Recreational and competitive disc sports give active dogs a chance to retrieve that irresistible spinning toy.
At first glance, Night didn’t look remotely athletic, much less willing to engage in any sort of competition.
Before Mike Miller and his wife, Kathy, adopted the 4-year-old Belgian Tervuren, the dog had been relinquished from three other homes. He was grossly overweight and was terrified of men. Although the Millers were disc dog competition devotees, Night showed no interest in disc retrieval. “If you threw it, he would look at you like, ‘If you want it so bad, why the hell did you throw it?’” says Miller.
But Night changed his mind when he watched another household dog, Castor, practice disc retrieval with Kathy. “From out of nowhere, Night came running from whatever he had been smelling and caught a disc before Cass could get to it,” Miller recounts. He brought it back to Kathy and waited for her to throw it again.
Night discovered what many other dogs and their people have known for decades: disc retrieval is fun for everyone.
Why disc retrieval?
To disc enthusiasts, the sport is not only fun, but also beneficial. “Disc retrieval gives dogs a good workout,” says Chip Hershey, past president of the Indy Dog and Disc Club based in Indianapolis. “It uses their bodies, as well as their minds. It also creates a bond between the handler and dog. It can go a little deeper than a human-pet bond. It’s [more like] teammates on the competition field.”
Melissa Heeter, international judging director for the U.S. Disc Dog Nationals Championships Series, says that disc retrieval taps into a dog’s natural instincts. “Dogs are predators by nature and have a natural instinct to run, jump, and chase moving and flying objects,” she says. “So this is a natural game for a dog.”
Moreover, it’s a game that any dog can play. “Any breed, as long as it has a toy drive, can excel at the competition level,” says Hershey, who lives in Farmland, Ind. “We have had Poodles, Boxers and even a Belgian Malinois qualify for world championships.”
That said, some breeds might have an edge when it comes to disc retrieval. Hershey acknowledges that herding breeds often have a special talent for this sport. “These breeds need a job to do, and the disc is a natural job for them. Rounding up ‘prey’ and bringing it back to you is what they are bred to do.”
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