Canine Disc Play
Make Great Throws or Your Dog Might Bite You!
Excerpted from Disc Dogs! The Complete Guide by Peter Bloeme and Jeff Perry, Co-founders of Hyperflite, Inc.
Canine disc sports are a team effort. Although the focus is frequently on the canine, in order for your canine to shine on the playing field or at your local park, you must throw smoothly and accurately in a variety of weather conditions. Good throwers are not born, though good throwing skills are most definitely born of hard work. Developing your throwing skills will enhance your dog's catching potential. We have often seen dogs with great natural abilities score poorly in competition due to their owner's consistently poor throws.
It is amazing to watch a good dog suddenly blossom into a great dog when its human teammate works hard at becoming a good thrower. If you are new to canine disc sports, then you simply must learn to throw, at least passably, before working with your dog. Good throwing skills will lessen the possibility of injury as well as keep your dog from becoming discouraged at the crucial early stage of your training.
For many, throwing a disc well is the most difficult aspect of canine disc training. However, it is technique, rather than strength, that marks the best throwers. In order to throw a disc well you must do the following:
- Maintain a proper grip on the disc
- Use the proper throwing stance
- Make use of your entire body during the throwing motion as opposed to just your arm and wrist
- Impart sufficient spin to the disc during the throwing motion to provide stability to the disc in flight
- Release the disc at the proper angle for the prevailing conditions
When starting out, make short throws to a partner or to a fixed target on a fence or other barrier. Concentrate on keeping the flight path of the disc as level as possible. As your accuracy improves, you can move further from your target. Trying to throw far without adequate control over the trajectory of your discs puts your canine at risk and will ingrain bad habits that will be difficult to overcome in the future. Only after you have control over the disc should you attempt longer throws or throws to your canine. Flying discs released with a bank angle (more properly referred to as hyzer), tend to turn in the direction of the bank angle. Throws made with the disc leading edge pitched up or down, will climb or descend, respectively.
Use a firm but not tight grip to hold the disc. Make sure that the disc is firmly in your palm and that you aren't holding it just with your fingers. After you develop a comfortable grip, practice it repeatedly until it becomes second nature. As in golf and tennis, a good grip is paramount to success.
Always put a good amount of spin on the disc upon release. The more spin, the longer the disc will maintain its stability. At first, beginners can simply concentrate on wrist snap. Ideally, however, spin is imparted to a disc through several factors, including proper body position and a snapping motion that originates from a steady stance and progresses through the hips, arm, elbow and, finally, the wrist.
The proper stance for the backhand throw, the most versatile throw for disc dog play, requires that you stand sideways to your intended target with your feet a shoulders' width apart and your knees slightly bent and parallel to each other. Start the throwing motion with two-thirds of your weight on your back foot. Then shift it naturally forward to your front foot (leaving one-third of your weight on your back foot) as you release the disc. Try not to lift your back foot off the ground and lunge forward as you throw. Your stance will, of course, be different for each throw but keep in mind that a stable platform will help you make stable throws.
Hyzer and Anhyzer
Perhaps the single most difficult concept for novice disc doggers to master is the concept of hyzer. The name hyzer probably arose from the "Hi Sir" greeting typically extended to expert disc tossers in the late 1800's although the true origin of the term is still in dispute. In disc dog sports, hyzer refers to the bank angle of the disc at the point of release. Once you understand how hyzer impacts the flight of the disc and begin to make practical use of varied bank angles when you throw, it will be smooth sailing for you and your canine. While it may appear to the casual observer that most throwers release their discs with a flat trajectory, this is not the case. Although beginners should strive to keep the flight path of their discs level, the best throwers understand the aerodynamics associated with disc flight and they know that as a disc slows down, and loses its rotational stability, it will rotate toward the direction that the disc is spinning. For a right-handed thrower making a standard backhand delivery, as the disc slows down, it will begin to curve or break to the right. Ideally, you want the disc to finish its flight in a level attitude so that your canine can make an easy catch. To counteract the discs turning tendency, a good thrower will add hyzer (bank angle) to her throw. The bank angle at release is determined by a number of factors including the type of disc you are using, whether the disc has surface imperfections (tooth marks) that cause drag, the distance you are attempting to throw, and, most importantly, the velocity of the wind that you are throwing into. Here are some general rules that will help you get the big picture of how to use hyzer to your advantage.
- Older-style discs like the Fastback disc from Wham-O are not as aerodynamic as more modern designs like the Hyperflite K-10 Competition Standard. To keep Fastback discs from turning over as they fly, you will need to use a lot more hyzer than you will with a disc like the Competition Standard.
- If you are throwing into a strong wind, you may need an extreme, nearly vertical bank angle in order to keep a disc from rolling rapidly to the right. Whereas, if you are throwing with the wind at your back, a flat release will probably suffice.
- If you are making a very long throw, then the disc will be moving pretty fast through the air. As a rule, long throws require more hyzer than short throws.
- Discs in perfect condition will fly differently than worn discs. Parasite drag caused by superficial damage to your discs will increase the amount of hyzer required to keep a worn disc from over rotating as it flies. That is why it is not a good idea to switch to brand new discs right before a competition without first practicing with them. Don't forget that it's the little things that can ruin your day on the field of competition.
Finally, you should also know that hyzer has a sister throwing technique referred to as anhyzer. anhyzer is simply bank angle that will cause a disc thrown by a right hand thrower to curve to the right. Whether you use hyzer or anhyzer to make the perfect throw to your canine will depend upon how you want a disc to fly after you release it. When you finally understand the interrelationship between the two "hyzer siblings," you will be ready to develop your own trick throws and handle windy days like a professional.