Playing catch with your dog is a great way for them to get some exercise and for the two of you to have some fun bonding time. Some dogs pick up on “fetch” easier than others and some are better at bringing at back than others. Teaching your dog to play frisbee can be a fun and interesting activity for them as well as for you. Here’s how to teach your dog to play frisbee:
Are Frisbees Bad for Dogs?
As with anything, moderation is key. Frisbee can be bad for dogs in certain situations, but, overall, it’s a great activity for them. Here are a few things to watch out for when playing frisbee with your dog:
Potential for Strain and Injury
More extreme versions of frisbee or more intense sessions can cause strain on your dog and their joints, especially if catching the frisbee requires jumping to great heights and twisting into odd angles. This can put a lot of unnecessary strain on your dog’s joints and can lead to injury, particularly if they make a few bad landings.
So, how intensely your dog plays frisbee is something to keep an eye on. If your dog starts to jump up too high in an attempt to grab a frisbee mid-flight, you can help keep them at a good height by adjusting how high you throw it. Go for low or mid-height throws instead of arcing it higher and your dog won’t be tempted to jump as high to try and catch it.
Potential Chewing Hazard
Frisbees are also often made of plastic, which can be tempting for a dog to chew on. So, that is another thing to keep in mind for your dog. Frisbees do not tend to make good chew toys as they tend to splinter and it can be easy for your dog to chew off and swallow small pieces of plastic.
Part of training your dog to play frisbee can include boundaries for chewing. If they have other, more acceptable, things to chew on and the frisbee is only used a toy for fetch, it can help cut down on this potential risk.
By only using the frisbee for games and not leaving it out for your dog to chew on while laying around, you can help deter the chew toy association. You can also take the frisbee away if you notice your dog taking a break from playing to chew on it. This will help your dog learn that the frisbee is for catching and bringing back, not for chewing.
Be Aware of Size Limitations
The size and stature of your dog will play a role in whether frisbee is a good idea for them. Giant dog breeds and small dog breeds can injure themselves by jumping too high as the landing can be high-impact and may be too intense for their joints. Dogs that are longer than they are tall, like Dachshunds, should not be trying to jump up into the air to catch a frisbee as this can cause damage and injury to their backs.
Small dogs and brachycephalic dogs with short snouts will need to be monitored carefully during play as they can easily become out of breath and overexert themselves. As with any big activity, you’ll want to check with your vet to make sure frisbee is a good fit for your dog before you jump into playing it. If it’s not a good fit, your vet will be able to suggest other activities that would be a better fit for your dog’s size and body type.
How to Teach Your Dog to Play Frisbee
Your dog may take naturally to chasing and bringing back a frisbee or you may have to teach them. If they pick it up quickly, you can probably skip a few steps in this process or will move through them more quickly. Regardless, here’s how to teach your dog to play frisbee:
1. Introduce Them to the New Toy
Depending on your dog, they may be instantly entranced by the new toy and will interact with it freely or they may need a little incentive to want to chase after it. Start by rewarding your dog with a treat or praise for simply showing interest in the frisbee and touching it.
This will start to form a positive association with the frisbee. If you really need the help, you can use the frisbee as a food bowl and let your dog eat out of it. But, there is a chance that this could backfire and make your dog more likely to think of it as a chew toy, which is not what you want.
As your dog continues to build a positive association with the frisbee, you can start playing tug-of-war with it a little for a couple of days. Not only does this solidify the positive “play” association with the frisbee, but it also increases the dog’s desire to have the toy for themselves. This will become useful when it comes time for them to chase the frisbee once you’ve thrown it.
2. Work on the “Give” Command
If your dog has already mastered the “give” command, teaching them to respond to it with a frisbee should be easy. If not, you may need to do a little work to build the connection. It’s important as you’re working on the “give” command with the frisbee that it does not seem like a game of tug-of-war.
Start by giving your dog the frisbee to hold in their mouth. Offer them a treat paired with the “give” command and give them the treat and reward with praise when you take the frisbee from them. Repeat this sequence a few times.
If your dog doesn’t give you the frisbee freely, do not try to take it from them by tugging on it as this is too familiar to tug-of-war and they’ll think it’s part of the game. Instead, let go of the frisbee and do not give them a treat or reward. Once your dog is easily letting go of the frisbee with no hesitation or cajoling when you say the “give” command, then they’re ready for the next step!
3. Take it Outside
Now that you’re able to easily take the frisbee from your dog, take your training sessions outside. Have your dog sit only a short distance away from you and toss the frisbee to them. Shower them with praise every time they catch it. Then, have them come to you and give them a treat as you take the frisbee back from them.
Your dog should only receive the treat once they’ve brought the frisbee back to you. If they don’t bring it to you, don’t give them a treat. This step will set the foundation for fetching the frisbee and also for bringing it back to you, which is a useful and necessary step if want to play with your dog for more than one throw.
4. Slowly Increase the Distance
As your dog continues to learn how to catch the frisbee and bring it to you from a short distance, slowly increase the distance. Each time you increase the distance you throw the frisbee, try to keep it consistent until your dog is catching the frisbee more often than not and bringing it back.
Continue to reward with treats for successful frisbee returns if necessary. Once your dog has “mastered” a certain distance, you can try increasing it again. The more times you and your dog go through this process of practice, the more frisbee will become a game instead of a training exercise.
Frisbee can be a great game for your dog and a fantastic bonding activity for you both. With these tips on how to teach your dog to play frisbee, you can teach your dog a fun new game you both will enjoy!