Whether you're preparing for disc dog competition or just some time in the park, adding tricks to your flying disc routine is bound to be a big hit with your canine. Disc tricks liven up doggie playtime and add mental and physical stimulation for your pooch.
Pick a disc made for canine play. Many discs are unsuitable because they form sharp edges after just a couple catches, don't fly predictably or become extremely slippery when covered with slobber. Look for dog-specific discs offering durability.
Learn to properly throw a flying disc. If you don't know where a disc is going when it leaves your hand, your dog is less likely to catch it. Practice throwing a disc at a tree or other stationary target until you can reliably hit it every time.
Help your pooch form a positive association with the disc. Turn the disc upside down and feed your dog his daily meals out of it for several days in a row. When your dog begins to get excited at the sight of the disc, you're ready to continue training.
Introduce your dog to the disc. Head outside to an open area and begin to gently tease your pooch. Wave the disc just in front of your pup's nose using fast movements to gain his interest. Allow him to grab it out of your hand a couple times to teach him how to pick it up around the edge instead of in the middle like a ball. When he gets excited and worked up, lightly throw a "roller" along the ground. To throw a roller, cock the disc in your hand normally but release it by flipping your wrist down, towards the ground, instead of out and away from your body.
Continue throwing rollers to increase your dog's ability to track, grab and carry a moving disc. Praise your dog enthusiastically for any interest he shows in the toy. Keep the practice upbeat and end on a positive note.
Throw an easy toss to your pup while he's sitting three to four feet away from you. Don't throw the disc at your dog's head but instead toss it a few inches to either side. If your pooch snags it out of the air, have a party. Praise him enthusiastically and let him keep the disc as a reward. When he drops it, toss him another easy throw. If your dog waits for it to hit the ground before diving for it, plant your foot on the disc, shrug and say "sorry." Only let your pup snatch the disc out of the air, not off the ground, from this point on. Tease him a bit to get his excitement level up and then try the throw again.
Catching and Tricks
Lengthen the distance of your throws gradually from the short, easy catches a few feet from you to all-out, field-long throws. Set up your dog up to succeed more than he fails to build confidence and rhythm. If you notice your pooch is missing a throw several times in a row, rein it in and work at a closer distance for awhile.
Introduce fancy footwork to your routine. Many disc dog tricks are simply interesting or unique ways of heeling or interacting with the disc using the handler's body. Have your dog heel on the right or left side, switch places, circle your body or weave between your legs while walking. Reward him with a thrown disc to keep his interest high.
Teach your dog aerial moves. Once your dog is comfortable catching a long-distance throw, begin to integrate vaults into your routine. Start by kneeling on the ground and holding the disc above your head. Encourage your dog to launch off your bent knee to snag the disc. Once your dog makes the connection between jumping off your body and gaining height to catch the disc, he'll never be gravity-bound again. Teach your dog to rebound off your legs, back, chest or hips to add variety to your tricks.
- Wear a protective vest while doing aerial moves. Even small dogs can do a lot of damage launching off human skin.
Since 2001, Kea Grace has published in "Dog Fancy," "Clean Run," "Front and Finish" and an international Czechoslovakian agility enthusiast magazine. Grace is the head trainer for Gimme Grace Dog Training and holds her CPDT-KA and CTDI certifications. She is a member of the APDT and is a recognized CLASS instructor. She's seeking German certification from the Goethe Institut.