Frequently Asked Questions
The sport got its start in the early 1970s, paralleling the rise in popularity of frisbee sport. The definitive moment came on August 4, 1974 when Alex Stein, a young college student from Ohio, jumped the fence at a nationally broadcast baseball game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Cincinnati Reds. He had with him a couple of frisbees and an amazing dog named Ashley Whippet. Ashley astonished the crowd with eight minutes of catching frisbees, running 35 mph and leaping 9 feet in the air to snag discs. The stunt was so novel that the game was stopped and Joe Garagiola continued to announce the action on the field. However, enough was enough, and Alex was eventually escorted off the field. But the seed was planted, and a new sport was born.
Alex worked with Irv Lander and Eldon McIntire to create a nationwide competition for people and their dogs. It was a sport that is easy enough for anyone, and that celebrates the bond between handler and dog. Even today, Alex and Eldon continue to contribute to the sport.
Ashley Whippet, widely considered to be the greatest frisbee dog ever, went on to win 3 world championships, perform at the White House for a young Amy Carter, perform during the half-time at Super Bowl XII, and even starred in an Academy Award-nominated short documentary entitled Floating Free. Though many great dogs have come along since Ashley, he is still the standard by which all others are measured.
Ashley’s legacy lives on now, 35 years later, as the sport has become popular worldwide. People and their dogs on at least four continents organize competitions and enjoy the simple joy of a disc in flight, and that terrific rush (for the dogs) of the catch at the end!
Requirements to compete
Dogs of all kinds can play frisbee. In fact, dogs from animal shelters and rescue groups can excel at frisbee. Numerous world champions were originally rescued from shelters. Many of the problems that put dogs into shelters and rescue groups, such as hyperactivity, aggression, or destructive or neurotic behavior, are often attributes that can be positively channeled into a sport like frisbee. To put it shortly: these dogs simply need a consistent job to do. Many frisbee dogs also “cross-train” in other dog sports, including dog agility, flyball, sheepdog trials, and obedience.
Part of the popularity of the sport is its accessibility. All that is necessary to enjoy it is a level grassy playing area, a dog, and a frisbee. Also, a little imagination is an extra plus for Freestyle. It is estimated that over one million dogs play frisbee in the United States alone, though only a small percentage participate in organized competitions.
Frisbee dogs are also popular attractions at sporting events as half-time entertainment. Going clear back to Ashley and his 7th inning stretch, Frisbee dogs have performed at countless football, basketball, baseball and soccer halftimes. They found in amusement parks, county fairs and pet festivals of all kinds. There are a small handful of trainers who even make a living doing these shows.
Frisbee dog clubs are the backbone of the sport. They organize and promote the sport on a local level, and work with national organizations to run events. They offer people a way to learn more about the sport if they are new, and are a great place for the more experienced competitors to give back. Frisbee dog clubs are quite often active in local animal charities, helping to raise money and awareness for the groups that exist to help others. Frisbee dog clubs can be found all over the world.
Teaching a dog to catch a frisbee
Not all dogs immediately understand the concept of chasing a frisbee thrown over their heads so that they must turn to chase it and catch it. If a dog already knows how to catch, it can learn this new concept if the disc is thrown at increasing heights, starting by throwing the disc straight to the dog from a short distance, then gradually throwing the disc higher until it finally goes over the dog’s head and he instinctively follows the disc all the way around. Positive reinforcement (cheering the dog when a catch is made) really helps. Next comes maneuvering skills and the best one to start with is a circle command. Having the dog run around you before flying downfield makes it much easier to keep the disc out in front of the dog.
What’s the history of the Appalachian Air Canines?
On the first day of of the Chinese 2006 Year of the Dog (January 29, 2006), a new frisbee dog club was born. The Appalachian Air Canines was founded by veteran east-coast frisbee dog enthusiasts with a driving desire to emphasize freedom, fun, and friendship above rigid discipline and competitive fervor. Our name pays tribute to our heritage and we are excited by the prospect of renewing this community’s pursuit of the values that motivated our forefathers.
Were you the group that competed on the grounds of the Washington Monument?
If you remember this, you are thinking about what used to be the ALPO Canine Frisbee Disc World Championship, which is completely unrelated to AAC. The last one in DC was scheduled for the week after September 11, 2001. As a result of the tragedy, the event was moved and has not been held there again. More information on a similar world championship can be found here.
What is the AAC Club Cup?
At the end of each year’s season, one dog is deemed the winner for the year and is considered the Club Cup Champion. To compute the points earned at each event, one must calculate the reverse order of placement for each game played. For example, if ten teams play freestyle and your dog finishes first overall, you would get 10 points. If 30 teams play AAC Fetch and your dog finishes 2nd overall, you would get 29 points. If the same dog runs with more than one handler in the same game, he only gets points for the best of his runs.
I am thinking about coming to an AAC event. Do I have to be a member?
Do I have to pre-register for anything?
No to both questions. Come on out!
Does my dog need to have a certain skill level to join in a competition/event/exhibition?
Nope! A focus on friendly, fun activities is our prime directive. Come on out and give it a try!
We’d like to have AAC come out to our venue for a demo or competition. Do you do that? What’s the deal?
Sure, it can’t hurt to ask. The space requirement for one of our competition events is approximately 250’ x 100’ of unobstructed flat lawn area. We can adjust our games to fit smaller spaces when necessary but those are the optimal dimensions. A competition typically brings in about 40 dogs and runs for 4 hours (another hour or two is required for set-up, registration, and tear-down). We often do demonstrations on a much smaller scale (3+ dogs, 50’ diameter, 30 minutes to an hour depending on the number of dogs we have and weather conditions).
The way our club works is we encourage our individual club members to coordinate/host events in their area and use club resources to manage the event. That way we don’t have the same few people doing all the work for our club events which stretch from northern VA to central PA, and we get a nice variety of venues to play our games.
The first step is to send us an e-mail. We’ll get back to you within a few days.
What is League Play?
The basic idea behind League Play is to downsize a competition by taking all the stress-causing elements out of it. Most times our club simply uses cones for yard markers without bothering with painted lines. We leave all the sound equipment at home and get by with a boom box and a booming voice. We keep the scores on a single piece of paper then enter the results into a computer after the event. We typically don’t charge fees or hand out any club awards at these matches (sometimes maybe toys or treats which the host provides), so there is no real need to calculate scores and declare “winners” at each outing. The rules and scoring schemes for each game are up to the event coordinator and can be changed on the fly as needed to suit the host or participants on that day.
Another way to look at it is to strive for more events instead of larger events. The ideal league match is in the 5 to 10 dog range and lasts less than 2 hours, whereas most tournaments these days seem to be in the 40+ dog, 8 hour range. Big events scare off most newbies and casual backyard players. League Play on the other hand is like a sandlot game that is low key and inviting. Anyone can join in and have some fun, even if their dog doesn’t have a clue about what’s going on. Social time afterwards is always a prerequisite for our matches!
The calculations for the cumulative season awards can be done lots of different ways, but there are three in particular that we like:
- Activity Points: 1 point is awarded for each “round” a dog plays. Playing a single round of 3 different games with 2 different handlers would equal 6 Activity Points, 3 rounds of the same game with a single handler would equal 3 points, etc. Activity points are awarded even if you score 0 or don’t complete that round. All that matters is that you tried.
- Ranking Points: Points are awarded equal to the reverse order of finish. If there are 10 dogs playing and you finish first, you get 10 points, while the team that finished last would get 1 point. More participants mean higher scores for the top dogs. Our highest single game score last year was 18.
- Top Dog %: This is the most difficult one to explain but we think it is the best indicator of overall performance. The calculation is to divide each team’s score by the best score in that same round to produce a ratio. Take the average of that ratio for all games played to determine how often a team finishes near the top. 100% means you always finished first in every game you played. 0% means you never even scored a point in any of the games you played.
For the year-end awards, what constitutes a small or big dog?
A small dog is one who weighs 30 pounds or less. A big dog weighs 60 pounds or more.