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Disc Dog

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Disc dog is the more generic name for what is commonly called frisbee dog. In disc dog competitions, dogs and their human disc throwers compete in events such as distance catching and somewhat choreographed freestyle catching.

The term disc is preferred because Frisbee is a trademarked name for a certain brand of flying disc.


The sport got its start in the early 1970s, paralleling the rise in popularity of frisbee sport. The definitive moment came on August 4, 1974 when Alex Stein, a young college student from Ohio, jumped the fence at a nationally broadcast baseball game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Cincinnati Reds. He had with him a couple of frisbees and an amazing dog named Ashley Whippet. Ashley astonished the crowd with eight minutes of catching frisbees, running 35 mph and leaping 9 feet in the air to snag discs. The stunt was so novel that the game was stopped and Joe Garagiola continued to announce the action on the field. Finally, however, enough was enough, and Alex was escorted off the field. But the seed was planted, and a new sport was born.

Alex worked with Irv Lander and Eldon McIntire to create a nationwide competition for people and their dogs. It was a sport that is easy enough for anyone, and that celebrates the bond between handler and dog. Even today, Alex and Eldon continue to contribute to the sport.

Ashley Whippet

Ashley Whippet, widely considered to be the greatest frisbee dog ever, went on to win 3 World Championships, perform at the White House for a young Amy Carter, perform during the half-time at Super Bowl XII, and even starred in an Academy Award-nominated short documentary entitled Floating Free. Though many great dogs have come along since Ashley, he is still the standard by which all others are measured.

Ashley's legacy lives on now, 30 years later, as the sport has become popular worldwide. People and their dogs on at least four continents organize competitions and enjoy the simple joy of a disc in flight—and that terrific rush (for the dogs) of the catch at the end!


Competitions often feature the dynamic Freestyle event, consisting of short routines choreographed to music with multiple discs in play, and the short-distance format event, in which teams earn points for catches at varying distances.

Freestyle is a subjectively judged event, similar to Freestyle events like skateboard and snowboard half-pipe, or Freestyle Footbag (Hacky sack). The team consists of one person (handler) and his or her dog. Depending on the event, the length of a routine might be anywhere from one minute and 30 seconds all the way to three minutes. Teams are judged in categories that include Canine Athleticism, Degree of Difficulty, Showmanship, and so forth. Incredible flips, hyperfast multiple catches, and spectacular vaults make freestyle a popular event with spectators, and it is regarded as the highest level of competitive accomplishment.

Short Distance events go by many names: MiniDistance, Throw & Catch, Toss & Fetch, Distance/Accuracy. The concept is generally the same: Teams are given 60 seconds to get as many catches as possible on a field marked with increasingly longer distances. The distances generally don't exceed 50 meters for the longest catches. Points are assigned to catches based on the distance of the catch, and an extra half point will be awarded for the dog being completely airborne for the catch. Only one disc is used for these events.

Long Distance events are less common, but are still popular. They have a few different formats, but generally, the longest catch wins the event.

Divisions in frisbee dog events are usually based on the skill and experience of the handler. Men and women compete in the same divisions for all disciplines except Long Distance, which is usually split into men's and women's events because it is a power event.

Though competitions generally take place in summer on nice, flat, grassy fields, winter frisbee on soft snow is also popular in places.

Requirements to compete

Dogs of all kinds can play frisbee. In fact, many dogs from animal shelters and rescue groups excel at frisbee. Even some World Champions were originally rescued from shelters. Many of the problems that put dogs into shelters and rescue groups, such as hyperactivity, aggression, or destructive or neurotic behavior, are often attributes that can be positively channeled into a sport like frisbee. To put it shortly, these dogs simply need a consistent job to do. Many frisbee dogs also "cross-train" in other dog sports, including dog agility, flyball, sheepdog trials, and obedience.

Part of the popularity of the sport is its accessibility. All that is necessary to enjoy it is a level grassy playing area, a dog, and a frisbee. Also, a little imagination is an extra plus for Freestyle. It is estimated that over one million dogs play frisbee in the United States alone, though only a small percentage participate in organized competitions.


Frisbee dogs are also popular attractions at sporting events as half-time entertainment. Going clear back to Ashley and his 7th inning stretch performance in 1974, Frisbee dogs have performed at countless football, basketball, baseball and soccer halftimes. They are many times found in amusement parks, county fairs and pet festivals of all kinds. There are a very small handful of trainers who even make a living doing these shows.

Frisbee dog clubs are the backbone of the sport. They organize and promote the sport on a local level, and work with national organizations to run events. They offer people a way to learn more about the sport if they are new, and are a great place for the more experienced competitors to give back. Frisbee dog clubs are quite often active in local animal charities, helping to raise money and awareness for the groups that exist to help others. Frisbee dog clubs can be found all over the United States, Europe, Asia, and Australia. The first club was the Dallas Dog and Disc Club, founded in the mid-80s by Ron Ellis.

Teaching a dog to catch a frisbee

Not all dogs immediately understand the concept of chasing a frisbee thrown over their heads so that they must turn to chase it and catch it. If a dog already knows how to catch, it can learn this new concept if the disc is thrown at increasing heights, starting by throwing the disc straight to the dog from a short distance, then gradually throwing the disc higher until it finally goes over the dog's head and he instinctively follows the disc all the way around.

See also

List of dog sports

External links

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