Teaching your dog to catch flying disks
Dogs, young or old, and of virtually any breed can be taught to catch a flying disk. Here are tips for making it a great catch with your pooch.
Flying through the air with the greatest of ease! No, we’re not talking about Superman, we’re talking about dogs who love to run, jump, catch a flying disk and bring it back to be tossed again. They enjoy it because it’s a way for them to have fun with you—the pet parent; it feeds into a dog’s prey drive; and it’s fun—plain and simple.
A few things to keep in mind:
Regardless of your dog’s age you may want to start out with a soft disk—a puppy or younger dog may have sensitive teeth.
Rolling the disk on the ground or playing tug of war with your dog will get her to understand, “this is fun!” If your dog isn’t interested in playing with a disk or even a ball she won’t be interested in a disk either.
If your dog is afraid of the disk you may need to take a few steps back and simply get your dog accustomed to the disk without playing with it. (Tip: Try using the disk as a food bowl/water dish for a couple of days. After they will eat out of it, then try again to play tug of war.)
While you can certainly begin training a puppy when he’s young, you won’t want to have him running around too much or jumping off your back or off objects until he is about a year old. (Until their bones and muscles are fully formed.)
Know your dog and know when to stop the activity. If your dog is panting and starts laying down, it’s time to stop.
You should always have a bowl of fresh water when training. Keep the lessons short so they don’t get burned out and overworked.
Note: You need to be just as careful with older dogs. Be mindful of their medical history (ex. hip dysplasia). Be sure to check with your veterinarian.
I caught up with stunt dog trainer Chris Perondi of Stunt Dog Productions while he was between shows to ask how a pet parent can teach his or her dog to catch a flying disk (aka Frisbee). Perondi said, "Chasing and retrieving is an instinctual behavior—returning the item to you may need to be taught, though.”
Before you send the disk into the air, roll it on the ground and let your dog chase it and pounce on it. “They may not always bring it back,” Perondi says. “If they won’t bring it back, you might want to have two disks, one to throw and a second to regain their attention.”
To do that, toss `one of the disks and use a voice command to get your dog to chase it. Choose another voice command to get your dog to retrieve it and bring it back.
A trick stunt dog trainers use is to make it extremely exciting for your dog to bring the disk back to you. “If they bring it back and you have a quick fun game of tug of war they will get all fired up and will equate bringing it back with that.”
Step-by-Step flying disk training:
1. Get your dog accustomed to the disc by playing tug of war.
2.Teach your dog to circle your legs and sit at your side so he is facing the direction you’re going to toss the disk.
3. Roll the disk on the ground to get your dog to understand he is supposed to chase it, catch it, and bring it back.
4. Make sure your dog will bring it back. If he’s not, then pull out a second disk to get him to come back and make it big fun when he does come back. Fetch is an integral part of playing with disks or you will be spending a lot of time chasing the disk yourself!
5. Once your dog will chase it on the ground when you’ve rolled it, now it’s time to throw it in the air.
6. Start out throwing it low so your dog doesn’t have to jump too high.
7. Throw higher and higher until your dog is leaping at a level that is comfortable for him.
8. Offer high praise when he catches the disk in the air and high praise when he returns it to you.
9. Once he’s learned the basics you can get fancy and teach him to jump off your back to chase the flying disk.
One of the problems Perondi commonly observes when people are trying to teach their dog to catch a disk is they have the dog sitting, facing them, and then they toss the disk over the dog’s head. The dog is forced to snap his head around, try to locate the disk, position himself in the direction of the disk and then run toward it.
Instead, start by standing and luring your dog around your legs with the disk and your hand. Get him to circle you then sit at your side before you toss the disk. Make it easier for him to know what you’re expecting and to follow the item you’re throwing. Have the dog sit off to your side and give the command ‘get it’ when you toss the disk.
Playing with your dog is a great bonding experience. No matter what you and your dog are doing together, make sure it’s fun for both of you!
Robbi Hess, award-winning author, is multi-petual: She shares her home with two Devon Rex kittens, three adult rescue cats, a mini poodle, a Goldendoodle, three lizards and two ferrets. When not caring for her pets, she is an editor, speaker, time management and productivity guru, content creator, social media manager and blogger. She writes at All Words Matter, My Divas Dish, and is the story editor and chief cat herder at Positively Woof.