Pros and Cons of Playing Frisbee with your Dog
Teaching your dog to play frisbee can be a great form of mental and physical exercise that will keep both of you happy and healthy. But, there are a few caveats!
In this article, we’ll talk about the advantages and risks of frisbee and how you can incorporate this fun game into your daily routine.
Benefits of frisbee for dogs
The most obvious benefit of playing frisbee is the physical exercise. Playing fetch offers more cardio in less time than a walk or a jog. But, there are a few other benefits, such as:
- Improved motor skills. A game of frisbee is more complicated than it looks! Your pup will learn to sprint while looking up, change directions in milliseconds, perfectly time their jump, bite the frisbee, and land gracefully. This requires a level of coordination and balance that goes beyond a game of fetch or a play session with other dogs.
- Strength and flexibility. When done correctly, playing frisbee can provide your dog with a chance to work on muscle conditioning and flexibility.
- Teaches to follow visual cues. If you’ve struggled with your dog’s short attention span, frisbee can be a great way to increase their focus. They’ll learn to follow your cues and keep their eye on the prize.
- Mental stimulation. Chasing and grabbing are two natural instincts for your doggo, which is why providing them with a healthy outlet for this behavior can help them feel more mentally satisfied.
- Improved self-confidence. As your pupper learns how to catch the frisbee in the air, there’s no way you’ll be able to contain your excitement! Every positive cheer, from their beloved human and onlookers, can help to boost your dog’s self confidence!
- Frisbee is good for you too. We love play sessions that encourage us humans to move around, too! And frisbee is one of those doggy-owner activities that will naturally get you moving and improving your own hand-eye coordination.
Potential risks of playing frisbee
As enthusiastic as we are about frisbee for dogs, this activity isn’t without its risks, including:
- Repetitive strain. We humans suffer from things like tennis elbow and runner’s knee when we overdo it with our favorite activities. And the same can be true for our dogs. Repetitive impact on their joints and spine can be a risk factor that we need to consider when teaching our dogs to play frisbee. In the next section, we’ll talk about how to lower the risk of repetitive strain.
- Overexertion. Some dogs get so wild about frisbee that they don’t know when to stop! Add that to the fact that we often play in wide open areas with lots of sunshine, and your dog could be at risk for heat exhaustion or overexertion.
- Environmental hazards. Even the most athletic doggo can sometimes take a spill on uneven surfaces or run headlong into a bush or tree. So, you’ll want to walk through the area that you’ll be playing to make sure there are no holes or obstacles. It’s important, also, to play in an area with no traffic, such as a closed field. Remember that frisbee can become your pupper’s obsession! You can keep them safely contained in the car on your way to your local frisbee area by installing BreezeGuard Screens on your windows. After all, you want them jumping for the frisbee, not out of the car!
- Dental wear & tear. If you’ve ever seen a dog with worn down lower canines, chances are, they’re a frisbee dog! You can protect Fido’s teeth by swapping out hard plastic frisbees with softer silicone or rubber ones.
How to start playing frisbee with your dog (the safe way!)
Think your pup might benefit from playing frisbee? Here’s how you can get started successfully and safely:
- Get your vet’s okay. Your dog’s veterinarian will be able to tell you if your pup is physically fit enough for frisbee, plus some recommendations for stretching and recovery.
- Work on grabbing. It’s common for dogs more familiar with traditional fetch than frisbee to wait for the disc to fall on the ground before retrieving it. So, it’s a good idea to get them comfortable with grabbing it, first out of your hand and then with very small throws (within three feet). You can also try rolling the frisbee on its side a few times to encourage them to chase and grab it.
- Teach a release command. Another common mistake your dog might make is thinking that the frisbee is a tug-of-war or keep-away toy. So, as you’re teaching them how to grab, make sure to reward them for letting it go on command as well.
- Keep your throws low to the ground. One way to prevent joint damage is to make sure most of your throws are low enough to the ground that your dog can pluck the frisbee out of the air without jumping. Of course, a few higher throws here and there can keep the excitement alive. Just make sure your doggo is jumping in moderation.
- Don’t overdo it. Especially when your dog is just starting out, you’ll want to limit your frisbee sessions to a few times per week and only about 10 to 15 minutes max. Don’t forget to bring water!
- Do some cross training. Cross training…for dogs? Yes! Washington State University recommends that dogs who engage in high-impact activities like frisbee and flyball work on muscle conditioning, specifically core workouts, to lower the risk of knee injuries. Having a strong core may also help to keep your dog’s back and neck healthy by reducing the impact on the spine. This kind of muscle conditioning can be done with the use of wobble boards, balancing exercises, and low-impact exercise like swimming.
- Praise your pup, even when they don’t catch it. Your enthusiasm can make or break your dog’s interest in frisbee. So, no matter if they didn’t quite catch it (or really missed the mark), always cheer them on for trying. They’ll get it eventually. And even if they don’t, they’re enjoying all the benefits of this fun game!