Thursday, March 26, 2015

Disc Dog: Practicing Disc Throwing For Your Dog

The other day I put up a piece on some discs I tested for Hero Disc USA and in that piece I was talking about a few ideas about practicing or competing. Since these tidbits were buried in the meat of the piece, I thought I'd focus on a premise or two I came up with while testing.


My Practice Premises

The premises I hit upon came about because I noticed that the different models of discs had a bit of a difference in weight between them. This weight impacted the performance I was expecting while testing.

As expected, the heavier discs tended to travel farther on average than the lighter discs.

The heavier discs handled crosswinds a little better than the lighter discs, meaning the heavier discs drifted less when hit by one of those rude, errant breezes we disc doggers tend to encounter out in the field.

Don't get me wrong, they still drifted, and if you found yourself getting hit by a 30mph crosswind, your entire arsenal would end up in the same cornfield, regardless of weight.

I probably threw these discs about five hundred times between the 12 of them and I was starting to spot some personality traits out of the different beasts.

Different weighted discs do different things. And after talking to a plastic molding expert, I learned and noticed that even different colors can introduce their own variability. Which I did not expect.

My observations during the test tended to cement a sort of OCD thing of mine, and that is to use the same brand, model and color discs when competing or performing. This way, the only variables you have to deal with is yourself and wind. Plus it looks good.


Vader the Disc Dog says: Be aware, Be The Wind.


Toss and Fetch

In Toss and Fetch and other distance efforts, you are chucking your disc down the field, making the execution and dealing with the wind.  Sure, you may have had a practice round to warm up earlier, but wind can be a fickle mistress.

As an example, at my practice field the wind can hit me from two or three distinctly different angles during my hour of practice.  I can start out with a tail wind, then find myself facing a head wind. And during that time, still be hit by a cross wind that does not match up to either.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Disc Dog Product Test Of Hero Disc USA's SUPER AERO's

The other day I was given the opportunity to product test a few discs from Hero Disc USA. In particular, these were discs designed to be used in dog sports, called the Super Aero. I received six discs in all and I added four of my own discs to round out my testing and comparisons.


Disclaimer: I am no expert. But I have resources and experience. I have resources in scientists explaining the colored plastic mold processes and how it (the different colors) can affect things like disc flight. And I have time under my belt, having practiced disc throwing, without my dog around, for an hour a day, four to five days a week for the last few years. This does not count the time spent with my dog.


When I received these test discs I did not expect to discover any huge differences and yet, while handling the discs, I was sensitive to variations in the how the discs felt in the open-air where I had light to moderate breezes impacting my field of practice.

The test discs I received from Hero Disc USA included

SPRAERO-STRLTE-Yellow    Hero Super Aero ~ Starlite-Yellow
SPRAERO-STRLTE-Orange    Hero Super Aero ~ Starlite-Orange
SPRAERO-STRLTE-Red    Hero Super Aero ~ Starlite-Red

SPRAERO-K9CDY-Orange    Hero Super Aero ~ K9 Candy-Orange
SPRAERO-K9CDY-Yellow    Hero Super Aero ~ K9 Candy-Yellow
SPRAERO-K9CDY-Red    Hero Super Aero ~ K9 Candy-Red

The discs I added to the tests included two Club Discs (Disc Dogs of the Golden Gate) that came from Discover The World (DTW) (Fastback like) and two Air 235s from Hero Disc USA.


In case you are wondering about the new names of these discs, Starlite and K9 Candy, these are their newest production run models from this year, 2015, superseding all previous model names and references, AKA, "first generation (K9)," and "second generation (Starlite)" discs.

As it was explained to me when I asked,

"We only changed the name.

1st generation is related to the K9 Candy (referring to the fact that these are the same material as the Super Hero but in lighter [and much loved] Super Aero [model])

2nd Generation Starlite (referring to the fact that these are the same material as the Super Star but in lighter Super Aero plastic)"

The Starlites are a solid color while the K9 Candy discs are a bit thinner, flexible and end up being a wee bit lighter. More on the weight differences later.


First Round Of Tests

The first thing I did was get out there and start throwing my familiar distance shots. In all fairness, they mostly performed the same, but there was a tendency for more distance from the K9 Candy model on this day. But that can be accredited to how I am used to the lighter models and getting them out there between the 40-60 yard range of so. (A yard is three feet). I was also working down-wind.

Then I started my simulated freestyle routines and that's when I noticed that the Starlites seemed to handle better in the wind than my other discs.

What I mean by "handling better" is that as I was trying different releases or maneuvers with the discs, I noticed winds were pulling the Candy discs away from my expected trajectory path while the Starlites resisted the wind effects a bit more than the Candy models. The Starlites were still impacted by higher winds, but did not drift as far as the K9s, making it easier to effect a stretching recovery grip/catch.

After that experience, I decided to weigh them and here's what I came up with:

Air 235s:       99, 100      kg.
Club Discs:  102, 103      kg.
K9 Candys:  101, 105, 107 kg.
Starlites:      121, 121, 123 kg.

Hence you can see why the Starlites handle better in the wind while for me, the Candys are my go-to discs. The reason the Candys are my go-to discs is because Vader will destroy an Air 235 in a day. The same with the club discs that are effectively similar in construction.  He (Vader) also prefers the Candy to the Starlites because they are lighter.

The biggest draw to the Candy (AKA old "generation 1" discs) for my team is that while I could order 10 Air 235s or Club Discs, Vader destroys the 10 discs within the month due to his harsh bite.   Right now I have been using the same eight 1st generation discs with Vader for a year now. Money saved!

There is also something of note about the 1st gen discs.  After using mine for a year in practice, they get worn down and weaken a tiny bit. Meaning in a good gust of wind, they'll react to being pulled out of shape. To me that is not a bad thing because it made me be more aware of the wind while throwing my practice discs.  Then as I deploy my reserved set of performance discs, I am all the more keenly aware of the wind but they aren't quite as affected by the wind as my practice discs.

That does not mean they compensate for a stiff tail wind. But my worn out discs keep my on my toes while I can still consistently chuck them between 30 and 50 yards.


Test Session #2:

Today (the first test was a few weeks prior) I was testing 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50+ yard distance throws with the discs and several different releases again.

First was series of throws testing how well I could place the 12 discs I was testing.

At 10 and 20 yard tests they all performed admirably and consistently. At 30 yards, the heavier discs showed off their stability, but otherwise did not shine too much above the others. In the wind they handled slightly better, as noted in my first test.

All the discs performed well in air bounce tests with the lighter discs staying up or floating in the air longer and getting more height than the heavier discs. Most notably the first generations (K9s) loved the wind in this test.

One fascinating test I did, which was kind of useless but entertaining were the rollers.

I would toss the disc out with the intent of hitting the ground at about the 25 foot mark, and then seeing how well they rolled after that.

All but the Starlites rolled straight for about 10 feet then arced or rolled off with the direction of the wind, ending up about 60 feet right of the targeted throw line.

The Starlites fought the wind, hitting the ground, rolling what felt like a tad slower, but not going more than 20 or so feet off the center line with the wind before flopping down.


All distance test throws were in a stationary position and into a 5 or 6 mph wind. After throwing, I walked the discs into a line, parallel to where they originally landed: