dog jump

How to start a dogfrisbee journey

Published by: Mikołaj Synowiec

Introduction

I was thinking about a topic for an article and I typed “dogfrisbee” in Google. I saw “How to start a dogfrisbee journey?” everywhere so I decided that I will talk about it as well. I read a few blogs and most of them were talking about introducing a disc to a dog, how to teach a dog to catch a flying things and so on. If we understand “dogfrisbee journey” as a game with a disc it’s ok but for me the journey starts way earlier.

Why does it start earlier?

If you will keep reading and following my work you will probably hear me saying “Frisbee is very complex” many times… Because it is! I spend lots of hours analyzing things connected with dogfrisbee. We have here so many enormous behavior chains and they consist of very difficult behaviors.

That’s why thinking that we start teaching dogfrisbee when the disc is introduced is mistaken. If we want to be successful we have to start much earlier so that our dog is ready for those complex behaviors.

Great example for explaining why is it wrong to start with a disc is pole jumping. Imagine that you came to the PE lesson and your teacher says “today we will do pole vaulting. Here you have a pole. Go ahead and try few times. I know you will get this”. It doesn’t seem right. Doesn’t it? Let’s look at the students. You will probably see three major groups:

  1. “Athletes”- they are good in sports and like to be active. They take a pole eagerly and jump. They tried. Is it good for their technique? Probably not. If “go ahead and try” will continue it will be just reinforcing bad habits.
  2. “SemiAthletes”- they like sport but their body awareness isn’t that good. They hesitate but when they see that other kids are jumping they also try. In dog world it would be a dog who is not sure that he/she wants to do it but “Mum”/”Dad” encourage the some much that they are doing it anyway.
  3. “NonAthletes”- They don’t like sports and they refuse to try. They only thing which can push them to do it is teacher saying that they will get bad grade. But their choice is made by force!

In this example teacher equals you, student is a dog and pole vaulting is dogfrisbee. No matter which category your dog feats into it is wrong. But if the teacher prepared all students to that it would be a different story.

So what does “earlier” actually mean?

To understand it we should break down the whole preparation phase. By preparation phase I mean everything which should be done before throwing a disc so that our dog has tools and is ready for performing those complex behaviors.

Where should I start?

Health

First and foremost health. It’s always should be our top priority. Dogfrisbee is very physically demanding and can be dangerous if done mindlessly. Ask vet weather your dog can train Frisbee. If you have a green light go to the second step.

Proprioception

Dog fitness is getting more and more popular and with it goes proprioception. What is it? It is an awareness of where your body is related to time and space around you. We need a dog that is aware of what is happening with him. What his body does and has to do in order to execute something correctly. We should spend a lot of time at this step. The more aware your dog is the safer the game will be and the easier those difficult behaviors will become. How do I start working on proprioception? Great thing to start is walking on different surfaces. Just pay attention during walks to what your dog is walking on. Maybe let him walk through sand. It is very wide topic and it’s unfortunately not a main topic of this article but I will recommend you to check out Sam Turner- balanced dogs if you want to know more about it.

Fit body = Fit mind

If your dog is aware of his body it’s time to add some strength and speed to it. That’s very important step but overlooked. People usually want to start with strengthing hind limbs or forelimbs and bla bla strenghting everything but if our dog has weak proprioception skills it is just making him more likely to injure himself/herself because he/she will still don’t know what is happening with his/her body but surprisingly he/she will have more power than before. It’s like giving a kid matchbook and saying have fun. If you want to go to this step ask yourself twice is your dog ready?

Ok. That was a harsh start but it for a dog’s safety case. Anyway that still doesn’t mean that strength is not important. It really is. It allows our dog to do more. Those are the tools which your dog can use to perform better and better. On top of that if our dog is landing and has more muscles that mean that his/her joints are under less pressure.

Again I won’t go into exact exercises because it’s not the topic :D.

Skills

Now our dog should be aware of his body and has strength. He has his body ready. Now it’s time for mind. So dogfrisbee requires a lot of skills from a dog and we should teach as many as we can before taking Frisbee. For example great thing to do is simply tugging. It brings so much good stuff to the table. I believe that tugging should be 70% of our whole preparation phase. Besides tugging we have tugging based exercises like exchange work and many others (Again topic for another article. It just should give you a sense of direction).

Behaviors

As proprioception and body strength are tools for skills, skills are the tools for behaviors. When our dog has the wide repertoire of skills we should add to that more specific behaviors. Like catching things, chasing, changing strides etc. Now our dog is capable of doing it and we should practice that a lot. Still without Frisbee! For example tugging with different toys, catching in different heights, different shapes and so on. There is a lot we can do to make a technical execution of Frisbee behaviors (with real Frisbee) more likely to appear. When we work on it properly then we will see less things to improve/change when a Frisbee come to play. What is also very important is that if we practice that beforehand then the response classes connected with Frisbee behaviors will be full of technical(as safe and as effective as possible responses.

Frisbee involved!!!

When our dog has good proprioception skills, fit body, skills and behaviors connected with Frisbee it is time to introduce him to a real Frisbee. How do I do it? By practicing the same exercises as we did for training skills and behaviors. Tugging, exchange work and so on. We do the same but with a disc. All in all it’s just another toy.

Time for throws

After we did all of that. (And I’m not talking about few sessions! I will practice it with my dogs for a few months) it’s time to throw a Frisbee. It is something new so we should add “flying factor” slowly. For example when we do exchange work we can make a few tugging exchanges and then throw a little floater (disc spins almost in place). Then slowly extend the flight. Few centimeters, 30 cm, 45 cm, 1m… And we always should have in mind that our top priority is technique! If my dog is messing up on 1m. It’s my fault because the criteria was too high. Go back to basic exercises and start with flight again from 0cm gradually to 1m. It takes time but if you want to do something the best you can it always takes time.

Is it necessary?

I never ever thought about Frisbee as just a game. I am very passionate about it. Here are the steps I will take with my own dogs. I do this to prepare them for the highest level of performance, to let them bring out the full potential and the most important thing to let them have as much fun as possible while everything is safe!

If you are like me I highly recommend you to spend a lot of time on each step. You won’t regret it and your dog will be grateful for that :D. It is a lot of fun to work on preparation!

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