Nearly 20 years ago, Lee Fairchild found a way to combine his love for dogs with his competitive streak through participation in disc dog events such as the series presented by the Skyhoundz organization. Training, practicing and competing with his dogs in flying discs events has proved a good means of staying active as he enters retirement in Stone County.
Lee had beagles and other dogs growing up, and owned field champion beagles as an adult. Now he owns six shepherds: one Australian Shepherd and six small shepherds registered as Mini Americans and also known as miniature Australian Shepherds. One is a pup and others are in various stages of training.
He became interested in the sport around the year 2000 when he was watching a sports channel on television and saw 65-year-old Bob Evans win in a disc dog competition. Lee was just getting out of team roping and already owned an Australian Shepherd, which was the same breed of dog that Evans entered.
There weren’t any local clubs or events in their area of Oklahoma, so he and another man from around Norman started their own club. Now it’s a big sport there.
“It’s a sport anyone of any age can compete in and do well,” Lee said. He noted that some people get caught up in the competitive atmosphere, but the most interesting thing to him is enjoying the dogs, staying active and giving the dogs something to do.
Skyhoundz offers competitions for disc dog enthusiasts world-wide including three competition series that culminate in World Championships. Most entrants have Australian Shepherds or Border Collies but any dogs with athletic abilities can participate in the sport. Some competitors are rescue dogs, Lee said.
Skyhoundz championships consist of two 90-second rounds of freestyle and one 60-second round of distance/accuracy, with winners determined by totaling all three rounds. Routines are set to music and handlers devise routines to get as many tricks as they can into the time period. Lee said the freestyle portion can be scored following a PAWS acronym, with presentation, athleticism, “wow” level and success ratio factored in.
See the full story in the Oct. 3, 2018 issue.