://www.dogplay.com/Activities/disc.html

http://www.petmd.com/dog/wellness/evr_dg_your_dog_and_a_flying_disc

https://web.archive.org/web/20070621204912/

http://www.coffeyweb.com/ashley.htm

About the Author Ash

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