The sport of canine disc or disc dog has one very noticeable aspect to it – most dogs doing the sport jump fairly high in the air. This is something that is expected by most dogs, especially if a dog is competing at a higher level, but really at any level of play. The jumps get more points and audience approval.
When I first started out in disc, my dog Shasta – a larger mixed breed – rarely lifted her back feet off the ground. But she was extremely accurate at catching the disc, even with a novice throwing the disc for her. I was a bit concerned that we couldn’t do much in the sport because of this but we continued to play anyway because we both enjoyed it and Shasta really like chasing toys.
I now have mostly larger dogs (50lbs and over) so when I train in disc, we stay away from high flying vaults or stunts where the dog has to use me as a spring board. Not only is it hard on my body, but on the dog’s body as well, AND impossible, such as if the dog is larger breed.
Having been involved in canine disc for about 15 years, I have been able to learn much about the sport. Not all dogs can do the impressive jumping that gets the oohs and aahhs – BUT they can still play the game and have fun. And in competition, can also sometimes do well. It is important to remember that participating in dog sports and simply working with your dog is about fun and time together, not prizes or placements.
Teaching “LOW” Disc
The most important thing when training with the disc, is to teach the dog how to catch well and then release the disc to you quickly, not jumping high. If the dog is only chasing the disc and not catching or is dropping it halfway back to you, the game stops being fun.
Several of my dogs have done well in competition even without high jumping. Emmett in particular has a heavier set body and most often prefers his back feet on the ground when he catches. Occasionally all his feet will be above the ground but only to a maximum of about 6 inches. Rather than worrying about doing vaults and fancy leaps, we practice a variety of tricks such as leg weaves, peek-a-boo, sit pretty etc, and incorporate these into freestyle routines.
For just regular straight throws there does not need to be any jumping at all. The main focus for training these is to throw the disc correctly so that the dog can catch it. If your dog is not watching where the disc is, catching is almost impossible. If a high moving jump at the thrown disc is done by your dog who is not paying attention, it could result in injury. I try if at all possible to time my throws so that it is quite low when the dog reaches it, OR I throw it very high so that the dog has to watch it as it comes down. When this happens it causes the dog to slow down and not jump to catch it. I have used this method to train crazy jumping dogs to stop doing it, such as my current dog JoJo, who will jump at the air just to be closer to the disc. In her case, this high throwing method eliminates that issue.
Don’t Worry About It
So if you are concerned that playing disc with your dog might cause injuries or you feel like you can’t play with your dog because he doesn’t do it right, don’t worry. It is actually better in my opinion to have a dog who does NOT jump high.
If you are going to compete, it makes you more creative in your routines with tricks and music and will likely also be more mentally stimulating for your dog.