Chasing and catching Frisbees is an exciting and physically demanding activity that tests your dog’s intelligence, fitness and endurance. It's a natural extension of a dog’s prey drive, and many hunting and working dogs pick up the mechanics without effort. Depending on your dog’s breed and instincts, Frisbee training may be quite simple -- or exceptionally difficult. It requires time and patience, but any dog can become a Frisbee dog with a little effort.
When to Start
Most dogs are ready for obedience training between eight and twelve weeks. Eight weeks is a common starting point for puppy training programs because most puppies are not mature enough to start the obedience process any sooner. Puppies learn a lot before the eight-week mark, but most of these lessons are driven by interaction with their litter and mother more than human interference. Generally speaking, you can start Frisbee training your pup as soon as he’s ready for a regular obedience class.
How to Start
The first challenge in teaching a dog to catch a Frisbee is encouraging him to chase. Some dogs will do this naturally, but others will require some extra effort. Start by rolling the disc along the ground -- the dog should naturally chase and grab it. If your dog isn’t interested in the disc, you can encourage him to play with it by spinning it in circles or lightly rubbing it on his stomach. Do not throw the disc at the dog, as you do not want a pup who is afraid of your Frisbee. When your dog reliably chases the rolled or thrown disc, you’re ready to work on the catch.
Teaching the Catch
The end goal of Frisbee training is seeing your dog leap into the air to snag the flying disc. To begin teaching this behavior, position yourself in front of your dog and lightly toss the disc toward him. You want the disc to land on the ground, not hit the dog. If your dog makes an effort to run toward the disc, praise him with affection and a small treat. Pick the disc up if he misses; only a successful catch should end with him getting to play with the disc. As your dog becomes more reliable with his catches, you can increase the distance of your throws.
The Importance of Recall
One of the most important aspects of a successful Frisbee retrieval is the recall. The dog should grab the disc and return to you; without the return, playing fetch isn’t much fun. If your dog will not reliably return to you while carrying the disc, take a step back from your training and work on the recall command without the disc present. Only when your dog comes on command will he be ready to snag a Frisbee and bring it back without you having to chase him down.