Disc Dogs Competition

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zoe-picA dog races across the turf, his claws digging into the ground, pushing hard into his next stride, building momentum, faster, faster, faster! With a final turbo blast powered by his rear legs, he pushes off the ground and vaults into the air, seemingly weightless as he stretches his neck into the sky. A sudden twist of shoulders propels his torso and hips 180 degrees as he changes direction midair and snatches the prize from the air – a simple, round plastic disc!

With eyes wide from spectators, the dog delights in the thrill of the chase and the kill (catch). He lands nimbly and races back to his handler. Can we do it again? Can we, can we, huh? Yeah, we can!

This is the sport of disc dogs. It’s been around since Frisbees became popular in the early 1970s, paralleling the rise in popularity of the Frisbee tossing sport, with Fido chasing his master’s throws. When a bad toss resulted in a disc rolling on its side – that was fine by Fido. When a disc skimmed the ground – that was fine, too! But when the disc floated, tantalizing in the air – that was simply perfect, allowing Fido to analyze velocity and drift and match his body’s physical prowess to the job at hand. If he got a little too excited at the prospect of a toss and jumped up at his master and ricocheted off his body as the disc sailed away, how cool was that? All of these moves (and more) eventually made their way into disc dog training and competition.

But the first disc dogs exhibition to grab the public’s attention came on August 5, 1974 when Alex Stein, a 19-year-old college student from Ohio, and his dog, Ashley Whippet, crashed a public event by jumping the fence at a nationally broadcasted baseball game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Cincinnati Reds. Stein had with him a couple of Frisbees, which he threw for the dog. Ashley astonished the crowd with his disc-catching, as he ran up to 35 miles per hour and leaped 9 feet into the air to snag the Frisbee. The stunt was so novel that the baseball game was stopped and Joe Garagiola continued to announce the flying disc action on the field. Finally, after eight minutes, Stein was escorted off the field and arrested. But the nationally televised exhibition of Ashley's skill skyrocketed interest in the sport, and the rest, as they say – is history!

Since then, a large number of official sanctioning organizations have been created to promote competition and the disc dogs sport in general. Local and regional clubs sprouted up everywhere and in some locales formal group classes are offered to help people and dogs prepare for competition. Some top-flight competitors even turned their hobby into livelihoods, offering disc dogs exhibitions for hire for public demonstrations to draw crowds to a variety of community events.

In disc dogs competitions (sometimes called Frisbee dog), dogs and their human flying disc throwers compete in events such as distance catching and somewhat choreographed freestyle catching. The disc dogs sport celebrates the bond between handler and dog, by allowing them to work together. The term “disc” is preferred because “Frisbee” is a trademark (held by Wham-O) for a specific brand of flying disc.

 

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