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Canine Disc - Growing in Leaps and Bounds

Canine Disc (also known as Disc Dog, Frisbee Dog) is a relatively new dog sport in Australia but it has quickly grown in popularity in the last ten years, with many clubs now open across NSW, Queensland and Victoria.

What is Canine Disc?

In Canine Disc competitions, dogs and their human flying disc throwers compete in events such as distance catching and choreographed freestyle catching. The sport celebrates the bond between handler and dog, by allowing them to work together. The term "disc" is preferred because "Frisbee" is a trademark (held by Wham-O) for a brand of flying disc.

An Arresting Performance

The sport got its start in the early 1970s, paralleling the rise in popularity of Frisbee sport. 

The definitive moment came on August 5, 1974 when Alex Stein, a 19-year-old college student from Ohio, and his dog, Ashley Whippet, jumped the fence at a nationally broadcast baseball game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Cincinnati Reds. Stein had with him a couple of flying discs, which he threw for the dog. 



Ashley astonished the crowd with his disc-catching, as he ran up to 35 miles per hour (56 km/h) and leaped 9 feet (2.7 m) in the air to snag the disc. The stunt was so novel that the game was stopped and Joe Garagiola continued to announce the flying disc action on the field. 

Finally, after eight minutes, Stein was escorted off the field and arrested. The nationally televised exhibition of Ashley's skill did much to fuel interest in the sport.

Stein worked with Irv Lander and Eldon McIntire to create the Frisbee Dog World Championship for people and their dogs. Even today, Stein and McIntire continue to contribute to the sport.



What are the different formats in Canine Disc?

Teams of one person and one dog compete in the standard distance "Throw & Catch" event. Points are awarded to the team for catches at varying distances. Competitions also often feature the dynamic “Freestyle event”, which consists of short routines choreographed to music with multiple discs in play. 


Divisions in canine disc events are usually based on the skill and experience of the handler. Men and women generally compete in the same divisions for all disciplines.
Runkle the Border Collie leaping to retrieve a disc
Throw & Catch

This is a distance event and it can go by many names including Toss and Fetch, Bonus Chase, and Distance/Accuracy. The concept is generally the same. In Throw & Catch events sanctioned by Canine Disc Australia, contestants have 90 seconds to make as many throws as possible on a field marked with 10 yard increasingly longer distances out to 40 yards. Dogs are awarded points for catches based on the distance of the throw, with mid-air catches rating an extra ½ point. Only one disc is used for these events.

Freestyle

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 will be either 90 seconds or two minutes. 

Up to 10 discs are used for Freestyle Events. Teams are judged in categories that include Canine, Team, Player, and Execution. 

Incredible flips, hyper-fast multiple catches, and spectacular vaults make freestyle a popular event with spectators, and it is regarded as the highest level of competitive accomplishment.

Games

Games are a competition enjoyed by Canine Frisbee teams of all skill and experience levels, including beginners, because the rules are very simple. All Games are 60 seconds, Teams can earn a Games title, which is based upon a team's ability to achieve a versatile array of objective standards without considering teams' relative competitiveness against other teams. Success in games depends in part upon a handler's ability to strategically approach the games round with a focused awareness of the skills to be demonstrated during that games' competition round.

Why is this sport becoming so popular?


Part of the popularity of canine disc is its accessibility. All that is required to enjoy it is a level playing area, a dog, and a flying disc. Also, a little imagination is an extra plus for Freestyle competition. It is estimated that over one million dogs play flying disc in the United States alone, though only a small percentage participate in organised competitions. Canine Disc Clubs can be found all over the United States, Europe, Asia, Canada and Australia. 

The first club was the Dallas Dog and Disc Club, founded in the mid-1980s by Ron Ellis.

Canine Disc Clubs in Australia

Canine Disc clubs organise and promote the sport on a local level, and work with the national organisation – Canine Disc Australia Ltd to run events. They offer newcomers a way to learn more about the sport, and are a great place for the experienced competitors to give back. Disc dog clubs can be found throughout Australia. 


The first club was the Brisbane & Region K9 Disc Club, founded in 2003 by Damian & Karen Noud. There are currently 9 affiliated clubs within Australia, located in South-East QLD, North QLD, Victoria & NSW with 157 people officially registered in QLD, 35 in Victoria, 28 in NSW and 1 from South Australia.
Banjo, 6-month old Border Collie retrieving the disc in an NFC round

How easy is it to get started?

Anyone who wants to spend time with their canine companion can participate; it is a sport for all members of the family young and old, even those with disabilities. As long as your dog is healthy you can give canine disc a go. The best way to find out if Canine Disc is for you and your dog is to try it.


Canine Disc sport in Australia is open to all breeds of dogs willing to chase the disc,
 whether they are big or small, pure bred or cross breeds.  Canine Disc Australia has 260 dogs registered with the organisation from Boston Terriers, Jack Russells, German Short Hair Pointers, Border Collies, Kelpies, Koolies, Australian Shepherds, and various cross breeds.
Boston Terrier Elliot in action
Any Health & Safety considerations?

Canine Disc Australia places great emphasis on safety. Dogs are not officially allowed to compete until they are 18 months old, however dogs under 18 months are allowed to participate in what is called NFC (Not For Competition) rounds, where the only throw allowed is a Slider or Roller.

Puppies can participate from 16 weeks of age: they participate within the Beginners Throw & Catch class, and get experience on the field with judges, spectators, count downs and have great fun chasing down rollers. Foundation training in the sport sets dogs up to learn how to track the disc and jump correctly.

But I am not a very good thrower of the Disc?


CDA recognises that not everyone will have the same ability to throw the disc. 


There is a variety of classes and divisions which compete separately so you can be assured you will be competing with those at the same skill level. 

There are Beginners, Excellent, Open & Master Divisions in Throw & Catch type competitions, Pro & Super Pro Divisions in Freestyle type competitions, Pro Skills & Super Pro Skills in Freestyle Skills competitions plus a variety of Games.

Canine Disc Training



Chase, Border Collie - chasing down a disc in an NFC round
Not all dogs immediately understand the concept of the game. A dog may not instinctively know to turn and chase after a disc that is thrown over its head. 

To begin, the disc should be rolled along the ground on its vertical edge and the dog encouraged to chase it for a short distance. 

Not all dogs know how to catch a disc so to start the disc should be thrown straight to the dog at a short distance. Once your dog knows how to catch, he can learn the additional concept of running to catch the disc. The disc should be thrown at increasing heights, gradually throwing the disc higher, until it finally goes over the dog's head. At that point the dog will instinctively follow the disc all the way around.

What type of competitions can I enjoy with my dog?

CDA will sanction a variety of different competition formats in the hope that there is something to suit everyone. You can participate in Throw & Catch, Freestyle, Freestyle Skills and a variety of Games.

For more information on the variety of events and levels or the awards you and your dog could win as you start competing, please visit the Canine Disc Australia website.


The 2016 National Championships

The National Championships only come around every 2 years and in 2016, competitors will be vying for 3 separate titles during a 3-day event: National Championship Titles, a National Throw & Catch Champion, a National Games Champion & a National Freestyle Champion. 
Joel & Basil about to start their Freestyle routine
The 2016 Championships will be held in Caboolture, Queensland so if you’re in the region, you are welcome to attend as a spectator and it is free. This is your chance to see the best teams in action and meet representatives from all the affiliated clubs to learn more about this sport.

We'd like to thank Allison Britton from Canine Disc Australia for her contribution to this article.

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