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Discussion Starter #1
What the title says. By "things" I mean frisbee-type toys ranging from rubber, to fabric/foam, to the Chuckit squirrel thing... Is there like a class about knowing how to throw the thing in your hand based on it's shape, weight, the wind, etc.?

As Brae gets stronger and faster, he is increasingly doing acrobatics that I don't approve of. He does not seem to catch things with efficiency in mind and is impulsive. This leads to some reckless, albeit impressive, 180 spins five or six feet in the air, some crazy body twists while pulling the toy out from above (rather than catching it as it hovers lower). I really should get some videos, except I don't intend on these things happening.

So far *knock on all the wood ever* he has not faltered physically/mentally through any of this, despite my belief that a lot of these landings are not desirable. But he catches it recklessly more often than safely. Unless I am mistaken, I see a safe catch/jump as being:
-When the disc/toy is near the ground and the dog rushes forward, barely jumping, to catch it
-When the dog jumps and lands squarely (all four paws make contact at the same time)

I don't think it is ever deemed safe for a dog to jump high and land on their hind legs, but correct me if I'm wrong. Also, I am not interested in disc, formally speaking. I and Brae both like playing with a variety of toys (and toss/catch and tug are always close together for us) so I use the Kong flyer and three different Chuckit products.
 

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Ralphie does that too, and I found that when things are thrown more up (think a tall arc) than straight out, he jumps and lands on his hind legs or twists. Things thrown farther and at a level height (like, no higher than as far up as I can reach) seem to FORCE a more forward movement, so if they have to jump to catch it, the jump is not high and is probably more natural (like, sailing over an agility jump) than jumping straight up in the air and doing somersaults. It also helps if the thing you are throwing is faster than the dog, or have to dog start beside or behind you.

I found that if you throw frisbees at the height just above your waist, they sail far and generally stay level. I'm nearly 6 ft tall, though so it may be different for shorter people! If I try to throw it above my waist, the frisbee inevitably sails up, up, up, and then you have a dog that is almost waiting below the frisbee and ends up jumping and auditioning for the acrobatics act at the local circus.
 

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First of all, practice throwing yourself - as in, sans dog. Being able to throw straight and at a reasonable height is a skill, and unfortunately it's one that has to be learned by doing and experimenting more than learning.

That said: Kiran used to be terrible at this. He still does some jumping but we got the totally wild stuff cleaned up by having him start *Every time* by wrapping around me and me throwing IN FRONT OF HIM. Not above him, not throwing toward him, but wrapping around my body from right to left, so we were facing the same direction when he took off running and I threw.

Well in my case one leg, he comes up between them, but Kiran's shorter than Brae. But basically the foundation to stop wild flinging after the discs amounts to 'have the dog wrap around you/do an around thing' and having the dog and disc moving in the same direction from roughly the same start. Requires all four on the ground and running hard to get out there and cuts out the aerobatic nonsense.

ETA: (So basically what Lilith said, tbh. Start the dog behind or beside you, throw slightly above nose level on the dog if at all possible. No angle up, and have the dog start behind or beside you - and if behind facing the direction you'll be throwing).

(I got motivated in a hurry when a BC pup Kiran's age landed badly and broke her leg a high jump and coming down on her back legs)
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thank you both! I guess I'll have to practice some impulse control with dog-less tosses :)
Brae already does the wrap around thing, very well. I'm just not a good thrower. If he wraps and I throw and he is faster than the toy, he will get under it and do a crazy jump. If he wraps and I throw and it's going fast and parallel to the ground, he can do one of those good catches. Or, depending on circumstances, it goes out of his reach and then it's just normal fetch.

Seriously freaky parallel lives stuff CptJack. My colleague's adolescent BC pup jumped up for a toy, landed badly on her hind legs, and had a spiral fracture in her femur. Thankfully the fracture itself was such that the dog was able to heal without surgery. But it was weeks of crate rest. It wasn't even a horribly dramatic jump, from what I heard. It was just a bad landing and we don't know the genetics of this dog/bone structure/density.
 

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You know without certain different details (broken tiba not femur, there was surgery), and, um, location I'd be asking if they were the same person. The jumping after a toy and spiral fracture are DEFINITELY the same.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Slightly off topic, but since you are in the sport community... Do you notice a higher incidence of those kinds of injuries in certain breeds, or dogs with certain structures? Anecdotally, I've seen skeletal injuries happen more with fairer or finer boned dogs. Like, I've never heard it happen to a cattle dog, always aussies and BCs. People in the Dutchie community practically laugh at me when I worry about bumps and bruises and high impact stuff. My breeder said she has rarely ever seen skeletal injuries in the breed, and more CCL tears but it depending on knee angulation, and that all in all it really depended on the lines.
 

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Yeah, I think I see more bone injuries in lighter boned dogs and mixes - lots of various soft tissue/ligament stuff in things like ACD. But I haven't really looked closely and to be honest I can think of about 3 injuries over 4 years in person. Online, more.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Interesting! I know there are studies done regarding bone structure, or injuries, and alter status. Not sure if there are any regarding activity. But there are just so many factors I'm not even sure what it would amount to. I feel like I might have posted this before, but in an older correspondence I had with my breeder she wrote:
"When a MLB pitcher has bone scans of both arms, there is a huge difference in the density and even the wall width (the size of the hollow part of bone is variable). The pitching arm that has repeated strain on it has much stronger bones. When that person retires from playing baseball their arm bones slowly return to a more symmetric appearance."

And logically/biologically, it makes sense that frequent use and conditioning can strengthen bone as well as muscle. I've been doing little bits of training in so many different high impact things (fetch, disc, weight pull, flirt pole, spring pole, running with bike) that I'm hoping Brae's strength (and genetically, structure) will prevent injuries in the future. He's just so big... And me getting better at tossing and all :D

You know without certain different details (broken tiba not femur, there was surgery), and, um, location I'd be asking if they were the same person. The jumping after a toy and spiral fracture are DEFINITELY the same.
Ok I just checked my notes (since I emailed someone about the BC in question) and it was the TIBIA. The dog was in a cast and crated for around two months. Freeeeaaaakkkyyyyy....
 

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Due to the nature of the sport I compete in there is enough impact from training so the toy toss is not a place where we want to increase impact with crazy leaps and bounds or fast turns at speed. We have been seeing an uptick of Iliopsoas injuries and once injured dogs rarely come back to compete in ANYTHING other than (perhaps) AKC Obedience where the jumps are not a full meter and the pace is slower. We are also seeing a greater number of lower back injuries requiring surgery. In our club we have changed what we do an how we reward.

I think part of this is from training too hard, too much TOO YOUNG. When I see a dog under three years old going IPO3 I am thinking that dog will no longer be competing past 5 years old (if he makes 5). I am usually correct.. just the impact from jumping a meter jump or the impact of a bad catch by a decoy in a courage test can damage that spine (especially with unclosed growth plates.. and to be IPO 3 at that age yes, they are doing all that stuff before the growth plates in the spine are closed)

As a result, we stop throwing things to fetch or playing "two ball" where you throw the ball, the dog comes back, outs the ball at you but keeps running past as you throw the second ball. This game, that I will add the dogs just LOVE, tends to get Kamikazi as the dogs drive and weight increases with age and they get the ball and twist and turn (and sometimes even flip) to bring it back. Last night, at one year old, my young dog is not getting any more two ball. HE is reckless. He is going to tear himself up. Brae is a Dutchie.. so the prey drive and the leaps etc. are there (tho I believe you have a smaller size dog and that will be your saving grace).

If you still need to throw something, keep it low to the ground. I no longer throw anything higher than the dog's head. This takes practice. The other thing you can do is put some obedience on this (and some impulse control). Dog must sit or down when you throw and cannot go get until released with "bring." Of course this can also suppress drive so you need to be careful if your sport wants higher drive!

Another thing we do (when using a toy reward in training) is to toss the ball close by (like 6 feet) or (to feed drive) SLAM the ball on the ground after saying YES! to mark the correct behavior. When heeling and the dog is perfect I slam the ball to the ground at about "8 O'Clock" so the dog turns away from me and a bit back for the reward (encourages the dog to keep his but IN and not forge as reward placement is important!).

For German Shepherds, Malinois etc. (and your breed as well) we do not use frisbees or any other "flying" toy that encourages leaps and twists in the air. Just asking for a career ending injury IMO.
 

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Maybe slightly off-topic but ...

Often overlooked by some, I like to 'NO impact / warm up' my dog prior to any strenuous exercise or jumping. It's the first thing you'll see virtually all human athletes do.

In the case of my dogs, I'll have them spin and twist, weave between my legs, gently stretch longitudinally by encouraging them to put their forelegs up or by bowing down if you happen to have that behaviour on cue, rub down the muscles a bit to get the blood flow going, etc etc. This is much preferred in my opinion, rather than just leaping right in stone cold, with no warm up at all like I see many people do. For me, two or three minutes spent on this before weekly classes, practice, or trials can go a long way towards preventing unnecessary injury. Perhaps not quite as much in Novice, but especially so with a dog in Open or Utility where jumping is present.

It's been many years since I borrowed it from my club library, but Chris Zink wrote a book "Peak Performance: Coaching the Canine Athlete" which may provide more thorough ideas and instructions for anyone interested.
 

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Maybe slightly off-topic but ...

Often overlooked by some, I like to 'NO impact / warm up' my dog prior to any strenuous exercise or jumping. It's the first thing you'll see virtually all human athletes do.

In the case of my dogs, I'll have them spin and twist, weave between my legs, gently stretch longitudinally by encouraging them to put their forelegs up or by bowing down if you happen to have that behaviour on cue, rub down the muscles a bit to get the blood flow going, etc etc. This is much preferred in my opinion, rather than just leaping right in stone cold, with no warm up at all like I see many people do. For me, two or three minutes spent on this before weekly classes, practice, or trials can go a long way towards preventing unnecessary injury. Perhaps not quite as much in Novice, but especially so with a dog in Open or Utility where jumping is present.

It's been many years since I borrowed it from my club library, but Chris Zink wrote a book "Peak Performance: Coaching the Canine Athlete" which may provide more thorough ideas and instructions for anyone interested.
YES to this. Warm up and stretching!! a little trotting around is good too.
 

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Yep. Definitely warm up. I do a lengthier warm-up when it's cold or dogs are coming out of having been crated for a while, but always do SOMETHING, even if it's just some spins, twirls, bows, and walking a bit.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Yep, I always do a warm up. Usually it's a 10-15 minute potty walk around the block.

To 3GSD, Brae is 70# at a year old, so not small at all!

I totally get why some people would not play disc for fear of injury, but Brae enjoys it so much I think I'd rather learn how to play it well and sparingly, than never at all. Brae is a high impact dog in general and does nothing at less than 100%. I know he is a dog I need to be careful with. I've been doing small amounts of high impact stuff throughout his life and I am increasing it with maturity. But I alternate between enough different activities on a weekly basis that I'm not worried. Or, I should say, I am taking calculated risks.
 

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For throwing, you might talk to a high school or college coach, or professor in kinesthetics. The angles of your wrist and coordination of release are important with a Frisbee. A coach should be able to point you to someone who can provide a few lessons. A Frisbee Golf club may be able to help you learn. Using a Chuckit is so similar in baseball kinesthetics that a high school or college baseball pitcher might help with the coordination. And you really can get good with a little instruction in just a few weeks. And, with a few months of practice, you confidence, control, and accuracy can improve significantly.

As far as avoidance of impact injury, in human or beast, part is by conditioning and part is by experience. Like any athlete, Brae will learn how to 'fall' more safely by practicing the desired jumps and landings. Interestingly, uniform fascia, tendon, and bone strength appear to build up better through gentle stress outside of the high impact exercise. In sports medicine, studies showed that football players and weight lifters improved resistance to injury through yoga and Tai Chi. Although I'm sure Brae knows the doggie down position, but I believe that low jumps and playing in grassy fields, outside of the high impact work, will help build density and resistance to injury.
 

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Yep, I always do a warm up. Usually it's a 10-15 minute potty walk around the block.

To 3GSD, Brae is 70# at a year old, so not small at all!

I totally get why some people would not play disc for fear of injury, but Brae enjoys it so much I think I'd rather learn how to play it well and sparingly, than never at all. Brae is a high impact dog in general and does nothing at less than 100%. I know he is a dog I need to be careful with. I've been doing small amounts of high impact stuff throughout his life and I am increasing it with maturity. But I alternate between enough different activities on a weekly basis that I'm not worried. Or, I should say, I am taking calculated risks.
Just do not throw it high so he has to jump high and twist for it. No need.. and he will still have lots of fun.

My Kamikaze dog is just 1 year and somewhere in the neighborhood of 60-70 pounds. He is gonna tear himself up if I am not careful. His Prey Drive is very high and he is not careful.. he sees the ball and that is all he sees! If I threw the ball over a cliff he would go.

My older female (with all the titles) is much more self preserving but I am still careful. Funny story about her.. I took her to a Dock Diving class. Showed her the stairs in and out of the water. Showed her all of it. When it came time to have her jump off the platform for the toy? Nope. She ran lickity split down the platform and stopped at the edge in a skid then looked at me as if to say, "Well, Stupid, YOU threw it in there YOU get it!" I even built drive by jacking her up by holding her back and having the toy tossed. Nope. Skid to a stop at the edge. If I had been able to run with her, holding her collar so we jumped together she would have been fine and done it.. but not on her own. I am not one for dock diving competitions but it is a GREAT way to exercise a dog and give them fun without them getting hurt. Unless it is Greta. Then her idea is YOU do the dock diving and she will just watch.. HaHa..

I doubt the young kamikaze dog will hesitate....

With training these dogs become very valuable. A titled, intact female (or male) can be worth a few thousand dollars (mine is spayed and that changes everything). I try to reduce the risks.. since getting the dog to that titled level usually costs me thousands more than the dog could be sold for. Not that I sell my dogs (I spayed the female at age 3 instead of selling her). Even so, I do look at my dogs as investments (it's all a little crazy HaHa).

BTW I know the stress building bone strength thing. Race horses ALL buck their shins at some level and then their bones remodel to be stronger and more dense. This does not mean they are not carefully trained as a lame race horse is not worth much.
 

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Throwing things....
Jumping wildly and twisting sharply is really hard on the bigger dogs. When I was competing I saw many problems with dumb bell tossing. They would take unusual bounces and often out of “plane”. Or out of the desired direction you wanted the dog to go out and come back. Sometimes the grass would be deep enough to hide the dumb bell slightly. Being a bowler I began trying to throw it with out “English” so it would bounce true. SCH/IPO they are 2.2 kg or around 4.5 pounds so pretty heavy. Many tossed by the shaft but it invariably bounced crooked. I found that holding it by an end and tossing without any rotation generally caused it to simply land true or bounce straight. It took a little backyard practice but it worked for me. Tossing a lighter one over the jump or wall was important as the dog can’t see it. If it bounces off center it incourages the dog to go around the obstical.

I coached kids baseball and football so I had access to sports fields. For long throws I used baseballs. Sometimes I threw for distance other times I threw the grounders so the dog could run the ball down. It encouraged very fast retrieves. Obviously there were plenty of rewards and praise involved.

I never liked frisby because it seemed to encourage difficult jumping and twisting. As noted a good way to cause dog injuries.

If you insist on frisby try the golf ones. They tend to travel much flatter and straight so the dog can easily grab them. I’d keep the altitude low. Practice without the dog first.

While I did use tennis balls I used them more for rewards than chasing. The GSD and MALS have very large mouth and the tennis ball could get caught or partially swallowed. Most dogs can adjust to this but accidents do happen even to experienced dogs.

Ball practice like this it’s important to watch the dog. I don’t like to go so far the dog slows down. I stop before this. There are weighted baseballs, they are a bit pricey but a 2 pound ball is a lot of work for a dog and it really built a powerful grip and retrieve.

Currently for my Aussie we have 14 objects. They vary from balls to rope, tennis ball type dumb bell, to stuffed animals. The honky green rubber pig is her favorite. We practice in our living room. It’s about 30 feet so usually we go through these twice. For variation I add a large plastic box to jump over. It only 18” high so not a hard jump and none of the toys are very heavy. Twice a day on weekends. Once about two evenings a week. It’s a very high speed exercise. About 10-12 minutes.
 

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Two things:

1-) Do not use human discs for dogs - even the golf discs. You are asking for rough edges, broken teeth, and a cut up tongue and mouth. Dog discs are different for a reason, and that's not marketing. Do not. Not safe on any level and there is no benefit. A proper dog disc, however, IS well worth the 10.00 or less. For easy catches, flat flying, and distance I highly recommend the 'floppy flyer' type discs - they're cloth and rubber tubing, but they last better than even the 'jawz' indestructible discs. And even Jawz are lighter, have shallower rims and have more 'flex' and softness than any human disc, making them safer.

2-) Disc and fetch with balls, even with my nutty dogs, is the least dangerous thing I do with them. It is certainly less likely to lead to physical injury than agility, and that's WAY less dangerous than something like IPO.

More and more, it is coming out and I believe, that dogs who are 'prevented' from doing certain things (jumping, climbing, running hard) as puppies are MORE injury prone than dogs who are not. That is not to say to encourage high leaping and twisting in a high drive dog who will recklessly pursue no matter what, but it also is not to say don't throw the thing. It is to say exactly what Canyx did: Throw as safely as you can to mitigate risks (and throw things that also mitigate risks) and not 'bait them' into recklessness.

Two of mine would ALSO chase a ball off a cliff (or into a tree, or street, or drown themselves if I throw it into a raging river) - so I DON'T THROW OFF A CLIFF.

Okay three things:

I can't even begin to get the fiscal investment thing. Dog's going to die regardless of how many titles you earn before then. You're not getting the money back out of the dog - barring breeding and even then you're not getting most of it back, because the cost of breeding is enormous you'd get the cost of having bred the dog back from the litter, most likely, and even selling at thousands of dollars for the dog itself? How much money have you ACTUALLY put into the dog at that point? Purchase price of the dog, training, food, vet care, trial entries, travel, hotels, equipment - all of it? Because if I add up the amount of money in any one of my dogs, in the training of - Yeah, no.

Yeah, you're not making a profit here, and the money isn't coming back. Maybe, if you're one of a very lucky few, a teeny, tiny, percentage of it.

The investment is in ME. I am paying for the privilege of learning, and of playing a game I love with dogs I love and enjoy, and to some degree the confidence and 'validation' of having those titles attached to dogs I own - and the money I put into that isn't ever going to come back to me, either, and that's okay because the intangibles are great, but let's be real:

It's about as much of an investment, financially, as going out to eat or lighting the money on fire.
 

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It takes right around $50,000 to take a dog from puppy to National Competitor in IPO sport. At IPO 3 most could be sold for around $10,000. If they have great ability they can go for a LOT more. I have seen it.... I have not paid it (nor have I been paid!! Ha!). It just takes me back a bit to realize it.

I train my dogs as if every one will qualify for Nationals and Pass at National Level (even if they never will). So lots of money in and I do not go out to eat (and a bunch of other things) to afford my dog things. In fact, for years I have heated with wood to afford dog sport.. lot of do this OR this.

Yes. Any dog can be injured and I am not suggesting putting a dog in bubble wrap. We are simply seeing a pretty significant uptick in certain injuries and it may be from too much too young. The Iliopsoas injuries tend to be career ending (stretching and core strengthening exercise can help prevent these!) and the lower spinal injuries have greatly increased. The sport has changed as well. We are just trying to change how we train and play (especially throwing things) to see if prevention can be part of the cure.

It is heart breaking when you get a dog to IPO 2 and a three is on the horizon.. dog is just GREAT and then a career ending injury happens. Why NOT try to do things a little different?

Not all things can be prevented.. one of the nicest dogs I know injured his mouth.. no one knew how.. and lost enough teeth from infection to never compete again. Another dog slipped and tore his ACL.. surgery fixed him but never well enough to compete or work again.

With a mild iliopsoas injury the dog stops jumping or hits the jump (again.. a meter jump) with or without the DB. Lower spine/sacral injury (requiring surgery) shows a more dramatic deterioration in ability to train and perform. Some have speculated this is from jumping into and out of trucks and SUV's and gotten ramps (I have not.. yet..)(tho when he jumps out of the truck I support him so he does not slip on the tailgate and wreck himself!) . Others have thought it may be from the sharp twists and turns in recklessly retrieving and running in the game of "two ball." I have toned that down. Some. Shorter and lower throws (dog can't build up as much speed). Slamming the ball on the ground (builds lots of excitement and not a lot of hurtling of the dog's body).

Just trying to be thoughtful about play and consequences. Especially in a prey driven crazy hurtling dog that is only a year old. Love him dearly.. but he is not careful! If he were a kid he would be the one with the piece of plywood and a sheet jumping off the garage roof trying to fly!

They can all get hurt. I know that.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
It's been better. But we've had a round of horrific falls and tumbles this week.

1. I said the tug cue too soon, as the spring pole toy was still dangling, and Brae launched at it, did not get a full grip, swung in the air and fell from 5-6' flat on his side onto asphalt. I called e-vet and asked if I should bring him in for Xrays. He bounced right up and wanted back at the toy.

2. I threw a disc and it was too high. Brae jumped and twisted 6+ feet into the air and tumbled multiple times due to forward momentum. Still had the frisbee in his jaws and wanted more throws.

3. Same night as #2, the disc was too low this time and Brae lunged forward and low to grab it, tumbled multiple times...

I swear there were mostly good tosses that he safely caught. The dog just has no regard for his life.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
I almost think he 'wants' to tumble sometimes. Even when he was a super young puppy he'd hit the flirt pole so hard he'd roll a little bit. Like, his 'method' of attacking low moving things is to throw himself, snap and roll. I hope it teaches him how to do it... safely... if there is such a thing.

He rarely rolls as an adult, but it is not totally out of his repertoire of behaviors. If he rolled too much I would think there is an instability/inability to stop. Usually he violently whips and attacks whatever moving object I toss for him. Reason #786 why we don't endlessly and mindlessly play fetch.
 
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