Dog frisbee, officially known as "disc dog," is one of the oldest and most widely accepted of the canine sports. It started off as nothing more than a fun activity for dog and handler, taking the traditional notion of playing fetch with a ball to the next level. Soon it had blossomed to a full on sport, with associations like SkyHoundz and United Frisbee Dog Operations sponsoring competitions across the globe.
While it is an international hit now, this popular sport got its start in the U.S. In August of 1974, it gained national attention when a young man named Alex Stein and his dog climbed the fence at a Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Cincinnati Reds baseball game and began putting on an exhibition of elaborate moves in the outfield. Though the stunt resulted in his being escorted off the field, by that time it had caught on with the crowd and interest in disc dog took off.
It remains one of the best known of all canine sports to this day. Though it involves the use of the popular plastic flying disc known as a Frisbee, because that is a trademarked name, the sport is often referred to as "disc dog" instead. No matter what you call it, the format of dog frisbee remains the same, with a handler throwing the disc and his dog catching it and bringing it back.
Organized events usually take one of several formats, including toss and fetch, freestyle and long distance. In the most common type of competition, toss and fetch, contestants usually have 60 seconds to make as many catches as possible at a variety of distances. Dogs are awarded points for each catch based on the distance of the throw and the difficulty of the catch, with mid-air catches counting for more.
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For spectators the most exciting form of dog frisbee is freestyle, which involves intricately choreographed routines, often set to music. This is considered the highest level of competition as it involves a dog displaying so many different skills. The long distance events can vary in format, but in most cases it boils down to the longest successful catch winning the competition.
While any breed can participate in the event, it tends to appeal most to high-energy breeds like the Australian Shepherd. These tend to be the most flexible and sturdy competitors as well, which allows them to stand up to the rigors of regular competition better than most. No matter what the breed, though, the ultimate goal of the sport is to have fun while showing off both the physical and mental prowess of the dog.
Training for dog frisbee is relatively easy and inexpensive, as all it requires is a dog and a disc and the space to run. You'll want to start with short distances and straight forward throws to the dog first. Once he gets used to the idea of catching and returning the disc to you, then you can begin to incorporate longer throws and throw over his head to encourage jumping.
There's nothing quite like spending a couple of hours tossing a frisbee for your dog to catch. It allows both of you to get much needed exercise while sharpening the bond between the two of you as you learn to communicate. Soon your dog will be pestering you to go play frisbee and you'll both be better off for it!
Watch this video from the SkyHoundz 2016 Disc Dog World Championships...