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  Flying Disc Dog Sport

You've seen them on TV - the dog races out, makes a spectacular leap and snags the flying disc from the air. Grinning the dog races back eager for the next throw. And you've seen them at the local dog park, no less enthusiastic but with varying degrees of skill. That's Disc Dog.

Flying Disc is one of the dog sports that catches the eye the general public as well as people involved in dog activities. Teams competing at the higher levels can demonstrate truly spectacular displays of teamwork and athletics.

Disc dog is very exciting for dogs because it engages the instinct to chase and stop small moving objects, the dog's natural prey drive. It beats a ball because the disc proves a bigger challenge. It can hover and even reverse directions. Mixed breeds and purebreds can all play without regard to differences in their pedigree. Whether it is casual play or exciting competition Disc Dog is great for the dogs and humans alike. Anyone can play the game even if they never compete. Even if you decide that getting involved in the formal end isn't for you please take the time to learn how to keep your canine friend physically safe. Don't risk injuring your dog because you don't know what you don't know.

Competitive Disc Dog does have the some advantages. People who get involved in a group are more likely to check their dog out with the vet before starting, and train properly to avoid injury. The formal activity motivates the person to learn better dog teaching and communication skills. It helps to set goals and the measure the success in reaching those goals. Just as the dog needs rewards and praise for good performance people also benefit from getting positive feedback. Preparing for competition helps encourage regular practice which gives the dog the attention and exercise it needs. The social contacts developed during training and competition also provide resources to help solve dog problems before they become critical. Still if you can't keep it all about fun and teamwork, then don't do it.

The basics of Disc dog are simple enough. Throw the disc, dog catches disc, dog returns disc. It is the details that get complicated.

Competitive disc dog trials are more varied than most dog sports. It leaves room for creativity and physical artistry. There are two primary types of competition Distance/Accuracy and Freestyle, but there is a lot of variation of those types.

Freestyle can be very showy. It may involve contact such as launching off the knees, back, or chest of the handler. Routines may involve throwing multiple discs, which might require multiple rapid returns or dropping one disc in favor of the next or catching the next while still holding the first. Specific styles of throws and catches are judged, and will include a variety of distances. Scoring is based on showmanship / artistry, agility, difficulty, accuracy in setting up the catch, how (and whether) the catch is made, and more. Freestyle competitions may include using multiple discs.

Distance/accuracy competitions score based upon the location and distance of the dog's catch and landing. The labels used to describe these classes will vary. Scoring may also evaluate how the catch was made and whether the dog was airborne. Some tests will challenge the dog's ability to respond to throws delivered rapidly, one after another. A time is set and scoring depends upon the number of catches within that time. Sometimes precision is also called for and the catch must be within specified boundaries to be scored. Typically the handler is restricted to a throwing area indicated by lines or other markers and stepping outside that area can reduce the score or invalidate the throw.

One of the advantages of this sport is that the equipment is inexpensive and the training environment requires only a largish open field. While it is often called "Frisbee® Dog" that name is properly applied only to activities involving the specific flying disc with that name, the one developed by Wham-O. The Frisbee is only one of many disc brands used in the sport. So the more general name of the activity is "Disc Dog." The choice of disc is important not only to performance in the sport but also to the safety of your dog. The disc should not be hard nor brittle. Don't let your dog treat it as a chew toy. Discard it if tooth marks leave burrs that can cut your dog's mouth.

There now discs of all sizes to accommodate the great variety of dogs involved in this sport. Be sure to choose a disc that is comfortable and the right size and weight for your dog.

No matter how experienced your dog is don't expect to quickly go from beginner to star. One of the good things about getting involved in the formal end of the activity is that everyone takes a step back and learns about safety. There are safe and unsafe catches. Dog and handler together learn to reduce impact, assess risks, and encourage safe landing.

Engaging in this activity can be a life saver for some dogs. It can keep dogs out of the shelter and in their homes because it develops bonding and communication. The activity itself provides a focused outlet for physical energy. The dog and the human form a team, each must do its part to be successful. Neither can play the game without the other. The training involved develops self control and discipline in the dog, and teaches the person important basics about teaching and motivating their dog. Teaching some of the more impressive catches, for example, requires that the dog be able to sit and wait until signaled. Set moderate goals that are right for your dog's physical and developmental level. Train for teamwork, fun, safety and success.

Don't make giving up or dropping disc a bad thing for the dog. There are a variety of ways to get a dog to drop the disc without ripping it away. Which is the right way depends upon what motivates your dog. Some people "trade". They may exchange a treat or a chance to play with a tug toy. Sometimes ignoring the dog makes the dog try to figure out how to get you to play again. Reading up on "operant conditioning" can really open your eyes as to building toward a solution, you don't have to solve it all at one go. Successful training, in all endeavors, requires paying attention to your dog, patience, consistency and readiness to consider a new approach.

Don't overwork it. Always stop while your dog is still eager for more. Avoid the "just once more" syndrome. If you got the goal STOP. Don't try it again. First, many dogs, especially the thinking ones, will try something different because obviously it was wrong. After all you kept trying and trying before so if you are trying again then it must still be wrong. Also it takes time to put that new knowledge into longer term memory. So stop while you have it right, and let the dog learn. That doesn't necessarily mean stop playing, just go on to something else. And if you try again after success there is a very good chance it will go wrong again. So end on an up note.

While there are certainly physical types that are at best advantage in the disc dog sport all dogs are welcome. Not all dogs, however, are well designed for this sport. At the competitive level, especially, both a sound structure and an athletic one are vital. The very small and very large dogs will find the sport more physically challenging that more moderately sized dogs. Some disc dog organizations have special divisions for the small dogs. If your dog is physically capable it can enjoy this game even if it isn't perfect for the top levels of the sport. If you don't already have a dog don't choose purely by which breeds do best in the sport. Your dog is your friend and companion first. So choose a dog with the personality and character that you enjoy, then have fun with what that wonderful dog can do. If you find yourself disappointed in your dog STOP and find something else. No activity is right for all dogs or all people.

The links below will put you in touch with getting started information and resources. While you are looking a few things to ponder. This sport isn't about the dog "obeying" you so much as it is about teamwork. Your goal is both to motivate your dog to want to do something in particular, and just as critically to avoid squashing your dog's enthusiasm and willingness to try new things. Never be afraid to be silly for your dog, your dog will love you for it.

Flying Disc Dog - FAQs

This site is reasonably well organized. The information in the FAQ is clearly written, and nicely organized.

MN Disc dog Club Intro to Disc doggin (video)

The best way to get "getting started" information is to see it.

Dallas Dog & Disc Club

The club strives to advance the sport of canine disc and to foster awareness of responsible pet ownership. The FAQ discusses breed selection and some important training fundamentals such as back chaining - a method of teaching a complete behavior in small steps for success.

Colorado Disc Dogs

Tips and tricks of the sport.

International Disc Dog Handlers' Association (IDDHA)
The site covers records, titles, testing, videos and a photo gallery but not, apparently, any resources for getting started, finding clubs or trainers or just general information about the sport.
K9 Frisbee Disc and Dog Team

Kind of a busy site visually but it does have a lot of information both basic and advanced. The answer to a FAQ appears "below the fold" meaning that you have to scroll down to see it, otherwise you would never know that your click on the question brought up the answer.

K9 Disc.Com

Looks like a great site for those involved in the activity. From the home page it is very difficult to find "getting started" information. While it has lots of training information the language assumes experience and knowledge of the sport. Very slow loading. Beginners should start with the Disc Dog Discussion Forum where they can get help with finding local groups, mentoring, training information, getting started or just getting in contact with others in the sport

Flying Disc Training by Hyperflite®

Good basic information for getting started. It covers everything from important considerations in selecting a dog to holding and throwing the disc to video and book resources.

Disc Dogger Weekly (videos)

If you just want to watch some good Disc dog videos try this ever changing collection. Don't forget to check the archives.

Getting Started in Disc Dog

Basic information perfect for the beginner this short article describes how to build interest and focus in the young dog.

Canadian Disc Dog Association

A good basic description of the sport and general rules of competition for the CDDA. The Canadian Disc Dog Association is the regulating body for the sport of disc dog in Canada. The site is welcoming to the person who is just curious about getting started in the activity.

Australian Canine Disc Association (ACDA)

Covers the sport of Canine Frisbee® in Australia.

K9Frisbee Netherlands

Introduction to the sport in Netherlands. This site is written in Dutch. Google can translate.

Japan Frisbee® Dog Association

Uh - yeah - it's in Japanese Google can translate. What I can read of the translation it looks nicely written.

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