The bright red disc whizzes across the field. In hot pursuit, the black and white border collie finally makes his move, leaping up and snatching the disc effortlessly out of the air. The crowd cheers, the judge marks the score sheet, and the dog runs back to his smiling owner for another throw. Welcome to the sport of disc dog!
This fun new pastime is a great way to bond with your canine partner while he enjoys a good workout and lots of fresh air. It’s easy for you and your dog to participate. Disc dog doesn’t involve a lot of specialized equipment and it’s easy to practice on your own. All you really need is a safe disc made for dog sports, and an enthusiastic canine partner.
Disc dog training tips
Almost every puppy has the instinct to chase, grab and tug. If you start your dog out young, you can bring out these instincts, and get him engaged in disc dog.
To train a potential disc dog, develop interest in the disc by using it as a toy. Wiggle it and play “keep away” games until the dog really wantsthe disc.
Once the dog starts chasing the disc as you move it quickly over the ground, start to let him grab the disc and encourage him to tug hard.
When the dog learns to hold onto the disc really well, stop tugging and encourage him to let go of it on command. As soon as he releases the disc, reward him with another chase and tug game.
Slowly start rolling the disc, then throwing it short distances. Each catch is rewarded with lots of cheers and a game of tug!
Once your dog has grasped the basics of catching and retrieving the disc, you can have some fun by adding in fancier throws and tricks; this is known as freestyle disc. It’s an exciting sport that involves a musical routine of disc
Dogs sail over their owners, vault off their backs, spin, run backwards, roll, catch several discs at once, chase down long throws and just plain have a fantastic time, all to the cheers of the audience.
catches and tricks. Freestyle disc is limited only by your imagination! Dogs sail over their owners, vault off their backs, spin, run backwards, roll, catch several discs at once, chase down long throws and just plain have a fantastic time, all to the cheers of the audience.
Want to compete?
Dogs are allowed to compete when they reach one year of age. Competition is great way to meet other disc doggers and enjoy a day of fresh air and exercise with your canine partner.
The Canadian Disc Dog Association (CDDA) has sanctioned trials across Canada – you can find out more about their competitions and rules by visiting the website CanadianDiscDogs.com. Disc doggers are a very supportive group and are only too happy to help newcomers with suggestions on how to improve their throwing techniques or train their dogs to do a super cool new trick. The CDDA also offers titles that you and your dog can earn. That way, you can track your dog’s progress and success. He can earn Bronze, Silver and Gold levels by catching discs at 100, 150 and 200 feet.
Your dog can also accumulate points towards becoming a Disc Dog Champion, among other titles. There are opportunities to compete in regional and national championships. And the CDDA has not forgotten our junior handlers; it’s not uncommon to see handlers as young as four competing and having a great time with their dogs.
Many people think they can’t compete because they’re not great disc throwers. Not true. People of all skill levels are welcome, and your throwing techniques will get better with practice. Best of all, your dog won’t judge you on your throws – they just think it’s a lot of fun.
Whether you and your dog play in your backyard, compete occasionally, or become national champions, disc dog is a healthy and fun activity that’s well worth trying out!
What breeds are best?
Many breeds enjoy Disc Dog and all are welcome to compete. Athletic and enthusiastic breeds that like to chase and retrieve tend to do well in this sport. Herding and sporting breeds seem the most obvious choices, but Whippets, Pit Bulls and Hounds also do extremely well. Even Huskies, Newfoundlands, Boston Terriers and tiny Papillons have become successful competitors.
Before you get started
Disc dog is an athletic sport that involves running, leaping, catching and turning, so fitness is very important.
• It is vital to assess your dog’s physical condition before starting. Even a few extra pounds means his joints, muscles, heart and lungs are working harder.
• If your dog has physical or health challenges, be sure to discuss them with your veterinarian before starting disc dog.
• Regular exercise and a healthy diet are the way to build up your dog’s fitness level.
• It’s also important to keep your dog’s nails and teeth properly maintained.
Dawn Kadish, DVM and Howard Kadish, BSc, CPDT own and operate Dog Sports Centre training and boarding (DogSportsCentre.com). Together they founded the Canadian Disc Dog Association in 2002 and have been enthusiastic promoters of this fun sport for many years. Dawn and Howard compete with their Border Collies under the name HiQ Border Collies (HiQBorders.com).