“Butterlips,” “The Drops,” “In-and-Out Syndrome,” “Brick Jaws,” “Rejectus Mouthus,” whatever you may call it, missed discs are the scourge of disc dog enthusiasts. For many disc doggers, the onset of “The Drops” is gradual, while for others, it may seem to happen overnight. Most canine disc enthusiasts experience it at some point in the lives of their canines in varying degrees. If you are one of those folks with a disc dog that misses often, and you’ve tried everything in the book to fix the problem, to no avail, your salvation may be closer than you think.
I consider myself a keen observer when it comes to disc dogs. As a consequence of years spent judging and training disc dogs, I can spot easily-correctable problems that many are blind to. So I am a little mad at myself for not connecting the dots on the “Butterlips” problem a little sooner. But, a few years ago, while I was giving a canine disc clinic, one of the attendees asked a question that gave me the opportunity to have a “lucid interval.” She said: “My dog seems to miss all the time even though he gets to the disc in time and almost catches it. What can I do to help him catch better?”
Of course, I’ve been asked that question many times over the years, and my answer always depended on what I observed with the canine in question. Most folks never even bother to ask the question assuming that their canines either catch well or they don’t. Anyway, I asked for a demonstration. Sure enough, the canine in question chased after well-made throws, caught up to the discs, and the discs promptly ricocheted out of the canine’s mouth. Being an analytical person, I began to chip away at the problem. First, I asked the dog’s owner to make some throws with the opposite hand to see if spin was an issue (most people can’t throw as well with the opposite hand, so the disc doesn’t spin as fast). The result was the same. It was an overcast day, so the sun was not an issue. I asked her to try some discs of varying colors and contrasts – all with the same result. I began to suspect that either the dog’s reaction time was a hair slow, or the dog’s near vision was diminished just enough to make him misjudge the instant at which he should snap his jaws closed around the disc. Just to be sure, I made some throws myself, employing varying spins, angles, etc., with the same result.
In the course of making my throws to “Mr. Missit,” I noticed that the thrower’s discs of choice happened to be a puncture resistant model made of a very firm plastic. Hmmmm…a light bulb switched on in my head. Nearby, a competitor was using a Jawz Hyperflex disc, and I borrowed it for a test. The Jawz Hyperflex disc, for those unfamiliar, is a soft and flexible puncture resistant disc made by Hyperflite. I made ten throws in-a-row to the dog with the Hyperflex and was rewarded with 10 catches. I handed the disc to the dog’s human, and she confirmed my results. She looked at me like I was a miracle worker, but I was way too busy having my own epiphany to gloat too much. Could it be, I wondered, that all of the dogs I had observed with consistency problems over the years, could have improved their catch ratios just by switching to a softer disc? Maybe, this was just a fluke. Nevertheless, I planned to submit my theory to the empirical process, the next time I saw a canine afflicted with “Butterlips.”
A few months later, I found a good candidate. Only this time, the canine was a super eager young dog that seemed to be tipping discs due to an excess of enthusiasm. I wondered if this dog could be helped by a softer disc – one less likely to confirm Newton’s law of motion, which holds that: “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Sure enough a softer (and more energy absorbing) disc, dramatically improved the canine’s catch ration. By dramatic, I mean from 50 percent, to 90 percent. Once again, an aura appeared around me and all present hailed my genius…at least, that’s how I remember it, anyway!
So, if your canine appears to be missing discs, either because of over eagerness, diminished reaction time, or deteriorating vision, the chances are excellent that you will see improvement merely by switching to a softer disc. If you are one of the many experiencing the surprisingly common affliction of tipped discs, you owe it to your canine to experiment with softer discs. The results could turn out to be nothing less than miraculous for you, as they have for so many others.
And, when your own “Butterlips” turns into a veritable disc vacuum cleaner, we hope you’ll share your success with us by e-mailing Hyperflite at firstname.lastname@example.org.