Most dogs jump for disc because they missed. They have over pursued and ran past the target then make a last ditch effort to make the catch – they jump because they’re out of position and they’ve missed.
There are several reasons that this happens, but let’s focus on two for now. The lack of a plan and too many opportunities.
Disc dogs usually start out chasing discs. Everything is about the disc. The handler throws and the disc flies away. The dog pursues indiscriminately because it is not necessary have to plan to catch the disc. If the dog misses the initial attempt, the disc often is still accessible. There are so many opportunities when chasing a target. Chasing the disc requires following the discs path or line. So a plan doesn’t matter. The dog learns to pursue, hard, and not think too much about how they are going to make the catch.
An interception, however, requires a plan. The dog sees the trajectory of the disc, makes a plan to catch it and then executes that plan. Because the dog and disc are not on the same path, the plan all boils down to one point – the point where the disc’s trajectory intersects with the dog’s planned path. That is a single point in space and time. There is literally just one shot to get it right.
With an interception, the dog has to put together a plan to hit one point in space and time in order to capitalize on the opportunity to catch the disc. When chasing a disc there is a long line of many many points, many opportunities making space and time not nearly as important as staying on task and tracking that disc – eventually, the dog will get the opportunity to make the catch.
The biggest difference between interception and chase is the amount of information available to the dog for which to make a plan. When the dog is chasing a disc, his focus is up, at the bottom of the disc, as the disc is above his head. The closer he gets to the disc, the more engrossed and overwhelmed he becomes by it’s presence.
Another issue with chase is that there is no way to gauge speed. Speed is computed by comparing the movement of the target in relation to the stuff in the background. When a dog is chasing a disc, there is no background, there is only the disc and the sky. This makes computing speed very difficult.
The difficulty of computing the speed of a disc with limited information is increased because of the speed change that happens right before the catch. A well placed disc flies out there and hovers, it move fasts then slows down and stops right before the catch. The lack of information on the speed of the disc when chasing is a major problem for almost all dogs.
Intercepting a disc provides a ton of information from which to gauge the speed of the target. The horizon, the trees, the grass, and all of the background visuals are available for the computation of speed. This makes formulating a plan much easier. The dog has greater intelligence on how discs fly and how to go about catching them.
To boil it all down, chasing discs is about following a line, a series of many points, and intercepting discs is about conceptualizing the discs line, and making a plan to intercept the disc at one, singular point.
The great thing about intercepting discs is that the dog has to go to where the disc is going to be. If the disc is 5 feet in the air, the dog has to get there. Intercepting discs is one of the ways that we teach dogs to leap here at Pawsitive Vybe.