Teaching Your Dog to Play Frisbee
By Honor Tarpenning, NextDayPets.com Staff
Teaching your dog to play Frisbee is fun and rewarding. It is a great way to spend quality time with your dog and you both get plenty of fresh air and exercise. Some dogs take to Frisbee instantly, and others take some coaxing and time to get the hang of it; but almost any dog can learn to love it!
First, as with any change in your dog’s exercise routine, you should take your dog to the vet and make sure he’s in a healthy enough condition for Frisbee. If you have a puppy, discuss with your vet how old your puppy should be before he can start jumping for the Frisbee. If puppies take part in extreme jumping before their growth plates have closed, it can lead to lifelong problems. Generally around 14 months is a good age.
Once your vet has given you the go-ahead to start training, it is time to find a Frisbee and introduce it to your dog. Choose a Frisbee that is soft and flexible. You don’t want a Frisbee that is too hard because it would be more likely to hurt your dog when he catches it. One way to ensure positive associations with the Frisbee is using it as a food dish for a while. Chances are, once your dog has had a few meals out of the Frisbee, he will be completely comfortable around it.
Next, encourage your puppy to play with you with the Frisbee. Sit on the floor by your dog and tease him with it (not maliciously, of course). If your dog is interested in playing with it, let him and praise him enthusiastically. If he isn’t interested, use your super excited voice and play around with him until you get him in a playful mood. Once you’ve got your dog interested in the Frisbee, roll it on its side across the room. If he chases it, praise him enthusiastically. If he brings it back to you, cook him a steak, but the retrieve is not important at this point in training, so don’t worry if he doesn’t. Keep rolling the Frisbee for your dog as long as he stays interested.
The next step is taking your dog outside, tossing the Frisbee short distances and encouraging him like crazy when he goes after it. Never throw the Frisbee at
your dog. In the beginning, stick to low, flat, short trajectories.
Once your dog is going after the Frisbee every time, start encouraging him to bring it back. You can help this along with a long (30 ft or so) training lead. As soon as he gets back to you with the Frisbee, trade him a treat and tons of praise for the Frisbee, then throw it again. You shouldn’t have any problem getting the Frisbee from your dog if you give him a treat, but if he’s being difficult, take it as a sign that you need to work on his “drop it” command. Read our Commands Every Dog Should Know article on more information on helpful commands to teach your dog.
Your dog will naturally begin to jump for the Frisbee, but it’s a good idea to take some time to teach him how to land properly. Your dog should land on all fours so the force of impact is spread across four legs. If your dog is landing on just his back two legs, you can teach him to jump through a hula hoop. This will help him get his hind end up in the air when he jumps so he will land properly.
Don’t leave the Frisbee out when you’re not playing with your dog. It will be much more enticing to him if he only sees it when you’re playing. Also, never let your dog chew on the Frisbee. Nicks and breaks will cause it to fly improperly, and could hurt your dog when he catches it.
Don’t be discouraged if your dog doesn’t start making breathtaking, spectacular catches right away. Some dogs are instantly amazing at Frisbee, others take months and months to really get it right. Just be patient and keep it fun for both of you.