Like other herding breeds, these dogs excel at many dog sports, especially herding, dog agility, frisbee, and flyball. Herding instincts and trainability can be measured at noncompetitive instinct tests. Aussies that exhibit basic herding instincts can be trained to compete in ASCA stock dog trials or AKC herding events.
The dog has a stride in which its front and back legs cross over, making for an appearance of "on the edge" speed. The dogs instinctively use a "pounce" position to deal with cattle trying to kick them. They also have strong hips and legs, allowing for fast acceleration and high jumping, sometimes as high as 4 ft (1.3m). An Australian shepherd named Pockets is credited as being the oldest dog to earn a title in AKC history, having earned the Rally Novice title at the age of 15 years, 5 weeks.
Get Off the Couch and Into Canine Flying Disc
By Eric Miller
What started off as a game college kids played in the 1960’s has grown into a mainstream sport that has literally gone to the dogs. Organized canine flying disc competitions can trace its humble beginnings back to 1974 when Ashley Whippet and his trainer Alex Stein ran onto the field of Los Angeles Dodger Stadium. For several minutes the duo entertained and amazed the stadium crowd and the millions more watching on national television. A star and sport was born. More than 39 years later, organized canine disc competitions continue showcasing the unique talents of our four-legged friends. So, why would someone want to get involved in such an activity? Many participants have stated that it’s because they had a very energetic dog that needed an outlet. Thanks to this wonderful plastic invention, many dogs have a great hobby and a purpose. All that energy spent chewing the television remote or digging holes in the backyard is refocused onto something positive, healthy, and fun. And disc play encourages dogs to tap into their natural talents of running,jumping, chasing things, and using their mouths. More than one person has told me that disc play has saved their dog…and their house.
For starters, make sure your dog is physically sound before participating in any kind of formal training. A general examination by your local veterinarian will reveal any pre-existing condition that could prevent your dog from participating in canine disc. Because certain breeds are predisposed to hip problems, it might be worthwhile to have your dog’s hips radio graphed. And while on the subject of hips, do not encourage a young dog to jump for the disc. Wait until the dog has physically matured, typically 1.5 years-old as jumping can stress underdeveloped hips and joints. I’m often asked, “What is the best breed for canine flying disc?” Well, retrieving (e.g., Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers) working (e.g., German Shepherds) and herding breeds (e.g.,Border Collies, Australian Shepherds) generally tend to do well due to their natural instincts. However, canine disc is not just for the purebreds. In fact, several canine flying disc world champions were mixed breeds adopted from animal shelters.
So, you’ve got a healthy dog and a few discs…what’s next? Always play in a safe area, preferably covered with grass. A definite no-no is disc play on asphalt or concrete. These hard surfaces are killers on a dog’s paws, not to mention the stress inflicted on their bones. Since everyone isn’t necessarily a fan of canine disc, try to find a quiet place away from cars, bicycle sand little children. And if you decide to visit your local park, be sure to check the leash laws in the area as well. Many cities and municipalities have very strict leash law regulations. When you start your training session, give plenty of time for your dog to warm up. For truly novice disc dog, keep the workout sessions brief. Gradually increase the length of the practice sessions as the dog advances. During warmer months, keep the session brief regardless of the dog’s athletic conditioning. And speaking of hot weather, be sure to have plenty of fresh water on hand to offer your dog as hot days can easily cause your dog to overheat. But be careful not to give your dog too much water, this can result in an upset stomach. If it’s too hot outside during the daytime, workout during cooler parts of the day such as the early morning or late evening. Canine disc should be a positive experience for both you and your dog. Ideally, you want the disc to become your dog’s favorite play toy. So never yell at your dog because they failed to catch the disc. Perhaps the dog was looking the other way when you threw the disc, or you simply mad ea bad throw. After all, your dog has to see the disc in order to catch the disc. And finally, try to always end your play sessions on a high note and long before the dog wants to stop. This way,your dog will leave the practice area still wanting more.
Canine Flying Disc 101
There are many great resources on the web, from You Tube videos to disc dog blogs, Facebook groups and web sites. Whether you are new to the sport, or a seasoned veteran, a lot of great information can be found online. Hyperflite, a maker of state-of-the-art flying discs for dogs offers a free digital book entitled “Disc Dogs Rock!” The publication has everything you need to get started in canine disc. Disc Dogs Rock! Features 40 pages of tips, training methods, illustrations, and photographs.
Canine Disc Clubs
Another great resource is the many disc dogs club across the country. These groups of dedicated individuals tirelessly organize and promote the sport on the local, regional and national level through clinics, competitions and demonstrations.
So you’ve been bitten by the disc dog bug and want to test you and your dog’s skills against others. Well, there are several organizations currently running disc dog competitions throughout the U.S. worth looking into. Competition schedules, rules and formats vary.
With so much information to share, I could not possibly capture everything there is to know about canine disc in this brief article. My apologies for any omissions. So, get off the couch, gather your dog, and get into the sport of canine flying disc!
About the Author Eric Miller
Eric Miller has been involved in the sport of canine flying disc for more than 23 years. He has competed and performed throughout the U.S. and currently runs Tar Heel Disc Dogs, North Carolina’s only disc dog training and social group. Eric currently participates in canine disc events with Bouncin’ Bowie, a three year-old blue merle Australian Shepherd recently adopted through Australian Shepherd Rescue.
True-ly Like Agility - By Pamela S. Eggers
I have four Australian Shepherds. For my money, for my life, for thousands of reasons, Aussies are the breed for me. I have had many Aussies through the years, I used to breed them, a total of 11 litters over the past 25 years. Conformation and I were really never the greatest fit, although I tried very hard to love it, it just wasn’t working out for me as something I enjoyed doing. My dogs and I always did formal obedience classes for their socialization, the distractions so they learned to focus on me, so they were great dogs to live with, and for the bond that it builds. And then one day I bought True. As much as I love this dog, he was the most difficult dog I have ever trained. All I can say is, “It’s a good thing he’s cute!” True took the longest of any of my dogs to do absolutely everything. From the time he was 4 months old we have been in one class or another, non-stop. He has also taught me more than any other dog I have owned. All my training techniques went out the window with
True. I had to change what I did to reach him for the way he learned. True has made me a better dog owner and handler,“Thanks True”. When True was about a year and half old we signed up for our first agility classes. Once again, I found True to consistently make a mountain out of a mole hill. With each piece of equipment we started to work on. True made it a monumental project to learn it. One of the funniest thing he did was when we started trying to get him to go over the A-frame he literally did a “spread eagle” on it. All four legs extended straight out and his torso lying on the A frame. Still, we were determined to keep an “I’m not gonna quit” attitude about it all. Not only were we not going to quit, we were going to have fun! I knew he needed the time with me, the attention, and I knew it was building our relationship and his confidence. We also just needed to succeed, to set the goals and keep moving towards them “Patience is a virtue” is a wonderful saying and the words, “I love my dog” spoken out loud when I was really frustrated with him were excellent therapy...and they are also true. “I love my dog” is better than saying something unkind to my dog when he was messing up, because he is still trying and those words were the reason that we were there, that reminder was always calming.
We eventually learned that part of his problem was that he had a tremendous aversion to dragging his leash. Because he was so well obedience trained our instructor gave him the privilege of being allowed off leash in our classes. That’s when things really started to change for team True. He really started to succeed and accomplish the goal of learning each piece of equipment, then he began to excel at doing them, he seemed more confident, and we were
really becoming a team. He started learning to go out away from me, which was necessary because he is so much faster than I am. Finally, all the work had paid off, but even though it was work, it was also fun…and it was rewarding. With each accomplishment I felt so proud of him, for how far he had come, how much more relaxed he had become, and how much we were really enjoying our time in agility class. The day he did the A-frame for the first time - it was all his idea. He just ran up and then down the other side like he had done it a thousand times before. So what was my response? Maybe a tear rolled down my cheek but what True saw was a huge party in his honor.
I grabbed him and rolled around the floor with him telling him how wonderful he is and reached into the bait bag and I gave him an entire handful of treats. “Jackpot buddy! You earned it!” Yes, this was in the middle of our class…you really have to learn to celebrate all the “little” thing in life in that moment .
I remember looking down at him one day as he was lying on the floor looking up at me. It suddenly dawned on me that True had grown into a great dog. Without the obedience and the agility I’m not at all sure that True would be a great dog. He gained confidence, manners, control, became social, True became exceptional. My most important goal for True from the day he came home was to be an excellent Therapy dog. Agility helped us reach that goal, I’m pleased to say that True visits folks in the Hospice near us and he is extraordinary at what he does. I’m so happy that I made a commitment to True and that I did everything I know how to do (and then learned more) so he could become the dog he is today.
Ya know, maybe someday we’ll trial in agility, and if we do, I believe with all my heart that True will do it well and be successful. I have learned that for me it is important, that if we are going to be judged, I’d like it to be for something that we have worked together as team to accomplish and to be judged on the merit of what do and how well we do.
I can’t tell you how much True has blessed my life or how much joy it brings me to look at his face as he’s flying over that jump. Look at his face! Is that a happy dog or what?
In Memory of Kowboy Fred
Kowboy Fred was a professional Disc Dog in Ontario, Canada. He was born from a working stock line in a barn east of Ontario Ottawa. At home, Kowboy was a sweet and loving boy to both his human family, as well as the dogs and cats but Kow was a different dog once he started working the disc. He would explode with hyper drive
to get that disc. Owner/Trainer Mike Longchamps
still misses him every day.