Many people automatically call this sport “Frisbee” dog. Frisbee is a trademarked name, so in competition the preferred term is “disc dog.” The disc dog competition demonstrates the dog and human working as a team in throwing and retrieving the disc. The competition can be for distance catching or freestyle catching.
The term “disc dog” emerged in the 1970’s, when the Frisbee was gaining popularity. It is believed to have started when a man and his dog interrupted a major league baseball game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Cincinnati Reds in 1974. The duo jumped the fence and astounded the crowd with the disc catching ability of the dog. It is said that even though the ball game had stopped, Joe Garagiola continued announcing the disc action that was taking place on the ball field. Dogs and their humans have been playing disc dog ever since.
Disc dog is a relatively inexpensive sport, with the disc being the only equipment needed. Training your dog to catch a disc might be a little challenging at first. Not all dogs understand the concept of catching the disc right away. It is recommended to try and throw the disc shorter distances and at lower heights right at the dog in the beginning. As your dog gets the hang of it, try gradually throwing the disc longer distances and at higher heights. Your dog will soon get the hang of catching it as it goes over its head.
If you are thinking about training your dog at the competition level, there are many disc dog clubs that organize events. You only have to enter “disc dog clubs” and your city into a search engine to come up with a list in your area. In the competition setting, there are several divisions for competing. You can compete with one dog and one handler, or compete with several dogs and handlers. There is a division for “toss and fetch,” in which the dog and handler team earn points based on the distance of the throw. Another division is “freestyle.” In this division you will see the more spectacular catches, involving flips and multiple discs, with some even choreographed to music. The last division is the “long distance” division. This typically consists of four teams all competing to be the last team standing.
Any activity in which your dog participates will keep it healthy and happy. The only health concerns with disc dog would be for the overweight dog or a dog with a known health problem that would be aggravated by the amount of jumping associated with this sport. It is up to you, as the dog’s guardian, and your veterinarian to determine whether your pet is healthy enough to participate. Of course, certain breeds will excel at this sport while others may struggle. You can imagine that a dachshund wouldn’t perform as well as a border collie. But all dogs will love the bonding with their human that they receive from this sport. And after all, isn’t that what it’s really all about?
Photo: Courtesy of Bob Haarmans via Flickr (CC by 2.0)