When people first begin to play disc, the different organizations can be very confusing, particularly if you’ve played other dog sports before. In other dog sports, exhibitors tend to choose one or two organizations. They then progress through the levels in those organizations, and must begin at a lower level if they start showing in a different organization. In disc, with one exception, you can compete at the highest level at any time. The only rules regarding levels is when you must move up out of novice. The exception to this is The UpDog Challenge, which is formatted more like other dog sports. To make things more confusing, clubs often offer events which follow their own rules format (often marketed as “Ohio Rules” or “Club Rules”) which often combine rules from different organizations. So, what are the different organizations? Let’s take a look at the types of events, and the organizations you will most commonly see & hear about in Ohio. Click on the organization name to be taken to that organization’s website.
There are three traditional formats found in most organizations.
- Freestyle – A routine choreographed by the player & set to music, consisting of a variety of tricks, and using different grips & releases. Tricks include vaults, overs, dog catches, and more. The player is given a certain amount of time to perform. Multiple discs are used. Judging is subjective, based on creativity and difficulty of content, as well as how many catches are made.
- Toss & Catch – A single disc game, in which the player throws a disc from behind a throwing line. The dog earns points based on how far away they are from the throwing line when they make the catch. The player is given a certain amount of time to complete as many catches as they can. Some organizations award an “Anti-Gravity Bonus”, or an extra half point if the dog makes the catch while in the air.
- Distance – A format similar to Toss & Catch, in which the object is to get a catch as far away from the throwing line as possible. Rather than accumulating points based on multiple catches in a given time, a distance event often scores only the catch which travels the furthest distance.
The UpDog Challenge – UpDog offers Freestyle and Throw N Go (a version of Toss & Catch). They offer Far Out, a distance game with a twist. They also offer a number of unique games. Some of the games, like Frizgility & FunKey, have agility equipment incorporated into the game. Others reward accuracy or strategy. In this organization, players start in Level 1 for all games except Freestyle and Throw N Go, and must earn enough points and “ups” to enter Level 2. Because Freestyle and Throw N Go are comparable to the other organizations, and many players come to their first UpDog event with experience, players are permitted to enter Level 2 whenever they think they are ready. Qualifying for their International Finals is based on accumulating points in each game during the qualifying season.
Ashley Whippet Invitational (AWI) – The AWI offers Freestyle and Toss & Catch. Top finishers in each category will earn invitations to the AWI World Championships. Freestyle competitors can bring up to 9 discs to the field. The scoring categories for freestyle are Dog, Human, Team & Overall. Catch ratio is recorded, but only affects scoring in the case of a tie-breaker. In Toss & Catch, there will be a bonus zone, and catches made in the zone will be awarded bonus points.
U.S. Disc Dog Nationals (USDDN) – USDDN offers Freestyle and Toss & Catch. Top finishers in each category will earn invitations to the AWI World Championships. USDDN is known for having the most clearly defined freestyle judging criteria, so their rules are a good source for novice players who are developing their first freestyle routine. Their version of Toss & Catch allows players to throw for 90 seconds, with only the top 5 catches being scored.
Skyhoundz – Skyhoundz offers four different types of events. Clubs advertising an event will specify which type of event it is.
- Skyhoundz Local & State Championships – These events can be either Freestyle and Distance/Accuracy (a version of Toss & Catch), or Distance/Accuracy only. These events stand alone, and do not qualify you for Worlds.
- Skyhoundz Classic Qualifiers – These events will have Open (Freestyle) and Sport (Toss & Catch) divisions. Top finishers earn invitations to Skyhoundz Worlds. See Skyhoundz Classic Qualifiers and Skyhoundz Pairs Freestyle for more information.
- Skyhoundz DiscDogathon – These events have a 1-round version of Freestyle, and 4 other games based on a single disc. See DiscDogathon Games for more information on the games. The winner in each game earns an invitation to Skyhoundz Worlds for that game.
- Skyhoundz Xtreme Distance – These events are a Distance format. Top finishers earn an invitation to Skyhoundz Worlds. See Skyhoundz Xtreme Distance Qualifiers for more information.
UFO – The UFO offers Freestyle, Toss & Catch, and a distance format called the D-Tour. Events are listed as UFO Locals or UFO Majors, and points are accumulated to earn places at the UFO Finals each year. Freestyle judging uses the DISC scoring system – Drive & athleticism, Ingenuity, Sequences & flow, and Comprehensive. Catch ratio is recorded as well, and is used in case of a tie-breaker. The Toss & Catch field has a bonus zone in the farthest scoring zone, where you can earn an extra point. The D-Tour has different format options, all rewarding catches at long distances.
The QUADRUPED (QUAD) – The QUAD is a Distance series of events. Teams compete at multiple QUAD events, and earn points that accumulate from event to event. Events are organized into heats, and the longest catches progress to additional rounds.
If you are a novice competitor, don’t be afraid to enter a World Qualifying event. There will be plenty of people there who aren’t in competition for a spot at Worlds, and often there will be both Novice & Intermediate divisions which aren’t in contention for qualifiers. Everyone is friendly, and is glad to see a healthy novice division. Don’t be intimidated!