Elisa Shackelton: Get involved with the Disc Dogs program

— Research shows that, unless you're someone who really dislikes animals or is absolutely too busy to care for them properly, pets can provide excellent social support, stress relief and other health benefits.

Pets encourage you to get out and exercise: Whether we walk our dogs because they need it, or are more likely to enjoy a walk when we have companionship, studies confirm that dog owners get more exercise than non-dog owners. Because exercise is good for stress management and overall health, owning a dog can be credited with increasing these benefits.

Pets can help with social support. When we're out walking, having a dog with us can make us more approachable and give people a reason to stop and talk, thereby increasing the number of people we meet, giving us an opportunity to increase our network of friends and acquaintances, which also has great stress-management benefits.

The Colorado Disc Dogs club started in 1994 and gives Frisbee dog enthusiasts a chance to gather as a group and enjoy the hobby.

On the Front Range, the group gets together at least once a month during the season, exchanging ideas, tips, stories and information about the sport, as well as practicing with their dogs in a fun, comfortable atmosphere.

In northwest Colorado, Shannan Koucherik is taking the lead and hoping to gather a group of Frisbee dog enthusiasts to meet on a regular basis, as well as to host and compete in an annual summer disc dog event in Craig. Chris Booth, a local disc golf enthusiast, is helping with the effort by providing tips and techniques necessary for throwing a disc consistently and in a dog-friendly way.

The Colorado Canine Challenge, hosted annually in August, is widely considered one of the premier disc-dog competitions in the nation. It is a two-day event that lures much of the top talent from all over the country to compete in the open divisions. And you don't have to be an expert thrower to participate. You don't even have to be a member.

All Colorado Disc Dogs events are open to everyone, regardless of experience, and many are cost-free. Every competition includes a novice division that is especially designed for new-comers. The guidelines are very simple and fully explained at every event. It has happened more than once that someone just out walking their dog has entered and won the novice division.

So, if you have a dog that might like to give this disc-fetching thing a try, you are encouraged to come to this Saturday's disc throwing workshop at Loudy-Simpson Park at 1 p.m.

Meet at the west end of the park, in the parking lot behind the covered picnic shelter and near the entrance to the disc golf course. For more information, call Elisa at 824-9180 or Shannan at 824-9518.

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