Dogs are awesome. I’ve been around a lot of really cool dogs, those that are the complete definition of man’s best friend. I’ve even got a couple of them myself that always make life interesting. But not long ago, I had a bad encounter with a dog on the disc golf course and it sparked an interest to write this post.
So today, I’m covering a topic that has been talked about for years: whether a dog should be allowed on the disc golf course. There’s been a lot of debate, but this post should help clear things up and give you some tips on dogs and disc golf.
But first, let me tell you about the worst experience I’ve ever had with a dog on the disc golf course…
Let’s start out with a name for this dog: I’ll call him Peter Barker.
Now Peter Barker may have been a good dog, but my experience with him was definitely bad. While I was out playing, I threw a disc into the woods with what appeared to be a good shot. As I walked toward my disc, I soon realized it must have skipped or rolled when I didn’t see it land. But I was wrong. Peter Barker must have seen it land and ran over to it.
When I saw the dog, he had my disc in his mouth and he was running away with it! So I ran toward him. I was hesitant because even though he was some type of labrador mix, I didn’t know if he was nice or not. He also didn’t appear to have an owner or anybody else around. I got up closer to Peter Barker and he saw me and started growling at me. I couldnt believe what was happening.
Finally, his owner popped up and called him over. He grabbed the disc and gave it back to me with a seemingly unapathetic, “sorry bro.” I told the guy that if his dog was gonna be aggressive, wandering about, and stealing discs, he needed to be leashed with him or left at home. The guy kind of scoffed and said, “dude, relax. He’s a dog.” I went my own way semi-pissed off and finished my round. Then I got home and added this post idea to my list.
Is it okay to take my dog to the disc golf course?
Yes, it is absolutely okay to take your dog to the disc golf course. Most courses are public courses or are located on public park property. Provided you use good course etiquette and your dog is well-behaved, dogs are allowed on the disc golf course.
If you follow all of the recommendations, guidelines, and etiquette tips outlined below, you and your pup will be welcomed on the course. I love to see really well-behaved dogs and most other disc golfers have no problem with canines that are peaceful and quietly helpful on the course.
But first, tournament play…
Now it may be okay to take your dog to the course during casual rounds and friendly competitive play, but it is never okay to bring a dog with you for tournament play. Tournament play sees a higher level of play, prizes, money, and PDGA ratings. And players do not want distractions out on the course. Even if you have the best, most well-behaved dog on the planet. Your dog needs to be left at home during tournaments.
Dog etiquette rules
When it comes to dogs on the disc golf course, there are etiquette rules just like there are for us disc golfers. For disc golf etiquette, I follow the rules that I wrote about in my post, “The Complete 27 Step Guide to Disc Golf Etiquette.”
If you bring a dog, you and the dog both have to follow etiquette rules. Also, just remember one thing: most disc golfers want nothing to do with your dog. Treat every situation like that, because there are players who don’t want your dog to mess up their game. So keep your dog confined to the group and follow these next 7 disc golf etiquette tips (for dogs) to the letter.
1. Your dog can’t bark a lot
This first dog etiquette rule is just a standard rule that almost everyone will agree on. If you bring your dog to the disc golf course, make sure that you can keep them somewhat quiet. I know that dogs make noise, but if they constantly bark, it might be a bad idea to bring them to the course. In our 27 step etiquette guide, noise is etiquette rule number 6. And that applies directly to this post. If your dog only barks every once in awhile, that’s not a big deal. But they have to be quiet during play.
2. Your dog can’t wander around
Dogs that are left off leash at a disc golf course can pose a huge problem for disc golfers as well as as yourself (the dog owner). While most of the dogs I’ve seen have been well-behaved, the dog I ran into from the story at the beginning of this post – Peter Barker – was a great example of a dog that needs to be leashed or left at home. Besides all the other issues, that dog was left to wander the course and he continued to cause other problems as he came into contact with me.
This is where you have to be careful with your dog. Even if you have the best, most well-behaved dog in the world, you have to make sure that you are obeying all laws in regards to keeping him on a leash. While there’s only a handful of laws in the U.S. that requires a dog to be on a leash, there are laws in a lot of states that require you to keep you dog from running at large (or being off of a leash outside of a private yard). That can actually get you criminal charges and court fines. You don’t want that.
And even if your state doesn’t have any laws like this, your town, city, or municipality may have leash laws that can get you fined for not keeping a dog on a leash. You don’t want those fines either. I’d rather be spending my hard-earned money on new disc golf discs.
Lastly, even if there are no laws in your city or state that indicate you have to keep your dog on a leash, your local park/disc golf course might have park rules asking you to keep your dog on a leash. Failing to obey the local park rules could get you banned from that park. That’s not ideal, because you don’t want to get banned from your local course for not listening to the rules. That would suck.
Hit up Google to research leash laws for your state, city, or local park.
So you already know you have to obey park, city, and state rules. That’s a given. But your dog wandering around with no leash on presents even worse ramifications if he or she decides they want to bite someone. Your dog could be great and never bite, but if they do, you could be held financially and civilly liable. In some states, your dog can even be put down if they bite. So with all of that said in the last 5 paragraphs, keep your dog on some kind of leash while you’re on the course.
Grab a Caribbeaner pack like this to attach to your bag and a simple dog lead leash like this one off of Amazon. The easiest way to have fun and keep your dog safe is to keep them on a leash while playing disc golf.
3. Your dog cannot interfere with play
There are some dogs that are super chill. They stand by your side, hardly move, and barely make any noise. Those dogs do not interfere at all. But there are some that do just about everything they can to get noticed. From whining to running in front of you to distracting you by getting into foot races with squirrels, a dog can really be a major nuisance if they interfere with play.
A dog on the course needs to stand or sit idly by while players are throwing, otherwise they’ll simply get in the way. If your dog interferes with play, you’ve gotta leave them at home. There’s no issue with a dog making a little bit of noise while you’re walking from hole to hole. But during play, that dog should not interfere in any way.
4. Your dog can’t steal discs
This dog etiquette rule kind of plays off the last one. And this one can be funny at first, but can get annoying really fast. I’ve only seen this once (besides the incident with Peter Barker), but it looked like the players in the party were getting frustrated at the dog running away with multiple discs in it’s mouth. I was amused, but the players in that group were not. So you have to make sure that little Fido isn’t grabbing your discs or other discs and running off with them like it’s doggie Christmas morning. Besides the annoyance, it doesn’t take much bite strength to ruin your favorite disc.
What I would suggest
Never ever let your dog play with discs as toys. Once your pup associates a disc as a toy, it can be hard to break them from that habit. Make sure you don’t let them play with discs at home or the disc golf course. If you’d like to teach them to retrieve, do this only on command.
5. Your dog can’t be aggressive
Dog aggression is something that should never be seen on a disc golf course. But unfortunately, I’ve seen it. Aggression is a trait that is very hard to break from a dog once they start behaving this way. So if your dog is aggressive, you’ve got two options:
1. Leave them at home: I’ve got a dog at home that is super fun, playful, and nice. But he’s very protective. Sometimes this sucks, but hes a good dog. Still, I leave him at home when I go to the course to play.
2. Thoroughly train them: you have to be all in on completely changing your dog’s entire behavioral personality, but it’s more than achievable. Check out some books on aggression here on Amazon. Do the best you can with your dog’s behavior. And if you just can’t get rid of all the aggression, just leave your buddy at home.
6. They need to be trained
Past all of that other stuff we just talked about, your dog needs some kind of training before they head out onto the course with you. Whether it’s a full mastery of complete dog training or just a mastery of sit and stay commands, you have to teach your dog to obey commands and listen to you.
It’s really up to you whether you want to do full training or just some commands, but a dog out in the course has to listen in some form or fashion. If you’re unsure about how to train your dog, there are a ton of great posts and books to read on the subject. This article on Ceasarsway.com called, “5 Essential Commands You Can Teach Your Dog,” is a great place to start.
7. You have to pick up after them
All of us dog owners know exactly what dogs do all the time – they leave heaping piles of sh*t for us to clean up. Yep, you know what I’m talking about. And there’s almost nothing worse than stepping in a huge pile of crap that someone’s dog left for your shoe and your shoe only. Now that’s sh*tty.
If you’re out on the course with your dog, you have to pick up their poop. Otherwise, they shouldn’t be brought. But if you go through all the trouble to train your dog and make them course ready, picking up after them and throwing it away should be super easy. Remember: this is something you control. So make sure and practice good course etiquette yourself.
Poop bags are cheap. Grab a 6 month supply of the bags I use for my dogs here on Amazon.
Dogs are completely acceptable companions on the disc golf course. They can also occasionally make great caddies for you if they’re trained right. But you have to make sure of everything we’ve talked about regarding dogs on the course. They have to be trained, non-aggressive, quiet (or somewhat quiet), on a leash, have to be picked up after, and can’t interfere with play or steal discs. So while dogs can be awesome to bring with you, they have to be extremely well-behaved. If they’re not, just leave them at home.
If you’ve gotten this far, you must really want to learn more about disc golf and everything about it. If you’re interested in more frequently asked questions, you can check out the resources below or hit up our FAQ page here.
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