You, Your Dog, and a Flying Disc

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Some dogs are just born to fly. You see them at the park, leaping high into the air to catch a flying disc, reveling in the pure joy of the perfect catch.

Flying disc games, commonly known as "Frisbee games" and "playing Frisbee," after the popular trademarked Wham-O Frisbee toy, are popular sport, and in most cities across the country, flying disc enthusiasts will hold organized “disc dog” competitions with their dogs.

Dogs that are lean, weigh less than 50 pounds, and have a passion for retrieval are best suited to play flying disc games. What type of disc is best, and how do you go about teaching your dog to play? We will discuss the basics here.

Getting Started

First, make no mistake: while the flying disc is a toy, playing the game is a sport activity. It takes a lot of energy and stamina to be a good disc player. Before you begin training, have your veterinarian evaluate your dog’s physical condition. If your dog is one of the breeds that are prone to hip dysplasia, for example, you will need to have him checked for any potential issues that could be worsened by this activity.

It is also important that your dog has already learned at least basic obedience commands, and that you can rely on your dog to return the disc to you and not go dashing off with it. If your dog is still learning how to control the exuberance of youth and is in the training process, give him time to learn self control and obedience before advancing to more complex maneuvers like disc games.

Second: not just any old disc will do. A soft, flexible disc that is resistant to sharp teeth — made specifically for dogs — is best for playing disc.

Introduce the disc during regular playtime, allowing your dog to hold it in his mouth so he can become accustomed to holding it. Show enthusiasm and praise your dog if he shows an interest in the disc. In the beginning, throw the disc low, at the dog’s level, as you would a ball. You can also roll the disc on its side — again, as you would a ball — and let your dog chase it across the room or yard.

Once your dog has gotten into going after the disc and returning it to you to toss again for him, you can move to the next level. Try tossing the disc a short distance outside — in the yard or at the park. Give lavish praise when your dog gives chase. You may even want to incorporate training treats when he returns the disc to you. Continue to throw the disc low, at the dog’s height level, and for only a short distance. To avoid potential injury, make sure you are throwing the disc to the dog, not directly at the dog.

Next is teaching your dog how to properly retrieve the disc. Make sure to choose a safe location, where your dog cannot accidentally dash off onto a roadway in pursuit of the disc, preferably a fenced-in area. Here is where training treats can prove to be beneficial in encouraging your dog to return right to you. A long training lead can also help you to reel your dog back. Just make sure it is a non-tangling type of lead. Choose consistent command words to use for bringing your dog back to your side and for commanding the dog to drop the disc.

As your dog gets better at catching, retrieving and returning the disc, you can gradually increase the height and distance at which you are throwing it.

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