Giving Dogs a Job: Disc Dogs and Dock Dogs

Does your dog seem to be bored? Do you think your dog isn’t living up to its fullest potential? If you answered yes to any of these questions! I encourage you to consider getting your dog involved in some new hobbies. After all, we have hobbies so why shouldn’t your dog have a hobby as well? Surprisingly, there are a number of fun-interactive sports and hobbies, your dog can get involved in. Be sure to consider what your dog is bred to do. For example, the breed of dog I own is the Belgian Malinois (they are similar to a German Shepherd,) is bred to herd. So, it would be ideal to have my dog Zeus participate in herding, which he will tend to do instinctively. Or if you have a Beagle, a great hobby would be nose work (be sure to read my blog “Giving Dogs a Job: Nose Work,”) to understand what it’s all about. I would like to introduce you to two new sports your dog can compete in, Disc Dogs and Dock Dogs. These are two great ways to get to know other like-minded pet owners. You’ll also meet responsible dog owners and their dogs will likely make great play-mates for your canine. Disc Dog is a high intensity sport that a lot of dogs such as Border Collies love. Dock Dogs are gaining in popularity. In fact, as I write this there is a huge event down the street from my house for Dog Docks that Purina is sponsoring.

Disc Dogs: This sport started over 40 years ago and has become well known for the high flying acts during sporting event halftime shows. Disc Dogs are also referred to as Frisbee Dog Sport. It is a competition between a human and their canine companion, versus other teams trying to achieve the highest score. Essentially, any dog and person can compete; however, some dogs are more apt to be successful in this sport than others. I feel it’s important to ensure both handler and canine find the activity fun; otherwise, what’s the point?

It is important to ensure the dog has a clean bill of health from the veterinarian prior to engaging in this high speed, high flying sport. The barrier to entry is nearly obsolete, all one needs to begin is a disc (Frisbee) and an open field. I cannot stress enough the importance of an open field. I know it seems like common sense; however, I have made this mistake myself years ago. I was at a dog park doing training (outside of its course) using a Frisbee for a reward. My throw got away from me and before I knew it, the disc was heading for an obstacle which my dog, who was attempting to catch the disc, hit. I can’t even share in words how angry and ashamed I was by myself after that. Please learn from my foolish mistake, ensure the field is wide open!

There are a few categories in which a canine team can compete: distance, freestyle and toss & fetch. Distance is somewhat self-explanatory; throw the disc far resulting in a successful catch. Higher points are awarded if the canine catches the disc in the air. Most people are familiar with freestyle, which is more choreographed consisting of things like the dog jumping off the handler’s back high into the air (up to 9 feet) and catching the Frisbee in mid-flight. Toss and fetch is performed with one disc, at a short distance. The goal is to see how many successful catches can be performed in a certain time period.

Dock Dogs: Started in 1997, Dock Dogs are also referred to as Dock Diving. It is becoming one of the most popular dog sports in the U.S. Dock Diving is where the handler facilitates and encourages the dog to dive into the water where the dogs compete for distance or height. It’s all about the jump into the water, whether it’s high (vertical jump into the water) or far (distance from the dock they can reach.) In order to gain height or distance, the dogs are put in a sit/stay at the beginning of the dock and then they run as fast as they can down the dock to where the handler is standing on the opposite end. The handler calls the dog, throws a toy which either encourages a high or a far jump.

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