The popular canine sport of disc dog requires a human and canine to work as a team. The dog relies on the human for accurate throws of a flying disc and the human relies on the dog’s athleticism to catch each throw.
Maryland dog trainer Gabby Scott competes in disc dog events. However, the initial reasons as to why she started training for the event was just happenstance. “I arrived early for a dog-training class I was attending with my Aussie-mix eight years ago,” says Gabby. “The instructor was practicing tricks with another trainer between classes. It was so cool to see dogs working so enthusiastically. They were happy just to catch a disc.”
Best dogs for disc dog
Gabby says most dog lovers get into disc dog because they have a dog that wants to play fetch and be active partners with their humans. Her Aussie-mix, Gus, preferred swimming and hiking to fetching, so she sought out a second dog with the drive to play along and she found Taco, a Miniature American Shepherd. “I asked for a puppy who had no fear and always had a toy in his mouth, and that’s what I got,” she says.
Taco’s breed is one of the more popular breeds currently in the sport. As is common in most dog sports, herding breeds lead the pack in popularity, as well as mixed breeds. Gabby says dog breeds you typically see are:
However, you can also find:
“You dog doesn’t need to be registered with any kennel club to play, they just need to love frisbees,” she explains.
Training for disc dog
You might believe the most important factor for a disc dog is chasing and catching the flying disc, but Gabby emphasizes that owners should really focus on engagement with their dogs in this sport. “The dog’s knowledge that the game is only fun when they play it with you, their owner, trumps the desire to have the disc,” she says.
Creating this desire can be easy, according to Gabby. First and foremost, she recommends making playtime with the disc a rare thing. “Never leave discs around the yard or in the house,” she says. “Keep discs out of sight until it’s play time. Then, keep play sessions exciting and very upbeat, and keep them extremely short.”
Disc dog is about having fun with your dog playing his favorite game. Teach basic cues of the game using a dog-safe soft fabric or plastic pup-size disc. Teach your pup to do the following with the disc:
Short as in one to three minutes at a time. The first sessions can be practicing tugging with one disc, while making a big fuss about the fun, then switch to another disc, and so on. This builds the desire to tug and play, while also learning the cues to drop the toy and switch to another. Practice short tosses as you begin, and then work your way up to more difficult maneuvers and longer throws. As always, make sure you practice proper warmup and cooldown routines to keep your dog’s muscles and body in shape for the chase.
Don’t use a flimsy, plastic disc for disc dog as it can shatter easily, possibly hurting your dog. Instead use a dog-friendly disc like the Superhero 235 from Hero Disc USA, made from durable, flexible, puncture and bite-resistant plastic. $16.99.
Gear for disc dog
You don’t need any fancy gear in disc dog. In fact, everything you need can be carried in a small, drawstring bag to the local park. Gabby stresses not using plastic discs, as these can shatter easily. Instead, she recommends dog-safe discs like the ones made by Hero Disc USA.
How to compete in disc dog
The easiest way to get started in competing in Disc Dog events is to find a Toss and Fetch League near you. In this event, dogs get 60 seconds to make as many successful catches as they can, with bonus points awarded for catches made in the air. The leagues meet once a week for five weeks each “season” and compete against other leagues around the world.
The AKC now offers disc dog while partnering with the UpDog Challenge. This event offers a variety of challenges and ways to create teams while earning performance titles for your mixed breed or AKC-registered dog.