Each handler has three attempts to throw an object of their choice (ball, toy, bean bag, Frisbee, etc.) for their dog to catch. All competitors take their first throw, before the Second Round of throwing. In both the Third Round of throwing and in the Final, the competitors throw in reverse order to the current standings, i.e., the competitor with the shortest distance throws first and the competitor with the longest distance in the first two rounds throws last. Prior to each throw, the dog may wait at any point in the arena, or the handler may instruct their dog to stay at a specific location. The owner must remain behind the Throwing Line before throwing the object and until a Fair Catch has been signaled by the judges. For a Fair Catch, the dog must catch the object using jaws and/or paws before the object touches the ground and after catching the object, the dog must land with all four paws inside the four-yard wide Catching Lane. The dogs with the eight longest Fair Catches qualify for the Final.
Aside from dog training tips, there are some obvious human requirements for this game. Considerable thought should be given to the choice of object, handlers should practice throwing straight and increasing the distance of their throws, and handlers should address the strategy of the game.
Choose an object that is safe. Also, the choice of object will strongly influence accuracy, distance and ease of catching. The owner should try to throw the object on as low a trajectory as possible High throws go a long way up and a long way down but not too far horizontally. Also, with high throws, the dogs often lose the object in the arena lights. Tennis balls tend to bounce out of the dog’s jaws. Soft toys are easy to catch but too light to throw great distances and are much more difficult to throw accurately. In one competition a handler threw a soft toy so high, that it caught the air currents and landed behind them! Frisbees travel the greatest distance, but require greater expertise to throw accurately. A beanbag with a rope tail is one of the easiest objects for the dog to catch and it may be thrown accurately and over great distances with a low trajectory.
Distance Catch is a strategic game, similar to a long jump competition. When starting the Second and Third Round of throws, each competitor is aware of the standings and knows exactly where to place their dog to qualify for the Final. Similarly, in the Final, each competitor knows exactly where to place their dog to win first, second or third place. Aside from the ability to catch the object, a solid and attentive sit-stay is the secret to success when positioning the dog at a specific distance within the Catching Lane. Many dogs will walk back towards their owners after being positioned and even if they catch the object, the distance is much less than the handler had hoped for.