There is nothing more enjoyable than seeing a happy, well-behaved, canine on the course. Of course there are some dogs that can, and have, ruined a pleasant circuit through basket strewn wilderness. Let’s talk about how we can bring our four legged companions with us respectfully and responsibly.
First and foremost be sure to have some bags to keep the course free of unwanted landmines. This is probably one of the easiest things that can be done to keep this sport dog-friendly. I will admit that I have even failed on this count more than once, but having an easily consumable plastic bagged snack at all times is a quick fix, if not a mouthful.
Next I recommend being communicative and respectful with your cardmates. Make sure to ask if they are ok with your pal being on the card. I would recommend not bringing the pup along for your first round at a new course or with a new club. Udisc will tell you if a course is dog-friendly or not, but it’s best to feel out the people before you go. Most people are fine with well-mannered dogs, which will segway us into our next point.
You need to train your dog for disc golf. I’m not going to sugar coat this, it’s not easy to properly train a dog. It takes commitment, consistency and time. You need to make it clear that disc golf discs are not toys to be picked up or chewed upon. They are tools that you use for your work, most dogs are ready and willing to understand the difference between toys for them and tools you use for your craft. My dog is allowed to play with balls, sticks, bones, foam/dog discs, unattended children and even pieces of garbage (although he shouldn’t, but it’s adorable). This can be accomplished by making your disappointment clear when they interact with discs they aren’t supposed to.
The second training advice I will give is how they should act around the teepad. You can begin by simply having your dog leashed to your bag near the teepad. This will drill into them that they should be sitting patiently and quietly when it’s tee time. Reward good behavior. I learned very quickly my dog will stand on the teepad in hopes I’ll call him over for a pet or a treat. This is the tricky part. Only reward them when they are already doing what you want. I only treat my dog when he is behind the tee and out of the way. You must be careful or they will train you.
Another important aspect is around the basket. I have worked very hard to get to the point where my dog is off leash at all times, but there are times when he is under the basket when people are putting. This is a tricky thing to break them of, because it’s not obvious to them why it should be so. Again, I recommend treating your dog when they are calm and near your bag or even out of peripheral sight. It’s not ideal, but if your dog gets hit with a few putts, band bounce offs or basket ricochets they will learn to avoid baskets quickly.
If your dog gets hit with a disc do not become angry with the person who did it. As disc golfers we know that it’s likely we will be hit by a disc at some point, it’s just as likely your canine companion may be struck as well. I recommend that you stay calm and try to diffuse the situation with humor. I tell people there is a two dollar bounty on his head, so if he does get hit I offer some greenbacks to the person who did it. No one yet has accepted the bounty, but it is a lighthearted way to diffuse tension and make people feel at ease. You’re welcome to steal my bounty gimmick at any point in a round.
If you want to have a dog on the course you will need to put in time and effort. Take your dog with you on every solo practice round you can to prepare them for group play. Have treats to train them, communicate with people, but most importantly be respectful. It is not your god given right to have your dog with you on the course, it is a privilege that you must earn. There is nothing I love more than taking my mini poodle into the ravaging wild of the disc golf course for him to romp and run, but you should be prepared for not everyone being as excited that they are there. I asked my friend if he minded my dog being there for our weeklies, I will never forget the response: “I will admit that he is a distraction at times, but having him here brings enough joy that it balances out.”
I suppose the best dog etiquette is having a dog people enjoy being around, where the dog adds to the pleasure of the game more than they detract.