Frisbee is a trademarked name for a flying disc produced by the Wham-o company. Originally, it was the name of the pastry company that sold pies in tin plates with the name, Frisbee on the bottom. People were taking the empty pie tins and tossing them around, creating a new kind of catch game. Now, various toy companies produce flying discs in all shapes and descriptions. We usually refer to all of them as Frisbees, though it is the brand name of only one such product. Some of the most interesting things I have learned about flying discs was from a group called “The Flying Aces Frisbee Team.” Visit their web site at www.flyingaces.com.
The ALPO Canine Frisbee Disc Competitions are events that are held each year in communities all over the nation. The Community Events are local competitions that anyone can enter. The discs are provided by the ALPO company, and you will often get a little packet of promotional materials including biscuits or chewies, along with a free Frisbee to compete with. You are only allowed to use their competition Frisbees in the event.
The Regional events are held in 6 different geographic regions: South Central, Southeast, Southwest, North Central, Northeast, and Northwest. In addition, there is an Eastern Open Competition, and a Western Open Competition, for anyone who did not qualify, or could not attend one of the Regional events. You must place at one of the Regional or Open events in order to move on to the World Finals which are held each year in Washington, DC. The top dog and first and second runner-up become the world finalists. There are some pretty nice prizes for the finalists and winners in these contests.
The Community events usually consist of the basic throw and catch, called, “Mini-Distance. For this, the field is marked off in five yard sections. Points are awarded only for throws that go beyond the first 10 yards (to avoid people trying to rack up points at close range). Catches made in the 10 to 15 yard distance are worth 1 point “on the ground,” and 2 points “in the air.” On the ground means that any foot of the dog is on the ground when he makes his catch. In the air means that all four feet are out of contact with the ground when the catch is made. Catches made from the 15 to 20 yard section are worth 3 or 4 points, and beyond the 20 yard point, they’re worth 5 or 6 points.
For Mini-Distance, each team (dog and handler) gets 60 seconds to complete as many successful catches as possible. My 11-year-old dog was in her heyday ten years ago, and has done much winning each year in the community events. I attribute this to a couple of factors:
1. I try to make all of my throws hit the 18-yard line when they are about 5 feet from the ground. By the time the dog catches the disc, she’s landing just over the 20 yard line. Therefore, there is not a lot of time wasted running over yardage that we’re not getting extra points for. If your dog is spending less time going and returning, you have more time for additional throws. Karli’s typical number of catches is 6 to 7 in one minute.
2. I try to compose myself and gear up for the next throw. I don’t let the time clock affect me. People do strange things under pressure. A guy at a truck stop where I used to work showed me a card trick one time, and he said he’d give me $100. if I could figure it out and repeat what he did in 5 minutes. Of course my mind was fried trying to “beat the clock.” When my time was up, I figured the thing out in about 15 seconds. It was actually quite simple. People get flustered and just “throw the Frisbee away,” worrying about the time. I try not to lose my concentration, keep my throw level, and breathe!
3. I prepare myself for the possibility of a Freestyle event, even though I “don’t do” freestyle events. I have an artificial leg, and I’m anything but graceful, but I prepared a short freestyle routine to some music, just for fun, and to showcase my dog’s skill and leaping ability. In my dog’s third year of competition (1993), she was in a three-way tie with two other very excellent Frisbee dogs. The judges at the Community event chose to break the tie by running the second round in the “Freeflight” style (surprise!). Well, I was the only one who had practiced this, apparently, and Karli won the freeflight round with a score of 63. In competition that day, with his dog also in that first place run-off, was a young man who became a friend of mine, Brian Lamky. I think this was one of his first competitions. More about Brian and Tatiana later...
The Regional events are for the people who are serious competitors. Contestants perform in the Freeflight Elimination Round, the top scorers of which go on to compete in the Finals, which include a Mini-Distance and another Freeflight round. You can’t really succeed in the Regionals unless you’ve prepared a pretty decent Freestyle routine. I competed in one ONCE, when it was here in Southfield, Michigan, and we had to compete against dogs which had performed in beer commercials and had become world finalists before. My dog placed 9th, which made me quite proud, but they only take the top 8 teams (I think it was seven back then).
The top dogs from each Regional competition then go to the world finals, where they will perform for television on the grounds of the Washington Monument. The people and dogs who have come this far are really fabulous, and I think you can purchase videotapes of some of these performances. I have to tell you that I have a couple of all-time favorite Frisbee dogs. Their names aren’t in the “history books,” because they never got to first place, but they were there in the finals repeatedly.
One is “Air Major.” He has his own web site, which you can visit. I saw a video of this dog, years ago, and I remember thinking, man, this guy’s moves are very innovative, and this little dog is incredible. Air Major is not much bigger than a Jack Russell Terrier, but he had to compete with a regulation size Frisbee. The trust between these handlers and dogs is amazing. The handler tells the dog to jump and catch the Frisbee. The handler’s body may actually be in the spot where the dog is expected to jump. The dog trusts his handler, and launches himself for a spectacular leap. Then, the handler does some dynamic move, and suddenly the body is not there any more, but there’s a dog flying through the air with a Frisbee in his mouth.
This is what impressed me also about Brian Lamky and Tatiana. They are now 5 time world finalists! Brian has a really incredible routine. He deserves a lot of credit, because he has invented a lot of the moves that he uses in his routine. It’s easy enough to copy a routine that you see another handler and dog perform, but it takes a lot of creativity to invent moves of your own. [I invented a throw once. I was so proud! I thought, wait till they see this one—it’s almost impossible to catch! Then I found out that someone else had already invented it—it’s called “The Butterfly.”] In the old days, it was easier, because the dogs could do what we call a “take.” This involves the dog taking the Frisbee from your hand held aloft, or from between your feet, or out of your mouth. Now days, you don’t get points for takes. All Frisbees must be in flight at the moment the dog makes contact with them. So you have to make sure you let go, drop it, or spit it out right before the dog catches it! Brian has created some throws where he bats one Frisbee with another, and kicks the Frisbee with a foot. It amazes me that his dog can catch all of these things, but she does, with style.
Tatiana is a dog with wings—she makes these huge leaps with all four feet, like she was on springs. She can catch anything that Brian puts into the air. The only times I’ve seen them falter are when they’re having a “bad Frisbee” day. I think nerves might have something to do with it, too. The times Karli and I have beaten Brian and Tat, I can attribute to Brian’s nervousness or a little bit of luck with the wind.
Karli has been a fantastic Frisbee dog, too, and I thank my friends, like Brian, for helping me with some tricks and special moves. Brain makes Karli look like another Tatiana when he does the tricks with her. It gives me great pleasure to see this, as these are things I could never do with my own great dog because of my disability.
I’ve had a lot of fun with this sport, and I hope you will, too. If you’d like more information, visit www.ashleywhippet.com, and www.skyhoundz.com. You can get information on upcoming Community events, and locations of the Regionals.
Article submitted by: © Dog Scouts of America (Biography & Additional Information)