An excerpt from Disc Dogs! The Complete Guide by Peter Bloeme and Jeff Perry, Co-founders of Hyperflite, Inc.
Getting started in canine disc sports means finding the perfect dog. If you already have a dog, then congratulations are in order. Your family pet is a perfect companion for canine disc play. That may seem like a surprising statement. But, if you are like most dog owners then right at your feet sits a loving companion that wants to please you and likely prefers your company to just about anything with notable exceptions reserved for food, water and an occasional romantic inkling toward the opposite sex.
If you don’t already have a dog, then consider an animal shelter canine or a rescue. We have said for years that animal shelter mutts make great disc dogs. Most shelters offer beautiful dogs for little or no money. The venerable mutt can be a great selection as long as he or she has the mental and physical attributes necessary for participation in vigorous athletic activity. To date, at least five former World Canine disc Champions were rescued from the pound. With the many unwanted dogs available, saving a dog from the pound can be an especially rewarding experience.
If your heart is set on a purebred dog, check with your local rescue organizations first. Many rescue organizations are breed specific and were created by enthusiasts of that specific breed. For example, there are many purebred Border Collies who were purchased by people who became enamored with the breed, only to learn that a hyper-energetic BC was more dog than they could handle. These dogs wind up in shelters even though they possess attributes highly sought after by disc dog enthusiasts.
Each purebred or mixed-breed canine has different physical and mental characteristics as well as certain inherited qualities and weaknesses including size, speed, stamina, leaping ability and intensity. The same qualities that make a great herding, sporting or retrieving canine, may make for a great disc dog, but not necessarily a wonderful family pet. For example, Australian Shepherds, with their inexhaustible supply of energy and intensity can make phenomenal disc dogs. Unfortunately, these dogs may not be a good fit in families with small children since their strong herding instincts might cause them to herd and nip the wee ones as they might sheep!
Be sure to also consider the characteristics generally associated with a particular breed. Canines with long snouts and long legs, have a better chance of catching a flying disc than snub-nosed dogs or toy breeds which are not well suited to disc play because of their physical limitations.
Once you make a selection, part of your responsibility as a dog owner and trainer is to learn to recognize and work with your dog’s unique characteristics and special qualities. For example, a hound will be a great tracker, a working dog will be tireless, a pointer will be focused, etc. A good resource for investigating the characteristics of the various breeds is Simon & Schuster’s, Guide To Dogs. The same characteristics applicable to purebred canines will be found in mixed-breed shelter mutts in varying degrees. The experienced shelter staff will often be able to hazard an educated guess as to the likely breeding of the dogs that are available for adoption. This information coupled with your own personal experience and observations will help you find a dog that will be a good disc dog and a great family pet.
With an eager canine at the ready, your disc dog adventure can begin. However, we would be remiss if we didn’t extend to you this warning: DISC DOG PLAY IS ADDICTIVE! Once you introduce a dog to disc play, in all probability, it will become hooked and may show little interest in activities that it formerly found interesting. Your canine’s obsession with plastic may cause you to drive or fly hundreds, if not thousands, of miles to attend disc dog extravaganzas and hobnob with other like-minded disc doggers. Your life may well change in ways you could never have imagined. Just ask some of the, doctors, lawyers, software engineers, teachers, secretaries, business owners, and people from all walks of life — even a few perfectly normal folks – who have been bitten by the disc dog bug. Some of these people have even given up their comfortable lifestyles to tour with the circus, start rescue organizations, or become veterinarians. It’s impossible to tell how your disc dog experience will affect your life, but it most definitely will.