Important. Consult your veterinarian before starting your dog on any form of athletic training program. You should verify that your pup has good hips, especially before attempting canine Frisbee, or else a potential problem of canine Hip Dysplasia could be aggravated.
Also Important. ALWAYS have water available for your dog while you are training them. Since dogs do not sweat, but expel heat primarily through their mouth and tongues, drinking water helps them cool down. Failure to provide water to a working dog can result in hyperthermia, which can be fatal.
The most important step in starting out is choosing the right dog! If this step is done right, then everything else is easy. One way to go about it is to acquire a pure-bred puppy of a breed that is known to do well at canine disc. The drawbacks to this method are that it costs money, you cannot really know how the pup will turn out, and you have to wait a year or more before the dog is able to train rigorously.
The second method of finding a good frisbee dog is to go to a shelter or rescue group and adopt an adult dog. This allows you to get to know the dog and test it for Frisbee dog aptitude. If the dog shows some interest in chasing the disc, then there is a good chance they will be a faithful, enthusiastic partner. The other up side to this method is that it is cheaper, and often the bond of a rescued dog is stronger than that of a dog raised from puppyhood.
Ideally, you want a dog with the following characteristics:
Another important step toward good Frisbee dog training is basic obedience. The main point of this class should be to teach the owner, not the dog. Once an owner gets a feel for teaching basic obedience, then teaching disc dogs comes naturally.
Here are several key characteristics of flying discs:
The ideal canine disc is light, thin, and made of soft but rigid material Types Flexible/Floppy Flexible/Floppy discs are great for starting out, for dogs that have dental problems, or show dogs that cannot afford the slightest risk of a broken tooth. While tennis balls and bones pose more risk of tooth damage than Fastback Frisbee discs, some folks may still want to use these flexible types: WARNING: Cheap, hard plastics discs purchased at pet stores and department stores can hurt your dog and ruin their desire to play with them. They can crack and break into pieces cutting the dog's mouth or swallowed pieces can be fatal.
A cloth/nylon disc with a rubber outer ring. Nice because they float! These discs are very flexible, and some tricks that require a rigid disc are difficult to perfrom with them
These are closer to 'regulation' than Floppy Discs, and are probably just as safe. Be aware that there are some version of the Nylabone disc that are harder than others. Make sure you get the flexible, rubbery type. Note that there is a Gumabone model with a bone shape extending out of the top of the disc. While safe and easy for dogs to pick up, these discs fly like bricks.
This is the disc of choice for most Frisbee dog enthusiasts. The Fastback Frisbee disc is a 107 gram disc made out of a soft PVC type plastic that a person can actually mar with a fingernail quite easily. They don't last as long as the harder types you can find in pet stores, but that means they are less damaging to the dog's teeth. The lightness of the Fastback allows it to remain aloft longer than most discs, and therefore give its canine pursuer more time to catch it.
Aerobie discs come in three flavors: The Aerobie Superdisc, which is made from a transparent plastic with a soft rubber rim. This disc will fly a long ways, and is light enough and soft enough to be considered a good doggie disc; The Aerobie Sprint flying ring, made from a hard plastic coated with a softer rubber. While this ring can be used with dogs also, its low profile makes it easy to put a lot of velocity behind it, so use it for short tosses or long distance throws, being careful to not throw it directly at your dog; Finally, the Aerobie Jelly disc is a flexible disc that is great for puppies or folks concerned about tooth wear and damage. This disc is a little more rigid than the Floppy Disc, so tricks like butterflys are a bit easier to perform.
Any other discs used should be soft, have no protrusions, and should not be much heavier than 110 grams. In other words, the hard, generic 'doggie discs' one can sometimes find in pet stores or be given as promotional items should be avoided, as should 185 gram freestyle discs and especially golf discs.
Where to buy discs:
AIR 235 discs for normal chewers
XTRA 235 discs for advanced chewers
AERO's for major chewers
Competition Standard discs for normal chewers
JAWZ discs for advanced chewers
Wham-O Frisbee® Brand Fastback
Flex Dog Discs
Chomper Dog Discs for advanced chewers
For those of you that might be interested, here is a very comprehensive listing of Frisbee (Disc) and dog playing instructional and training books; listed in chronological order:
Disc Dog Books
"How to Teach Your Dog to Play Frisbee" - by Karen Pryor (ISBN: 0-671-55552-9) 1985
First disc dog published. Karen Pryor was a very lay person as far as disc dogs went back then and it shows in some of the material covered in the book. Nonetheless, it was the first attempt at putting together a book that would help people get into the sport. Some training, very little throwing, and all based on positive reinforcement training. ***
"Frisbee Dogs - How to Raise, Train and Compete" - by Peter Bloeme (ISBN:0-9629346-0-7) August 1991
Written and published by 1984 World Frisbee Dog Champion, Peter Bloeme. Very comprehensive (especially for the time in our sport) of the history, training, throwing and other topics. Was considered the Frisbee Dog Bible for many years *****
"Frisbee Dogs - How to Raise, Train and Compete" - By Peter Bloeme (ISBN: 0-9629346-2-3) April, 1994
This was Peter's second edition on this book with basically the same information as the first edition, but much more comprehensive and updated results and information. *****
"Ashley Whippet" - by Irv Lander 1996 Literally, the true life story of Ashley Whippet and Alex Stein's lives together. A must read for anyone that would like to learn the true history of our sport and how it got started. *****
"Flying Dogs - How to Teach Your Dog to Catch a Flying Disc" -By Jake Jensen (who was a real dog and credited with being the author of this book. Never knew who the ghost writer was.. (ISBN: 1-58260-004-X) 1998
A true basic beginner book intended for the lay person. Sort of like a "Disc Dog for Dummies" format with some cartoon illustrations. **
"Disc Dogs! - The Complete Guide" - by Peter Bloeme and Jeff Perry (ISBN: 978-0-9817237-0-9) June, 2008
The first collaboration by World Champions Peter Bloeme and Jeff Perry. Probably the best photo depicting book of the historical aspect of our sport, very detailed (and again great photos) of throws, moves, sequences and the dogs and people of the sport back in that time period. Updated information on moves, throws, training, events, etc. Overall, without a doubt, the best book published to date regarding our sport. *****
"Champion Disc DOG! - The Ultimate Guide to Getting Your Dog Airborne in 18 Days" - By Melissa Heeter (ISBN: 978-1-60433-266-7) 2014
A very comprehensive book about all aspects of playing, training and competing with your dog. She does a great job of explaining and demonstrating performance based training from day 1 all the way up to competing. It is a great read and very informative for the new player. Also, a lot of great photographs of competitors and especially, foreign competitors. Highly Recommend for beginning players. ****
AND, of course there is Ron Watson's book available both on line and in printed version. I apologize, but I do not have this book, nor have I ever read it. But, if it is anywhere near as good as Ron's training procedures, methods and results of teaching basic performance skills in all types of dogs and beginning players, I am sure it is a great book.