Mercury has mad jumping skills. Unlike his father Dublin, he has no problems with the “Border Collie Drag,” where the dog will jump more vertically aligned with shoulders above the hips and the feet close to or even dragging on the ground. If the Frisbee judge can’t see air under all four paws of the dog when they catch the disc, they don’t get bonus points for the catch: even if a photograph would show that all four paws are technically off the ground. If the front paws are way off the ground and the rear paws are only inches from turf, it’s harder for the judge to appreciate that the dog is in the air when they’re watching for the dog to establish control of the disc in its mouth at the moment of the catch.
If Mercury stopped his motion here, it’d be a classic BC drag, but he always manages to get those back feet off the ground:
Other popular Frisbee dog breeds like Australian Shepherds often jump in a horizontal alignment where the hips and the shoulders are almost level when the dog catches the disc. This stance also increases the distance that the dogs travel in the air after the catch. When the judges are marking distance by where the dog first touches down after the catch, level jumpers don’t have to break forward momentum to catch the disc and can soar several yards further after the catch before coming down. Vertical jumpers shift their momentum from forward movement into vertical movement and their rear feet will touch down soon after the catch, limiting the bonus distance and risking the jump bonus too.
Mercury still keeps a typical border collie vertical profile, but he has no problem getting plenty of air under his body and he doesn’t drag his feet at all. Here he is repeatedly vaulting over his mother, Celeste while playing catch:
With all that exuberance comes impatience and we’re still working on his timing as you can see from these other near misses:
When he jumps too early like in the top picture, he’s too high when the disc arrives and it sails right under him. When he jumps too late, he’s going up while the disc is going down and the disc hits the ground before he has a chance to catch it.
Although he still makes a valiant effort to get it even when he misses the air catch. This is where the handler really has to do right by the dog by avoiding the dreaded digger. If the Frisbee is thrown too fast and too low, the dog can actually pole vault over the disc when the leading edge hits the ground while the dog is still driving for the catch. This is often disastrous and tosses the dog ass over teakettle. Dogs break teeth if the ground is hard, whiplash their necks, sprain their front feet, get grass burns and raspberries, and get the wind knocked out of their lungs or even suffer a concussion.
Entry-level disc dog sport is easily the most laid back and approachable of the dog sports: demanding a little bit of training, a dog that can catch and a Frisbee. But even at its most simple, the sport still requires situational awareness and handler performance. Obedience requires little physical skill from the handler, Agility rewards running but there’s no physical interaction with the dog, Flyball is more about motivation and timing than any dexterity on the part of the handler, and Dock Diving is very forgiving of botched throws and fumbled landings.
Advanced disc dog sport where the handler creates a routine that’s set to music and includes more daring tricks, vaults, and physical interaction between the dog and handler ups the ante even more. While the creative elements of Dog Dancing are rewarded, so too are big air vaults that can launch the dog much higher than they can get on their own and acrobatic flips and twists that are difficult to land safely.
Seeing a dog achieve big air is a beautiful thing to watch, especially when the landing is as uneventful as the vault was spectacular.
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