It's easy to teach dogs with a chase-and-retrieve instinct to play Frisbee: all you need is a grassy area and a flying disc. Working up to a competitive level is another matter, but several Northern California clubs, including Disc Dogs of the Golden Gate
, stand poised to help. DiscDoGG sponsors play days as well as competitions in the Bay Area and beyond, along with links to sites devoted to disc-dog training techniques.
Numerous organizations sanction clubs and competitions in formats that range from short-distance toss-and-fetch to three-minute freestyle routines choreographed to music and requiring extreme athleticism and a high level of training. A major player is Skyhoundz, which puts on events ranging from regional qualifiers to a world championship.
Dog Frisbee, as baby-boomers might recall, got off to a spectacular start in 1974 when Alex Stein, a 19-year-old college student, jumped a fence with his dog, Ashley Whippet, at a nationally broadcast baseball game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Cincinnati Reds. Ashley astonished the crowd with high-flying leaps and chases, stopping the game and prompting announcer Joe Garagiola to narrate the action. Stein was arrested, but his stunt fueled interest in the sport and Stein went on to help create the Frisbee Dog World Championship, also known as the Ashley Whippet Invitational, which celebrated its 34th anniversary in 2011.
Disc dog in action at Sacramento Kennel Club Show. Photo by Janet Fullwood