Written by Kerri Lougheed August 2011
I would like to introduce you all to a sport that the stumpy really excels at…… Canine Disc (Frisbee).
I started playing Canine Disc 2004 with my then 7 year old ACD girl “JO” she was a natural and played until I retired her at the ripe old age of 11.5 in 2009, she still carries her Frisbee around with her and she has just turned 14.
It was because of Jo’s age that I decided to get another dog to carry on in the sport of Canine Disc, this is when in September 2005 I met Mistie and my love of Stumpies began, at about 16 weeks old I introduced Mistie to the disc and being a typical Stumpy (which I didn’t know at the time) she just ignored the disc and wanted to play with anything or anyone but the disc, she had no interest what so ever, I tried for months and I thought to myself well looks like you will just be a home body not a sporting dog.
So with that I just kept training Jo with Mistie sitting on the side lines cheering on in her own way, this went on for a many months, then when Mistie was 12 months old I gave her another try and threw the disc for her and to my amazement she took off after the disc and attempted to catch it, I gave her a couple more throws and she was catching them like she had been doing it all her life, it must have been seeing Jo having so much fun that it got the better of her and she has never looked back, she has just turned 6 years old.
In 2007 I had the opportunity to purchase a male puppy from Fran & Brian Eichmann, Aravan Silver Dollar “Buddy”.
Buddy was a little different to Mistie he wanted to play because he had been coming along to Canine Disc displays and Demos at Pet Expos etc. since he was 10 weeks old and he saw how much fun it was…. But Buddy had to obtain his Australian Champion Title first in the Show Ring before I was going to compete with him on a regular basis; he obtained this in February 2009 just in time for him to start competing he was 18 months old. (We do not like to make dogs jump until they are at least 14 – 18 months old).
It took a little while for Buddy to trust me that I was going to throw the disc and to stop him jumping up to snatch it out of my hand thus biting my hand, arm or anything else that was in the way, he is a hard biter so I had to discourage this as soon as I could which I did and he now plays confidently and seldom mistakes my hand for the disc.
I will now fill you in on how Canine Disc is played and scored…………..
The Canine Disc field is 40 yards long x 25 yards wide (we follow the American USDDN rules so we use yards instead of metres to keep it the same worldwide).
The field is divided into 10, 20, 30, 40 yard increments these are the scoring zones, if the dog catches the disc at 10 yards with at least one paw on the ground it will score 1 point and an extra half point will be given if all four paws are off the ground in an obvious leaping motion, so the 10 yard zone is worth 1 or 1.5 points, 20 yard zone is worth 2 or 2.5 points, 30 yard 3 or 3.5 points 40 yard 4 or 4.5 points.
A competition of Toss & Fetch consists of 2 rounds each with a time limit of 90 seconds; the idea is to get away as many throws as you can within this time with the highest 5 scoring throws counting towards your final score.
The other type of Canine Disc Competition is Freestyle, this is where you can use up to 10 discs in a routine of tricks and certain elements choreographed to music, there is 2 x 90 second or 2 minute rounds depending what division you are competing in, it has 4 Judges each looking at different parts of the routine, one will only watch the dog, another the player, another watches the whole dog/handler team and the 4th Judge counting how many discs are thrown and caught or missed, the total scores from all 4 Judges gets added to your first round Toss & Fetch score to give your final score.
Freestyle is Mistie’s area of expertise she prefers this to Toss & Fetch as it is a little bit more technical, fast paced and lots more fun, she just loves to do her overs & flips where she has to catch a disc while jumping over part of my body or doing a back flip all while having to catch a disc in her mouth, plus we do zigzags and passing sequences at a very quick pace and she never takes her eye off that prize… the disc.
Buddy has just started to compete in Freestyle with his first competition at the Qld State Championships held at Gympie (2 hrs north of Brisbane) in August gaining a 3rd place which I was very proud of as he had not had any training for this competition and was only entered at the last minute due to Mistie coming into season and not able to compete.
I would like to add at this point that a there is a lot of stigma surrounding dogs playing Canine Disc, too many people think it is a dangerous sport where dogs can become injured, this is hugely because people have watched someone playing with their dog at a park who just throws the disc and thinks it is funny when the dog does an awkward jump and lands badly or they have seen Television Ads with untrained dogs catching discs.
Safety is the main priority in Canine Disc; we hold training clinics regularly to help people teach their dog how to jump and land safely and how to throw the disc to achieve this, when I hold training clinics I harp on about the safety aspect as I want to show everyone that it is a safe and fun sport to compete in.
Jumping safely is not natural for a dog so they have to be taught how to jump and land on all four paws, not leaping up snatching the disc from underneath and coming down on their hind legs, this will cause injuries and problems down the track, we teach the dog by us sitting on the ground with legs stretched out in front with the dog sitting beside us, we then ask the dog to take the disc which is being held on the opposite side to the dog, the dog will learn to tuck their paws up and jump in a nice arc and landing on all 4 paws, once the dog is doing this consistently we progress to standing with one leg raised out in front and ask the dog to jump up and over in that nice arcing motion.
My dogs Mistie & Buddy have provided Canine Disc Shows at the Melbourne Royal Show in 2009 & 2010, the Gold Coast Pet & Animal Expo and Guide Dogs Qld Open Days for many years and many others too many to name.
Well I could go on and on but I will end here, if anyone would like any information you can check out these web sites for more information on how to play and train your dog www.bark.asn.au or www.frisbeedogs.asn.au, or submit a contact through this web site.