Today Mort participated in a “for fun” event put on by Disc Dogs of the Golden Gate in San Ramon, CA. Mort is what you’d call a sport-obsessed dog. He is an intense, energetic, young Kelpie mix who had a very strong interest in toys and play since we adopted him at 7 months old from a shelter. Well, he had somewhat of an interest in toys that was quickly and quite easily turned into an obsession. He is quite new at the sports of sprint and disc, so this is just a quick overview of the event we went to and what it entailed. Future posts will go into more detail about the sports and what you need to know to get started (from my beginners perspective, of course!)
What is Sprint Racing or Lure Course?
Sprint is a very easy sport where your dog chases an item (this could be a toy or a plastic bag) that is pulled along a course on a string. The dog chases it, and the object is simply to go as fast as possible. This was a fun, non-competitive event, and the dogs could “catch” the prey at the end of the course. In this event, the dogs ran in a straight line from one end of the field to the other, but other courses may run the dogs around a track (along a large circle) or in different directions. Your dog doesn’t need to be trained to do so, instinct often kicks in (think sighthound!). Some dogs are simply not interested in this activity, others may need to be prompted before the instinct kicks in. But it is a very enjoyable activity for many dogs.
I happen to have one of each. Mort instantly knew what to do, and adored running after the lured item. He had only done this sport once before nearly a year ago, and today he immediately recognized the course. My other dog has no interest in it, at all – although she does want to chase every “potentially obtainable” squirrel we see. I thought she would like this activity, but when I tried to get her interested in the lured object she just trotted along beside me incredulous that she should have any interest at all in the moving object. After all, it wasn’t real prey and she reminded me that she is a smart dog.
Disc dog games
Today’s event with the disc had a couple of fun games for the dogs. The first game involved tossing the disc into three different regions marked out on the field, and the dog is given points for catching the disc within these areas (fewer points for the close regions, more points for the ones farther out). The second game was tossing the disc past a specified distance, and the dog had to catch the disc twice in 60 seconds. Not as easy as it sounds!
And how did Mort do? Mort and I had a very rough start, but we (I, really) improved somewhat by the second game and he managed to catch two of my throws within the 60 seconds. Didn’t come close to winning, but we did qualify at least! Mort did manage to win a game when he worked with Steve, a pro! Mort says I have a lot of learning to do.
Note: Why is it called disc dog and not frisbee dog? Only because “Frisbee” is a brand name. The discs that these dogs use are made with a special plastic that punctures instead of splinters. This means that the discs are safe for the dogs teeth and gums.
Why are these activities good for dogs?
Some folks may say that such games are unnatural for dogs, stressful, strenuous. But the dogs who participate live for these kinds of activities. All of the dogs participating were in their element, and wanting more. Mort could have chased that disc for 5 hours straight if we let him. But more importantly, these sports will strengthen your bond with your dog. It will provide socialization opportunities with other dogs and humans who know dogs well, and know how to treat an (often) intense sporting dog. It provides training opportunities, and is motivating to both human and dog to improve. And most importantly, it’s quality time spent with your dog and other friendly dog-loving people in the community.
And obviously, it’s excellent exercise to keep your dog in shape. Our 27lb dog needs the same amount of food as our 40lb dog to maintain a normal weight.
And even the dogs who are not interested in dog sports often love “hanging out” on the sidelines. Events like this are fantastic for our shy dog, who has improved immensely around strangers just by attending and sitting on the sidelines. She was so relaxed at this sporting event that she was rolling on her back for a belly rub.
There are many, many other reasons why dog sports like these are great for you and your dog. Follow our blog for further posts about getting started with these activities in the next couple months. You can follow me as I learn how to throw a disc, and learn freestyle disc dog tricks with Mort (where he jumps off my leg and such). Join our newsletter below so you don’t miss a post!
Also be sure to follow the Disc Dogs of the Golden Gate Facebook page, especially if you are in the Bay Area.
Some more photos and video
Here’s a video of Mort catching a disc. It is taken on a GoPro camera that is mounted on a customized dog vest that we borrowed. We also have a Kurgo harness with a GoPro mount that we need to work a bit further with (perhaps customize a bit) so it fits better on Mort and takes better videos.
And here is the photo set from the day’s event. I love how dogs of all shapes, sizes, and breeds come together. There was not one altercation (at least that I saw) during the day – all the dogs were happy, relaxed, and absolutely loving this activity.