When flying disks first appeared in the 1950s, it wasn’t long before they became favorite toys for dogs as well as people. They have plenty of advantages for dogs; the curve in their flight makes them less predictable to chase and catch than a ball, and they’re easy to throw a long way.
Give your dog a gentle introduction to disk play. Manufacturers’ advice soon after the disks were first produced (when it became clear that dogs liked playing with disks, too) suggested that you serve your pet his dinner on the upturned disk. You probably don’t need to go that far, but if your dog hasn’t ever played with a disk before, take a few steps to engage his interest before you play outdoors.
- Take the disk out and roll it across the floor. When your dog takes it in his mouth, ask him to give it to you (arm yourself with treats and ask him to “Swap”.
- Throw it gently and low (just a few inches above the floor), and let him go and retrieve it.
- When he’s become used to the disk, take it into the backyard or another open space and try a few low throws—not too high and not too hard. Most dogs will get the idea quickly and try to catch it immediately.
- Ask your dog to return and “Swap” each time. When you’re throwing gently, he’s not too far away, but as soon as he’s in a larger space and you’re throwing hard, you need to be able to get the disk back easily. Reward him with a treat when he brings it back and gives it up. (If he doesn’t want to bring it back, whatever you do, don’t chase after him–the simplest fix is to turn and run away from him so that the game turns into him chasing you. When he catches you, you can reclaim the disk and he can have a treat.)
- Keep the pace brisk, but don’t throw too extravagantly at first; your dog should be able to catch the disk fairly easily without having to jump extremely high or twist midair. Increase the height and distance of your throws gradually, over several sessions.
Plenty of leaping and running equals a well-exercised dog. Flying disks are more of a challenge to catch than a regular ball, making them an especially great tool for athletic dogs.
Choosing the Right Disk
A heavy model can be thrown an impressive distance and is easy to catch, but if it is too hefty, it can hurt a dog if he catches it clumsily (the worst a person will do is hurt their hand, but a dog is catching with his mouth). Lighter versions can be too insubstantial to throw far enough for a supercharged dog. (Incidentally, disks shouldn’t be left around so they can be chewed—take them out for a game, then put them away afterward.)
The floppy rubber disks that are also available are heavier, but they don’t throw accurately. The best choice if you’re shopping specifically for a dog disk is a lighter but rigid version with a shallow rim. Unlike the pet model, it can be thrown a good distance but isn’t so heavy that it will do damage if it hits your dog.
Safety tip: If your dog has or has ever had a bad back, skip games with disk. They’re are also unsuitable for dogs susceptible to other joint problems, such as hip dysplasia. If in doubt, talk to your veterinarian before you play.