Canine Disc Sports Injuries: Ouch That Smarts!

An excerpt from Disc Dogs! The Complete Guide by Peter Bloeme and Jeff Perry, Co-founders of Hyperflite, Inc.

When you use common sense, canine disc play is exceedingly safe. Injuries of any kind are rare. When they do occur it is usually because of a mistake that we humans make. Bad throws cause canines to run into things. Our failure to properly police the playing field can cause our canine to step in a hole or cut a paw on a foreign object. Overworking a canine on a hot day, without frequent rest and water breaks, can contribute to heat stroke or heat exhaustion.

One common, but extremely minor disc-related injury is the dreaded “tongue bite.” When dog’s are hot, they extend their canine radiators (tongues) to cool off. When your panting canine starts to chomp down on a disc without fully “reeling in” his tongue, bleeding is the inevitable result. These minor tongue nicks can look awful because, like shaving cuts, they bleed like the dickens. Mix a little blood with dog slobber, add a flapping tongue, and in an instant, your disc dog can look like a character in an Alfred Hitchcock movie. The cure for the tongue bite is simple and nearly instantaneous. Merely allow your canine to drink a little cold water (ice water is best) and the bleeding will stop very quickly. Once the bleeding stops it’s sometimes hard to find the injury that caused all the red stuff in the first place. If the bleeding doesn’t stop quickly with a drink of cold water, or if it appears to be coming from somewhere other than the canine’s tongue, check with your vet to be on the safe side. A bleeder is almost never a big deal — unless you’re performing in front of a group of school kids!

Once your dog cools down, you can start practicing or playing again. If your dog seems to have the bleeding problem a little too frequently, then you are most likely engaging in overly-long play sessions during the hottest part of the day. Extended tongues are easy to bite and injure by accident. Try and schedule your practice sessions during the cooler parts of summer days, take frequent breaks and give your canine lots of cool water. Rest between practice sessions — until your dog is no longer panting.

Another common “injury generator” is the tendency of disc dog enthusiasts to push their canines too quickly when they are recovering from muscle pulls and other minor injuries. Frequently, it is the canine that pushes the owner to get back to disc dog play after a long lay-off. The one who wears the skirt or the pants must take charge and keep a minor injury from turning into a major one. Follow your vet’s advice and don’t work your recuperating dog until it has had time to heal. Then, gradually work back up to your normal activities.

Our involvement in canine disc sports spans many decades and one of the saddest, though thankfully rare, things that we hear about are canines that are struck by cars. Please, don’t practice near highways or roads. Equally important is the concept of leashing your canine at all times when you aren’t on the playing field. That includes the 30 feet between your car and your front door. There is a tendency, once you have a well-trained canine, to let her walk off leash in places where 99.9 percent of the time, your dog will follow your commands. Unfortunately, cats and squirrels and other enticements can show up when you don’t expect them and lure your precious family member into the street just as a car speeds by. It’s an awful thing to witness and we implore you to take every precaution with your canine to prevent this type of tragedy.

We’ve told you about all the obvious things that can happen to your canine, but there is one more, not so obvious, affliction that may take years before it begins to produce observable symptoms. That affliction is skin cancer. Disc dogs spend a lot of time in the sun and, sadly, the Earth’s protective ozone layer is not what it once was. Believe it or not, there are several companies that make sunscreen products that can protect vulnerable areas on your pet from exposure to the harsh rays of the sun. Lest you think that your pop-up canopy cover will protect your dog, think again. Even indirect, reflected, exposure to ultraviolet radiation can be harmful to your canine.

Avoiding injury is something we usually think of in the context of our canines but, increasingly, we have seen trainers suffer from an assortment of injuries. Thus we thought it prudent to devote a few paragraphs to the human side of the equation. To begin with, canine disc play is an athletic endeavor. You should, therefore, take reasonable precautions and utilize appropriate equipment if you are going to participate in this activity.

Do wear athletic shoes. Bare feet, sandals, flip flops, and other inappropriate shoes are an invitation to pain. It may seem like a 60’s kind of thing to do — toss a flying disc to your dog with soft green grass between your toes — but you will think differently the first time a canine pushes off of, or runs across, your foot as it digs in to chase down a disc. The pain is a cross between a hornet sting and what we imagine hot molten lead would feel like if it were poured onto the top of one’s foot.

Dentists love disc doggers because we do smart things like holding a flying disc in our mouths while canines race toward us at 35-miles per hour. We almost always let go of the disc before the canine arrives – almost always. If you must perform tricks like the “jawbreaker,” as it is aptly known, practice it first by holding the disc in your hand near your mouth just to make sure you have the timing down pat.

Lower back injuries are also becoming increasingly common among top disc dog competitors who often catch their canines while they are airborne. If you catch your canine in the course of performing one of these tricks be sure not to lean forward. As you catch Phydeaux, bend your knees slightly so that your legs, rather than your spine will absorb the impact.

Leading the parade of canine disc related injuries that occur to bi-peds (that’s us humans) are those that result from the performance of vaulting tricks. Vaults, although spectacular to spectators, are not required for success in competition. But folks keep on doing them anyway. And people keep getting hurt. In the interest of good taste we won’t recount these injuries in specific detail except to say that one such injury that happened to a male disc dogger caused a feature of the male anatomy that is normally the size of a walnut to swell to grapefruit size. Female disc doggers have suffered injury to the unprotected upper-frontal realms of the female anatomy with even greater frequency. You should never attempt a vault until you have a chance to work with an expert trainer who can help keep you and your canine from getting injured. When dogs push off of your body their claws can make you look as if you were given 20 lashes, even if you were wearing a thick shirt. If you decide to perform vaulting tricks, then wear appropriate protective gear including, neoprene vaulting vests, thigh protectors and the special protective gear made just for us fellows.

As disc doggers become more creative in the tricks that they create and in their attempts to distinguish themselves from their fellow competitors on the playing field, injuries are inevitable. If we respect the premise that canine disc play is an athletic endeavor for human as well as canine, and we take appropriate action to lessen the possibility of injury, we can expect to enjoy many years of fun with our canine companions.

Reprinted with permission from Hyperflite, Inc.

End of Article Above

About the Authors

Peter Bloeme

Hyperflite co-founder, Peter Bloeme is currently director of the Skyhoundz Championships. In this role, he manages more than 100 Local Championships, 10 World Championship Qualifers, and the World Championship — reaching millions of consumers with messages of canine health and fitness.

Bloeme’s career of tossing, skipping, bouncing, spinning and twirling a plastic disc into the air began in 1974 when he won the Junior National Frisbee Championships at the age of 15. In 1976, at the age of 19, he won the World (human) Frisbee Championships at the Rose Bowl in California before 40,000 disc fans.

In 1983, Bloeme added a new element to his sport – a black and white Border Collie named Whirlin’ Wizard. The two went on to win the 1984 World Canine Frisbee Championships making Wizard, at less than 2 years old, the youngest dog to ever win the title. At the same time, Bloeme became the only person to win a world title both by himself and with his dog.

In 1990, Bloeme added a little magic to his routine – literally – with the addition of Magic, a black and white Australian Shepherd. Over the years, Bloeme, Wizard and Magic performed hundreds of disc dog demonstrations at sporting events including Major League Baseball, National Football League, World League football and National Basketball Association games.

Bloeme and his canine companions have also performed numerous times before sold-out stadium crowds all around the world. They have performed half-time shows at sporting events and have made public appearances in countries including Canada, China, England, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, and Sweden. Perhaps his most notable appearance was at the 1995 Japanese Baseball All-Star Game in Hiroshima, Japan where, after the seventh inning, the game was stopped for a ten minute exhibition by Bloeme and four Japanese dogs. Bloeme’s performance was viewed live by a sold-out crowd of 40,000 fans plus an estimated 26 million people on television through the Tokyo Broadcasting System.

During the 1970’s, Bloeme served as technical advisor to CBS Sports for a half-hour television special on Frisbee and toured Europe as a representative of the International Frisbee Association.

Bloeme and his dogs have appeared on television in the U.S. hundreds of times, including featured appearances on shows such as “Good Morning America,” “Late Night with David Letterman,” and on CNN and ESPN. You may remember seeing Wizard opening the Disney movie, “Flight of the Navigator.” In a Miller Lite television ad, Bloeme was responsible for the on-camera Frisbee action. Wizard even had a walk-on role in the spot. Bloeme has also served twice as the color commentator for Animal Planet in their one-hour show on the World Championships.

In 2001, Bloeme, Jeff Perry (1989 World Champion & Hall of Famer) and Greg Perry founded Hyperflite, Inc., a company dedicated to developing advanced disc technology. Their first disc, the K-10 for dogs was introduced in July of 2001.

Bloeme is author of the book, Frisbee Dogs: How to Raise, Train and Compete, a 192-page paperback, illustrated with over 300 photographs and the book, Skyhoundz Images, an 80-page hardcover photo book on the sport with captions in English, Japanese and Spanish ($19.95 U.S.).

Bloeme also co-produced, along with Jeff Perry, the internationally-acclaimed Disc Dog Training DVD, the top-selling disc dog training DVD of all time and Disc Dogs! The Complete Guide. At 360 pages, and featuring more than 600 color photos, Disc Dogs! is the most thorough and authoritative canine disc publication in existence.

Jeff Perry

Hyperflite co-founder Jeff Perry and his mixed-breed, animal shelter adoptee, Gilbert won the 1989 Canine Disc World Championship in Dallas, Texas. Prior to taking the World title, Perry and Gilbert won the Southeast Regional Championship for three consecutive years. Gilbert and Perry went on to be featured on NBC’s top-rated “Today Show,” along with numerous appearances on CNN and ESPN and other national and international media over the years. As a member of the ALPO Canine Disc Celebrity Touring Team, Perry was a media spokesperson for the 10-year period in which ALPO sponsored the Canine disc Championships.

Throughout the years, in countless interviews and public appearances Perry has extolled the virtues of adopting shelter animals. According to Perry, shelter mutts make wonderful companions and great disc dogs.

Perry and his canines have performed hundreds of times before sold-out stadium crowds at professional football and baseball games all over the world. Internationally, Perry has performed before huge crowds at Olympic Stadiums in Berlin and Barcelona and has made public appearances in Canada, China, Spain Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. Gilbert and Perry were featured entertainers at the prestigious “Colare de Oro,” the Italian equivalent of the Westminster dog show.

While performing in Japan, Perry met the Crown Prince and Princess of Japan (the future emperor and empress of Japan) after one of more than 200 shows that he performed in Japan over a five-month period at the Animal Kingdom in Nasu. While in Japan, Perry and his dog Cosmic K.D. also entertained thousands of spectators in the Tokyo dome.

From 1990 to 2005, Perry served as the Chief Judge of the World Canine Disc Championships.

Perry, along with Peter Bloeme and Greg Perry, co-founded Hyperflite in 2000 and, shortly thereafter, designed and patented the revolutionary K-10 disc, the first canine disc designed exclusively for canine competition.

Perry, along with Peter Bloeme, co-produced the internationally-acclaimed Disc Dog Training DVD, the top-selling disc dog training DVD of all time. In addition, Perry co-wrote Disc Dogs! The Complete Guide, the most authoritative book ever written on canine disc sports.

In his spare time, Perry also serves as a Contributing Editor for Flying Disc Magazine.

A strong proponent of the health and fitness benefits of canine disc play for dogs and owners, Perry founded one of the first canine disc clubs in the country. Over the years, Perry has taught countless canine-disc aficionados to throw flying discs and helped even elite-level competitors improve their throwing abilities.

In addition to his canine disc activities, Perry still finds time to engage in some of his other favorite pursuits, climbing, backpacking and flying. Perry, a skilled pilot, has flown powered aircraft and hang gliders for more than 25 years and has logged more than 2000 hours in many types of aircraft. In fact, his aeronautical experience and understanding of aeronautical principles were instrumental in the design of the Hyperflite K-10 disc.

Perry received a Bachelor of Science degree (B.S.) in Journalism from the University of Maryland, a Juris Doctor degree (J.D.) from Mercer University and a Master of Laws in International Law (LL.M.) from the University of Miami.

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