There is a variety of dog sports that involve the throwing of a frisbee (or another version of the disc) to a dog and the dog catching and retrieving the disc. They have various names, such as disc dog, frisbee dog, Ultimate disc dog, and many others. This article introduces you to the sport of Frisbee or Disc Dog, explains how to train your dog for this sport, and answers the question are heelers good frisbee dogs?
Most of these variations of frisbee dogs can be played as recreational games or as competitive sports. The competitive versions of these sports are where you find the greatest variety of rules, especially in the one known as Freestyle Dog Disc or Freestyle Ultimate Dog Disc, etc.
The most recent variation of dog frisbee originated in the US. A student in the early 1970s named Alex Stein is the most well-known as the originator of the sport of dog frisbee. He introduced it worldwide at an MLB game at which he went out onto the field during the game with his Whippet, Ashley. The MLB game was stopped for several minutes to watch the amazing display of skill of this Whippet who jumped as high as nine feet to catch the frisbee.
Alex Stein later worked with two other promoters to create the Frisbee Dog World Championship for humans and their dogs. In the mid-eighties, up until the mid-nineties this sport became known as the Ashley Whippet Invitational World Finals Championship. Up until the mid-nineties, this was the only dog disc competition organization.
Today, there are many of these clubs and organizations throughout the US and many have started up in Europe and the UK.
Which Dog Breeds Make the Best Frisbee Dogs?
All breeds, including mixes, can compete in Disc Dog competitions. However, some breeds have shown a history of excelling in this sport.
The herding breeds and herding mixes have won the most competitions since the first three years when Ashley the Whippet won all three years. Border Collies and Australian Shepherds are excellent competitors in this sport.
Are Heelers Good Frisbee Dogs?
Australian Cattle Dogs are also starting to attract attention for their performance in disc dog competitions. Australian Cattle Dogs, also known as Heelers, are natural for the sport of disc dog.
They are excellent competitors in many dog sports such as Agility, Rally, Obedience, and Disc Dog. Heelers, like the Border Collies, are among the most intelligent of dog breeds. They have incredible focus and a strong work ethic that really makes them excellent competitors in most dog sports.
Heelers were bred to be active for long periods of time and have an incredible amount of endurance. They are very agile, as shown in their excellent showing in dog agility competitions.
They are easy to train and in fact, do best when they are continually taught new tricks and tasks. As a result, it is in your own best interest to get your heeler trained and involved in as many different activities as you can. Keeping your heeler active will make her a much better pet at home and less likely to destroy things out of boredom.
How to Train Your Dog for Disc Competition
Disc Dog is one of the least expensive dogs sports to compete in. The only requirements are you, your dog, an enclosed space, and a frisbee disc.
The first step in training your dog for dog disc is to get her familiar with the disc and to associate it with good things. You can start out placing some treats in the frisbee and have your dog eat the treats out of the frisbee.
One problem you may encounter in your training is getting your dog to hold the frisbee correctly. She needs to learn to catch and hold on to it until she releases it back to you. Just go slowly and keep working with her until she understands how to hold on to the frisbee and to pick it up from the ground no matter what side it lands on.
Another thing to keep in mind is not to overtrain your dog beyond her attention span. Five to ten minutes is enough time for one training session. Also, if it is extremely hot outside your dog will need to open her mouth to pant and cool herself cool. She will not be able to hold onto the frisbee when she needs to pant so don’t train her in excessive heat.
Keep Her Interested in the Frisbee
Then play with the frisbee and encourage her whenever she shows interest in the frisbee. You want her to associate the frisbee with fun activities. Be sure to give plenty of praise to your dog to encourage her.
Once she is comfortable doing this, then start out just rolling the frisbee on its side and getting her to retrieve it to you. If your heeler already loves to fetch, then this part should go smoothly. When your healer brings the frisbee back to you be sure you reward her and give her some treats.
When your dog has mastered the retrieving of the rolling frisbee, the next step is to teach your dog to take the frisbee from your outstretched hand. Start your dog in a sitting position at least 5 feet away from you. Hold the disc at arm’s length, first while you are sitting, and call your dog to come and retrieve it. As your dog does this successfully, raise your level gradually until your dog can grab the frisbee while you are in a standing position.
If Your Dog Moves Too Fast
If your dog gets excited and goes too fast for your next grab, have her walk around behind you to reposition which allows you enough time to get ready for the next handoff. To teach this ‘around’ command, lure your dog to go around you with a treat or the frisbee and praise and reward her when she completes the move correctly.
Once she has mastered this task, start throwing the disc a little way at first a short wall before she reaches you so hopefully, she will just catch it. Once she understands this move, increase the length of the throws until she is comfortable with more distance. Also, start this move from a sitting position, gradually raising yourself up higher until you are standing while releasing the frisbee just before your dog reaches you so she learns to catch the frisbee from a standing position.
Be Sure to Give Your Dog Good Frisbee Throws
If your frisbee throwing is not so great, practice on your own to get it right so your dog will receive better throws.
Teaching your dog to master frisbee is not going to go that quickly, so just keep encouraging her and rewarding her and be consistent and patient in your training and she will improve.
To visualize the training process, please watch the video below.
How to Find Clubs and Competitions
Once your dog has a pretty good handle on dog disc, then you may want to reach out and find a local club or organization that you can join to keep you apprised of upcoming events you may want to participate in with your dog.
Flying Disc is a fun and active way for your dog to learn something new and provides her with a great way to burn off energy. Whether you learn tricks for competition or just have a great time at the dog park, Flying Disc is the perfect way to get started training. And if your dog gets the hang of it, you could try your hand at dog competitions next!
Before getting started, remember that you should always consult your veterinarian to ensure your dog is fit for exercise. Also, puppies less than one year should not be doing jumps, so keep the frisbee close to the ground when working with a puppy.
Another great sport to try with your Australian Cattle Dog is paddleboarding for dogs.