Have you ever seen dogs catching a frisbee in the park? Would you like your dog to play like that too? It’s all in your hands. Here are 5 steps to help your dog start catching (and fetching) a frisbee.
1. Motivate your dog
Motivation is essential for any sport – it doesn’t matter if it’s human or animal. It’s what makes runners run marathons, horses jump over obstacles and dogs chase a frisbee.
The difference is that humans do everything for themselves – they get medals, cups, and impressive muscles on their bodies. With animals it is different. Their motivation is their owner and it is for him that they want to do their best.
It is hard to believe, but horses do not want to jump over obstacles at all – they are afraid of them. They do it because they trust their rider. It’s the same with dogs, who see the frisbee as a piece of unattractive plastic. They catch them because they think it is a game they have invented and that their master enjoys.
So your first task is to shape your dog’s motivation. It sounds highfalutin, but in reality, it’s all about playing together. It’s very sad, but many dogs can’t play – it’s time to change that!
Buy a tug-of-war at the pet shop and play tug-of-war with your dog. Let him win. Play hide and seek together. Hide treats around the house and make him look for them. Rejoice when he succeeds: shout „good doggie”, „great”, „yes”.
The idea is that for your dog, you are the best entertainment in the world. Much better than sniffing pee in bushes, chasing deer and barking at neighbours. The dog must associate the caregiver with fun, not with punishment and reproof – only then will the dog trust him and give his best.
Skipping this step makes further learning impossible. It is impossible to play dog frisbee if the dog perceives the owner as a bore, who demands a lot but gives nothing. For such a person the dog will not want to try.
2. Throwing technique
In the meantime, you can train the correct throwing technique. Contrary to appearances, this is not so easy. Beginners very often treat the frisbee like a ball and throw it too hard. It takes a long time to unlearn this.
Basic frisbee throwing techniques:
- backhand – the most commonly used throw in dog frisbee, resembles a tennis hit from the „backhand”;
- roller – the ideal throw for beginners, the disc rolls vertically on the ground;
- floater – the throw used in freestyle competition, the disc is to drift freely in the air.
The first two types of throws are mandatory, and the third is optional (at least for amateurs).
Correct throwing technique is very important as bad throws in most cases result in the dog not being able to catch the disc. The animal loses confidence, gets frustrated and loses motivation. It is better to avoid this!
3. Getting your dog excited about the frisbee
It’s time to familiarise your dog with the frisbee. Your four-legged dog may not be interested in the disc at first. No one should be surprised – for a pet it is just a piece of unattractive plastic. Fortunately, this is easy to change.
Your task is to discreetly „toss” the frisbee to the dog. Why discreet? Toys placed under the dog’s nose are not interesting for him. Therefore, never put a toy under your dog’s nose and stick it in his mouth!
Instead, you can play tug-of-war with your dog and at some point swap the tug for a soft disc. With toys, you can run away. The idea is to get your dog used to hold the plastic in his mouth and to know that the centre of the play is against your body.
At first, it’s best to have a few frisbees – tug on them with your dog and let him win. At this stage giving the disc away is not required. What’s more, the constant „leave it”, and „fetch it” can discourage your dog from continuing to play.
The best solution is to exchange one disk for another. When the dog has snatched one frisbee immediately starts running away with the other. Provoke the dog to take them away from you. When he starts tugging them away, praise him with all your might.
The dog needs to understand that the guardian is the source of the fun, and the frisbee is not a resource to be defended, but a tool for it. Praise your dog every time he becomes interested in the frisbee: shout „good boy”, give him treats, and speak in a higher voice.
Remember also that every dog is different and not all of them will like playing with toys. If despite your best efforts, your dog is not interested in frisbee, it might be better to consider other dog sports, such as obedience or nose work. Nothing forced!
4. Catching the frisbee in its teeth
The next step is to teach your dog the command „paw”. Despite appearances, this is not difficult. You can throw treats, a ball or other toys to your dog and teach him the command „paws” in this way. How to do it?
Each time your dog catches the thrown object, you should say aloud the command „paw” and enthusiastically praise it. The reward can be the words „good boy”, giving the dog a treat, or another throw.
Your dog will understand very quickly what you expect from him. This game is not only an introduction to catching the frisbee in flight, but also (at a later stage) a perfect warm-up before training.
At this stage, you should wobble the frisbee in front of the dog, provoke it, dodge, move the frisbee faster or slower, and imitate the natural flight path of the frisbee. When the dog catches the disc in its teeth, let it go and let it win. This way you will get your pet used to following the disc.
This stage is very important because the frisbee slows down slightly at the end of its flight, and a dog in chase mode does not do this. This very often results in the dog overtaking the frisbee and… gets hit on the head with it. That is why you have to teach your dog to track the frisbee „dry”.
Remember, however, not to force your dog to return the frisbee at this stage. It’s just about getting him used to catching the disc on the fly. When he is ready for it and you know how to throw the frisbee accurately, you can move on to the first throws.
First, throw the dog frisbee from a short distance. Always throw the frisbee towards the dog, but without hurting him. Do it gently. Say the command „catch”. Praise your dog when it catches the frisbee. Do not force him to return the frisbee.
With time, you can increase the length and speed of the throw, but remember one thing – the throw must be such that the dog can catch it. Otherwise, he will start to get frustrated and destroy the frisbee, or worse – he will become completely discouraged from playing.
If the dog doesn’t catch a few throws, it’s a good idea to go back to the earlier stages, i.e. winding the frisbee or running the frisbee in the air. After all, it’s all about having fun!
Professionals teach their dogs the command „avoid”. After returning the frisbee, the dog goes around the owner’s back without stopping, which gives it a higher take-off speed and allows it to catch the next frisbee faster. Remember, however, that nothing prevents you, even as an amateur, from using the services of a professional trainer.