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How'd You do That?
Teaching You and Your Dog How to Play Disc!

Remember, there is no one true way to train your dog, so please educate yourself and use caution when working with your dog.  You are ultimately responsible for the welfare and care of your dog!  

How'd you do that?
When I am out playing disc with my dog Hope in the local park or performing in a demo, I always get asked the same question. "How did you teach your dog to do that?"  Well....lots of trial and error, a lot of reading, watching videos and most importantly, learning from others already involved in the sport.  

Educate Yourself
If you have a high prey drive pooch, you have to educate yourself before training can take place.  Even as a an assistant dog trainer, I have found that I am training the human about 90% of the time.  My dog Hope is a rescue, and an extremely high prey driven animal.  So much so, that she is always wanting to play 24-7!  It is truly amazing how much energy this little dog has!  When Hope was growing up, she caused a lot of damage to my backyard, and being uneducated about this breed, my frustration level rose and so did my lack of patience.  I knew that I had to do something or I was going to go out of my mind!  Hope had the tendency to dig 5 gallon bushes out of the ground and leave them in the middle of the yard as to say, "Hey dad, look how well I can landscape your yard!", or, "This tree didn't look good here dad, so I removed it!" It was time for the madness to stop.

Need Something To Do?
I had to find something for my dog to do, more like a job.   Border Collies are in the herding group, or as I like to call them sometimes, the ankle nippers.  Hope was literally going out of her mind with boredom, and in this boredom, these highly intelligent animals find their own jobs to do.  Unfortunately, Hope liked to landscape.  

What To Do?
I had to find something for her to do!  There are many choices when it comes to dog sports.  There is Agility, a timed event that challenges the dog to maneuver up over and through various obstacles and has many clubs and thousands of members.  There is the high speed relay of Flyball, where 4 dog teams jump over 3 hurdles, grab a ball from a platform, and return over the same hurdles.  Awesome.  Then there is Canine Disc.  All I needed was a  few discs and an area to work in.  Simple!  So I thought!

Being a person on a limited budget, the first mistake I ever made was my disc choice.  I made the major mistake of taking the cheap way out, and ordered about 400 promotional discs that were run errors off of E-Bay.  I learned real quick! I had 400 pieces of junk, that shattered and cut my dog's mouth.   Make sure that you buy discs that are specifically made for dogs.  They come in many shapes, sizes, colors and different levels of durability.  My personal favorite is the JAWZ from Hyperflite!  A heavier flexible disc that is puncture resistant!  They have a pretty amazing video showing the durability of the disc.  My dog has a hard mouth, and this is the only disc that can take her punishing chompers.  Other popular discs like the Wham-0 Fastback, K-10, and Hero disc are lighter in weight, have a better float time, but do not hold up well with hard biters.  Check out the equipment page for disc information and manufacturers. Back to training.

"Hey buddy,What did you do that for?"
Got my discs, got my dog, lets do it!  So I thought.  I took Hope to a park near my house and thought, "This is going to be simple, all Border Collies can do this."  Well.....I was wrong.  I set Hope out in front of me a short distance, and threw a disc at her, and she moved out of the way, as if saying, "Hey buddy, what did you do that for?"  She was right!  I had no idea what I was doing.  Time to get educated, again.  Here is what I learned and what I now teach to others.

Baby Steps
Some dogs are somewhat natural at catching stuff and retrieving, but if you think about it, all of it happened with shaping, or little blocks of learning.  I try to teach my newcomers in "baby steps",  small learning blocks that lead to the bigger picture.

Get that dog excited to play with "Cat and Mouse"
Get that dog excited about the disc!  Get down on the ground and tap and move the disc all over the ground in front of them.  Don't let them have it and really tease them with the disc.  After a few seconds let them have the disc, return, drop and then repeat.  You may even want to tie a small line to the disc and drag it on the ground!   This will get their prey drive kicking! 
It is always important to have more than one disc on hand, this way as soon as the dog drops the first one, you can immediately reward him with a throw of the next disc.   

1-2-3's and the Roller
Ok,your dog is ready and excited from your little Cat and Mouse game, and now it's time to work! This simple move is probably the most important training piece for your dog!  It builds your dog's tracking skills, builds endurance and really gets the prey drive kicking into high gear.  With your dog in close proximity, #1 roll the disc on the ground a short distance from you, and have your dog grab the disc while it is still on edge, #2 have the dog return to the point of throw, #3 have your dog drop the disc and repeat with #1. Praise, praise, praise! It is very important to start small then build upon learned skills. When your dog is catching the disc on edge at the short distances, slowly increase the distance .  You want your dog catching the disc on edge about 95% of the time.  Over time and with practice you will be able to roll some real zingers, and you'll see your dog kick it into high gear with some impressive speed and tracking skills.  On to the take!

Click Here for Vid clip -  ROLLER

The Take
The take is meant to teach your dog how to "take" the disc in a position in the air.  With your dog in front of you in a sit/stay, place the disc at the dog's head height and give the command "take" or whatever command feels comfortable to you, and let the dog take the disc from your hand.  Praise, praise, praise! Return, drop, and repeat the same move at close distance.  Again, small steps are the key.  As your dog gets the take down, slowly, slowly increase the height and distance that the disc is from your dog.  Your dog should be running into and jumping up for the disc and taking it from your hand.  Your dog will get used to jumping up at this level and will jump for the disc instead of waiting for it to come down to ground level when you are throwing at distance.  Move into the toss.

Click here for Vid Clip-   TAKE

The Toss
After you and your dog have the "take" down, you want to begin tossing the disc!  As always, small steps are the key to success.  This move is similar to the take, but now the disc is leaving your hand instead of the dog taking it from your hand. Follow the same steps as the take, and slowly increase the distance of your throws. Return, drop, repeat!  Praise, praise, praise! There is a little bit of timing involved with this one, and the "around" move can help. 

This is a very important move, and it gives you a small lead on your dog when you are throwing the disc at any distance.  The "around" is simply having your dog go around your body right before you throw the disc for your dog.  Performing this move can seem tricky and frustrating at first, but has big rewards in the end.   Lead your dog around the back of your body with the disc from any side that you choose,  and give the command "around".  Only when the dog has gone around your body do you throw the disc! Return, drop, repeat!  Praise, praise, praise!!!!!!!!!!!!  Repeat this move until your dog is going around you 100% of the time on command.  Now spice it up with dog moves and trick throws!

Click here for Vid Clip-   AROUND

Dog moves!
In better terms, tricks!  Add some roll overs, high fives, waves, weaves, spins, flips, throughs, sits, back ups, walks, back stalls, overs and anything else you can dream up!  A lot of these moves are discovered by accident, so remember go out and have fun with your dog and play around!

Trick Throws and Moves
As varied as dog moves and too numerous to count!  Backhand, air bounce, wrist flips, sideways, skips, upside down, pushes, air brushes, kicks, body rolls, thumb toss, butterflies, nail delays, rim slides, behind the back toss etcetera, and the always impressive back vaults!  

Simply put, your dog uses your body as a launching to pad to catch a disc in air. These vary and include, but not limited to,  the back vault, reverse back vault, leg vault, chest vault, and reverse chest vault! As impressive as these moves are, they are not neccessary to be a  successful  or even a champion!  Many champions have been made without ever performing one of these moves!  It is very important to know your limitations!  Though impressive, these moves should be done with care and with your dog's safety in mind.  Consult a vet before vaulting your dog.  You want to make sure your dog is healthy enough and old enough to perform this task!  Use a vaulting vest to protect your body and to give your dog a good platform to jump from.  Now put it all together in a  freestyle routine!

Just like a figure skater, you will take all your tricks and combine them into a routine to music.  Make sure that you incorporate "flow" to your moves.  "Flow" is combining tricks of the dog and handler into a seamless and constantly moving routine, where the dog and handler move from one trick to another  with smooth transitions.  Routines last from 60-120 senconds long depending on the competition. Check out the differentCLUBSandORGANIZATIONS.

  Remember, you would not be doing any of this if it weren't for your dog, so HAVE FUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  You will always be a hero in the eyes of your dog!