|She bounced this one off her nose and then scrambled to grab it again.|
I knew we hadn't played in a while, and even though we have tried to stay active this winter, it isn't the same as what she does while playing disc. There are some things you can, and should, do to help keep your dog safe while playing disc.
|Early drop throw, it hit the ground before she got to it.|
To try to keep the session as safe as possible, I did a few things. One, I worked a few years ago on improving my throws without Koira there. Throwing consistent and safe throws is essential to keeping your dog safe while playing this game. I have heard of more torn ACLs from bad catches/landings playing disc than any one other incident. The best throws for dogs are long and low with a good bit of lift, so the disc isn't traveling super fast and isn't diving straight into the ground. Dangerous throws are the ones that go high and cut to the side or drop abruptly, causing the dog to change directions suddenly or leap in ways where they can't land properly. And some dogs do really bad with "floaters" which are throws where the disc is super slow and lets the dog outrun and get underneath it. It is a delicate balance of having it slow and low enough, but not TOO slow and low. Everyone has bad throws sometimes, and you can't control a sudden gust of wind, but you can greatly improve your dog's safety in this game by practicing without your dog until you can pretty consistently get throws that are going to be safe to chase, catch, and land for your dog.
Since we hadn't played in a while, I also made sure to enforce breaks. We would do a few throws, and then do some downs, some posing for the camera, etc. In the middle of this disc session was when we did our photos for the Zukes Z-Bones we reviewed earlier this week. The short breathers helped keep her from getting tired and sloppy and increasing her risk of injury.
Something else I have been working on is getting rid of the crazy bonkers part of Koira's response to discs. It is great that she loves the game, but it is not great if she body slams, grabs discs while they are in my hand, goes after someone else's disc, etc. And those are things she always used to do. Luckily, keeping her from going after other people's discs was an easy fix, and was mostly just reinforcing her recall and leave it when she was excited. Now, we can go walk the paths through the disc golf course without her even looking at their discs. In fact, we had disc golfers playing through this field the entire time we were there, and she never once tried to go for their discs.
|I've had these discs for something like 4-5 years and they have barely a dent in them. They are these Hero Discs.|
As for the rest of it, we have been working on a lot of impulse control in various settings. Having her down before she gets to have a toy thrown, heeling while I hold a toy visible and within reach on that side (we do an off-side heel, so, on the right). She likes to lunge for the toy that is within reach, but we've managed, over time, to reduce that to almost nothing, though she will occasionally still try a snatch if she is really really up. Teaching her an off side heel gave her an alternative to body slamming or circling manically trying to get to the toy. I can now walk her to the park with a ball or disk or chuckit in my hand without issue.
|Practicing down-stays as a means of taking a break between throws|
The one thing that we still have problems with is her drop when she is excited. So we play with two discs, I throw one for her, and then have another one ready to throw when she gets back. When she naturally drops the first one, I give her the drop cue (out), and I have some hope that by reinforcing her dropping the disc by throwing the next one, it will help reinforce that cue even when she is in a high state of arousal.
|Working on our down stays benefits in multiple ways. She takes a break so she doesn't get tired and sloppy going solid, she gets to work her brain a little and come out of hyper arousal states, and we get to take adorable pictures.|
All of this said, we stayed at the park too long that day. When we finished up and headed home, Koira had a very slight limp going on. That night, she was pretty stiff. I have some vetprofen on hand for when we do a lot of activity and she needs a little bit of an anti inflammatory, mostly during flyball weekends. By the next day she was fine with no signs of a limp, but it reminded me that even if she acts young, she is 8, and she does have a lot of old injuries that can flare up and cause soreness. We took it easy the next day, and then did a shorter disc session, with more breaks for heeling and stay work and trick training in between throws, the day after that, and had no signs of soreness.
|A tired dog is a happy dog.|