Jumping Jehosaphats: Teaching a Dog to Jump for a Flying Disc

An excerpt from Disc Dogs! The Complete Guide by Peter Bloeme and Jeff Perry, Co-founders of Hyperflite, Inc.

Many veterinarians recommend that you don’t encourage your canine to jump until it is between 12 and 18 months of age. However, we all know that most canines will jump whether we like it or not. In fact, if you try and keep an energetic young canine from running, jumping and carousing, it will probably explode. Short of chaining your canine to the ground, there is no real way to prevent jumping behavior. In our experience, jumping behavior, in and of itself, rarely causes injuries. After all, it’s not the jumping that causes the injuries, it’s the landing! We suggest the application of logic and reason to the problem. First, evaluate your disc dog candidate, whether young or old. How athletic and coordinated is your canine? How focused and obedient is he? Is your dog trim or a little overweight? Has your canine been cleared for athletic activity by your veterinarian? The answers to these questions will guide you in determining whether your beginning disc dog or puppy is ready to learn tricks that involve jumping.

Vaulting, where the trainer’s body is used as a launching pad for ultra-high jumps, is another matter. Just to be clear — under no circumstances should you vault a canine until: 1) it is at least 18 months of age; 2) the canine has been checked for genetic predisposition to hip displasia (a chronic problem for German Shepherds and certain other breeds); 3) the canine has developed adequate coordination and good spatial awareness; 4) you have received hands-on instruction from an expert trainer who comes well recommended by other experienced disc doggers. Vaults are not necessary for success in competition and they increase the possibility of serious injury. You don’t have to do them to win a canine disc World Championship title. If you do choose to perform vaults, have your dog jump far, rather than high. Either type of vault is spectacular if well executed and the long vaults are considerably safer than the high ones.

So, what do you do if your canine doesn’t want to jump? Simple. First, recognize that there may be many reasons that your canine might not jump naturally. For example, if your canine is packing a few extra pounds, it may not feel like jumping. Certain breeds, like Blue Tick Coon Hounds jump naturally as if they’ve cornered a raccoon in a tree. You wouldn’t expect Saint Bernards to be a good jumpers by virtue of their size and less-than-speedy approach to just about everything. Most dogs are fully capable of jumping if you give them a reason to do it. A treat might be just such a reason. If you have a dog that is not yet hooked on the disc and you want to encourage jumping, try running with a treat held in your hand at a challenging height for your canine. Why run, you might ask? Jumping while running is safer than vertical jumping because canines are less likely to injure themselves in a striding jump. As you teach your canine to jump, give the “jump” command. If your canine jumps, then praise and reward him (either with the disc or a treat) for the effort. Remember, initially, it is not important that your canine catch the disc or grab the treat – it’s only important that he makes the effort when you give the command. You can also encourage jumping by holding a disc above your outstretched arm or leg. If you have to, lay on the floor, hold a disc in the air above and beyond your outstretched leg, and encourage your canine to step over you. Hold the disc higher each time and eventually, he will get the hang of it. Some canines will try and go around you to get the disc. If you need to, enlist the support of a helper who can lead the dog over you as you give the jump command.

You might also try encouraging your canine to jump through a Hula Hoop. The Hula Hoop is great because it is non-threatening, lightweight, and plenty big enough for your dog to jump through. Start small and work your way up to higher and higher jumps. Use a disc or treat for bait until your canine gets the idea. Be sure to give the jump command consistently when you want your dog to become airborne.

Finally, there is no better way to teach a dog to jump than to make good short throws into the wind with lots of spin. Throwing into the wind will cause a disc to hover in the air in front of your dog. Eventually, old Spike will grow tired of waiting for the disc to drop down to his level. Instead, he’ll reach up and grab it. When that happens, sing out with praise and make a huge deal about it. Try and repeat the behavior as soon as possible by making the same kind of throw that induced the first jump. Before you know it, jumping will be as natural to your canine as feathers on a duck.

Reprinted with permission from Hyperflite, Inc. www.hyperflite.com.

End of Article Above

About the Authors

Peter Bloeme

Hyperflite co-founder, Peter Bloeme is currently director of the Skyhoundz Championships. In this role, he manages more than 100 Local Championships, 10 World Championship Qualifers, and the World Championship — reaching millions of consumers with messages of canine health and fitness.

Bloeme’s career of tossing, skipping, bouncing, spinning and twirling a plastic disc into the air began in 1974 when he won the Junior National Frisbee Championships at the age of 15. In 1976, at the age of 19, he won the World (human) Frisbee Championships at the Rose Bowl in California before 40,000 disc fans.

In 1983, Bloeme added a new element to his sport – a black and white Border Collie named Whirlin’ Wizard. The two went on to win the 1984 World Canine Frisbee Championships making Wizard, at less than 2 years old, the youngest dog to ever win the title. At the same time, Bloeme became the only person to win a world title both by himself and with his dog.

In 1990, Bloeme added a little magic to his routine – literally – with the addition of Magic, a black and white Australian Shepherd. Over the years, Bloeme, Wizard and Magic performed hundreds of disc dog demonstrations at sporting events including Major League Baseball, National Football League, World League football and National Basketball Association games.

Bloeme and his canine companions have also performed numerous times before sold-out stadium crowds all around the world. They have performed half-time shows at sporting events and have made public appearances in countries including Canada, China, England, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, and Sweden. Perhaps his most notable appearance was at the 1995 Japanese Baseball All-Star Game in Hiroshima, Japan where, after the seventh inning, the game was stopped for a ten minute exhibition by Bloeme and four Japanese dogs. Bloeme’s performance was viewed live by a sold-out crowd of 40,000 fans plus an estimated 26 million people on television through the Tokyo Broadcasting System.

During the 1970’s, Bloeme served as technical advisor to CBS Sports for a half-hour television special on Frisbee and toured Europe as a representative of the International Frisbee Association.

Bloeme and his dogs have appeared on television in the U.S. hundreds of times, including featured appearances on shows such as “Good Morning America,” “Late Night with David Letterman,” and on CNN and ESPN. You may remember seeing Wizard opening the Disney movie, “Flight of the Navigator.” In a Miller Lite television ad, Bloeme was responsible for the on-camera Frisbee action. Wizard even had a walk-on role in the spot. Bloeme has also served twice as the color commentator for Animal Planet in their one-hour show on the World Championships.

In 2001, Bloeme, Jeff Perry (1989 World Champion & Hall of Famer) and Greg Perry founded Hyperflite, Inc., a company dedicated to developing advanced disc technology. Their first disc, the K-10 for dogs was introduced in July of 2001.

Bloeme is author of the book, Frisbee Dogs: How to Raise, Train and Compete, a 192-page paperback, illustrated with over 300 photographs and the book, Skyhoundz Images, an 80-page hardcover photo book on the sport with captions in English, Japanese and Spanish ($19.95 U.S.).

Bloeme also co-produced, along with Jeff Perry, the internationally-acclaimed Disc Dog Training DVD, the top-selling disc dog training DVD of all time and Disc Dogs! The Complete Guide. At 360 pages, and featuring more than 600 color photos, Disc Dogs! is the most thorough and authoritative canine disc publication in existence.

Jeff Perry

Hyperflite co-founder Jeff Perry and his mixed-breed, animal shelter adoptee, Gilbert won the 1989 Canine Disc World Championship in Dallas, Texas. Prior to taking the World title, Perry and Gilbert won the Southeast Regional Championship for three consecutive years. Gilbert and Perry went on to be featured on NBC’s top-rated “Today Show,” along with numerous appearances on CNN and ESPN and other national and international media over the years. As a member of the ALPO Canine Disc Celebrity Touring Team, Perry was a media spokesperson for the 10-year period in which ALPO sponsored the Canine disc Championships.

Throughout the years, in countless interviews and public appearances Perry has extolled the virtues of adopting shelter animals. According to Perry, shelter mutts make wonderful companions and great disc dogs.

Perry and his canines have performed hundreds of times before sold-out stadium crowds at professional football and baseball games all over the world. Internationally, Perry has performed before huge crowds at Olympic Stadiums in Berlin and Barcelona and has made public appearances in Canada, China, Spain Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. Gilbert and Perry were featured entertainers at the prestigious “Colare de Oro,” the Italian equivalent of the Westminster dog show.

While performing in Japan, Perry met the Crown Prince and Princess of Japan (the future emperor and empress of Japan) after one of more than 200 shows that he performed in Japan over a five-month period at the Animal Kingdom in Nasu. While in Japan, Perry and his dog Cosmic K.D. also entertained thousands of spectators in the Tokyo dome.

From 1990 to 2005, Perry served as the Chief Judge of the World Canine Disc Championships.

Perry, along with Peter Bloeme and Greg Perry, co-founded Hyperflite in 2000 and, shortly thereafter, designed and patented the revolutionary K-10 disc, the first canine disc designed exclusively for canine competition.

Perry, along with Peter Bloeme, co-produced the internationally-acclaimed Disc Dog Training DVD, the top-selling disc dog training DVD of all time. In addition, Perry co-wrote Disc Dogs! The Complete Guide, the most authoritative book ever written on canine disc sports.

In his spare time, Perry also serves as a Contributing Editor for Flying Disc Magazine.

A strong proponent of the health and fitness benefits of canine disc play for dogs and owners, Perry founded one of the first canine disc clubs in the country. Over the years, Perry has taught countless canine-disc aficionados to throw flying discs and helped even elite-level competitors improve their throwing abilities.

In addition to his canine disc activities, Perry still finds time to engage in some of his other favorite pursuits, climbing, backpacking and flying. Perry, a skilled pilot, has flown powered aircraft and hang gliders for more than 25 years and has logged more than 2000 hours in many types of aircraft. In fact, his aeronautical experience and understanding of aeronautical principles were instrumental in the design of the Hyperflite K-10 disc.

Perry received a Bachelor of Science degree (B.S.) in Journalism from the University of Maryland, a Juris Doctor degree (J.D.) from Mercer University and a Master of Laws in International Law (LL.M.) from the University of Miami.

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