Most dog owners are thrilled when their dogs learn to sit, roll over and shake, but for the competitors at this weekend’s Hyperflite Skyhoundz World Canine Disc Championship, the basics are just the beginning.
On Saturday and Sunday, from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days, the baseball diamond and the outfield at AT&T Field downtown will be transformed into the international mecca of a canine sport known as disc dog, Frisbee dog and Skyhoundz. The competition involves a team of one dog and one or two trainers who sprint, turn and dance their way through an original, two-minute routine of disc throws and catches.
“The most amazing thing is that human and animal can communicate at such a high level,” Jeff Perry with Hyperflite said. “The team really has to be in sync. There’s no way to fake it, and no treats are involved. For the dogs—they just love it. The sport is like crack cocaine for canines.”
This is an annual event that might have Chattanoogans scratching their heads about the connection between the Scenic City and Skyhoundz. As it turns out, Hyperflite is based just south of Chattanooga in Roswell, Ga., and it was the wealth of local tourist fare that attracted Perry and his fellow Hyperflite owners and disc dog gurus—Greg Perry and Peter Bloeme—to set their annual competition, which is the largest of its kind in the world, in Chattanooga since 1999.
More than 200 teams from all over the United States and countries including Argentina, Canada and Japan arrived earlier this week for rounds of qualifying events at Camp Jordan, including the reigning pairs freestyle champions, Frank Buckland and Sally Zinkhan.
The trainers’ routine worked Buckland’s dog, Shiloh, a female Australian cattle dog, through jumps off of Zinkhan’s chest and over Buckland’s back—all the while looking to catch the next disc in the air. The team won the division in 2010 and 2011.
“I’ll never forget [the experience],” Zinkhan said. “It was probably the highlight of my life.”
Saturday will feature five competitive divisions: youth, open, pairs freestyle, sport and micro for dogs less than 25 pounds.
“If you want to see something that’s fun and shows off real talent, this is a great sport to watch,” Buckland said.