It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a…flying dog? Well, not exactly. It’s actually a dog leaping nine feet up to catch a disc mid-air. The disc or frisbee, if you will, is thrown by its human in an athletic game of retrieve, called Disc Dog. This thrilling sport has its origins in the early 1970s, when 19-year-old Alex Stein crashed a nationally broadcast baseball game with his dog Ashley and some frisbees. Ashley proceeded to impress the audience by running approximately 35 miles per hour and leaping nine feet up in the air to catch the frisbees as Alex threw them. People were so impressed that the announcer continued to announce the action on the field…for eight minutes, anyway. After that, Alex was taken from the field and arrested – oops! Alex, along with two other guys, then created the Frisbee Dog World Championship. Talk about making lemonade out of lemons.
The sport of disc dog is intoxicating for dogs because it taps into their natural prey drive and it’s exciting for their human teammates because it taps into their creativity. And it’s electrifying for audiences because, well, who doesn’t want to see a dog run around at over 30 miles per hour and catch flying discs in rapid succession as they hover above and even change directions?
Here’s how it works; you throw the frisbee and your dog catches it. Easy, right? Actually, it’s not. Your dog may instinctively chase things that you throw for him, he may even retrieve the object thrown, but that doesn’t mean that he will chase a frisbee flying up above. It doesn’t mean that he will intercept it mid-air, land, and bee-line it back to you, either. These skills have to be taught, they have to be cultivated. Once you ascertain that your dog is physically fit enough to be a disc dog, you may begin training. The good news is that training a dog in this sport is inexpensive, all you really need is a large field and a frisbee.
Once your dog knows how to catch the frisbee, you can start making it more challenging. You can have him bounce off your leg before taking chase or even jump over your back. He can bounce off your legs, your chest…your creativity and physical abilities are the limit. Different competitions will judge different aspects. Some will judge distance, while some will judge freestyle. They will all undoubtedly judge accuracy of the throw and precision of the catch, as well as difficulty and showmanship.
As with all canine sports, it is a good idea to find someone experienced to help you get started and ensure that neither your dog nor you gets injured. Also, while all dogs of all breeds are welcome, this may not be Cujo’s cup of tea. Be realistic when deciding if you two have what it takes to enjoy this action-packed sport, if so, find a club and get started!