I am writing this opinion piece as myself, a dog trainer and disc dog competitor and my comments do not, in any way, represent the USDDN or the USDDN Steering Committee.
I got a couple of questions about USDDN judging sent to me via a Facebook message from Mila, who lives in Moscow, Russia. Mila handles judging for the Disc Hunters, a Russian Disc Dog Club. It’s a two part-er so I’ll take it in chunks…
would you please help us with the following questions:
a) scoring at some sub-elements of Canine Elements, for example
Prey Drive and Grip should be done taking in to account difficulty of
as the USDDN Judging Handbook reads at “Scoring Examples”:
If the player attempts and made any sub-element with good success
and difficulty they will usually receive 1.9-2.2
so we wish to precise how difficulty influences scoring for
Prey Drive and Grip sub-elements?
The Short answer is that that it doesn’t.
The USDDN separates each Element: Canine, Player, Team and Execution. Each one is supposed to be judged independently. That’s the way the contest is designed. The scores a team gets in the Player and Team Elements are seriously impacted by difficulty, but the Canine element, not so much.
The job of the Dog judge is to observe the dog and score the dog on what the dog does on the field. The type of throw the player makes, or the type of vault done should have very little, if any, impact on the Dog’s score. What the Dog judge is looking at is the athletic scale, the smoothness, and the style of the dog, how the dog handles a disc in their mouth and the ability of the dog to perform the retrieve.
Grip is not impacted whatsoever by the difficulty of the routine. It’s just a function of having a good handle on the disc. Now, personally, I don’t care whether or not the dog has a firm grip on the disc or not – In all honesty, I think it’s a silly element to be judging – what I would be looking for is that the dog does a good job of handling the disc. The dog is not taco-ing, killing or shredding the disc, or errantly dropping it on the retrieve. I could care less if the dog is dangling the disc from a tooth. As long as they are on task and do not drop the disc because of that loose grip, I’m cool with that.
Funny enough, the real issue around Grip tends to be focused on too much, or too excited a grip on the disc, and not too much, so you could see a dog that just crushes discs getting a bad grip score if it overwhelms them and detracts from the flow and presentation of the routine.
It’s a safety issue as well, in that nobody wants to see a handler get bit or a dog get their face cut off by a shredded and damaged disc.
Now, not all judges are going to see it this way, but that’s my interpretation of the Grip rule.
Personally I’d like to see Grip and Retrieve rolled into a Canine Disc Management subelement that would give judges more freedom in making these kinds of judgement calls.
Prey Drive, like Grip, is judged independently of the routine difficulty. What you are looking for with Prey Drive is focus on the task at hand and efficient and determined action towards the game. Like Grip, this is a Goldilocks situation. Too little drive – dog disengaging or not being really interested in the disc will result in a lower score. Too much drive – dog is overwhelmed by the disc and is unable to perform the set up skills and tricks that happen between the discs being caught, and the dog will earn a lower score.
Drive ≠ Arousal
Something that is super important to keep in mind regarding Drive is that Drive does not equal Arousal. So many handlers and judges conflate these two concepts. Drive is action and energy and focus applied to work. Arousal is just action and energy with a lack of focus towards work. So a dog who sits patiently and waits for their opportunity to get a disc, and engages quickly and directly on the task at hand, be it a set up move or chasing a disc, has better Drive than a dog that is flying around jumping, biting, and barking and is frequently out of position to work. Also over aroused dogs that pressure their handlers so much that it detracts from the routine – no matter how high they are jumping, or how excited they are about the game, are not displaying Drive. They are displaying arousal. Drive is action, energy and focus applied towards work.
b) and the relating question -
what the “difficulty” of the routine means?
how we can estimate whether the routine is difficult,
very difficult or not difficult at all?
is there difficulty of tricks should be taken into account
or/and difficulty of tricks bunches or/and anything else
to be considerated while judging?
thank you a lt in advance for your great help!!
with truly best regards, Mila
This is a really good question, Mila! I’m sure you could ask 100 players and get 100 totally different answers here.
What is Difficult?
Estimating the difficulty of the routine is based on experience and understanding of athletics in general, and is primarily handled by the Head Judge (all Team Elements) and the Player Judge in the Release Diversity and Rhythmic Team subelements. And of course a difficult routine will bleed over into the Canine and other Player and Team elements, it’s a natural response to Awesome, but the Canine and those other Player elements are not designed to judge difficulty or to be impacted by difficulty, and they should not be swayed much, if at all, by the difficulty of the routine.
Let’s look at some of the Team Elements that are judged by the Head Judge and see how they could be judged in terms of difficulty:
Two Different Overs
Overs are when the dog leaps over a part of the handler’s body – a leg, a hoop, over the body. The scale of the over is important towards judging difficulty, as is the release. A dog leaping over a standing handler is, most likely, harder than an over while the handler is laying down, or kneeling. A butterfly Over is more difficult than a regular backhand toss.
The timing of the throw and the separation between the handler’s hand and the disc when it is caught by the dog also bears heavily on difficulty. A tiny little toss that the dog catches 15cm (6 inches) from the handler’s hand should be less impressive in terms of difficulty than a disc that is caught 75cm (30 inches) from the handler’s hand. Overs that are well thrown are more difficult than near takes.
A blind throw (handler can’t see dog) or a blind catch (dog can’t see disc) or limited visibility throws and catches are more difficult.
Another thing that is important in judging the difficulty of overs, and that impacts every single one of these things is what happened right before it. A Flip to Over, for instance – dog flips and immediately does an over – is most likely more difficult than a simple over that takes place with a dog standing a meter or two away from the handler.
A unique or difficult body position by the handler could impact difficulty as well. Handler or team movement during an over is also an indicator of difficulty.
Overs and Vaults are very similar skills, and are also very similar in terms of judging their difficulty. The type of release, timing of release and separation between the catch and the handler’s hand, team movement, Flip (or any trick) to Vault, and unique or difficult positioning or vaulting platform will impact difficulty.
The scale of the vault in terms of height from the ground may or may not add difficulty to a vault, depending on the judge.
Release, scale, dogs movement – flipping, side to side, standing on hind legs, all of these things should be factored in when assessing difficulty of the multiple. Also there’s the speed of the multiple that should be taken into effect.
Similar to Vaults and Overs…
Unique or interesting team movement can have a positive effect on difficulty. Tight flow and unique starting and set up moves and position often makes the sum of a sequence greater than it’s parts in terms of difficulty.
Again, very similar to vaults and overs…
Directional Distance Movement
These are typically Zig Zags, Crossing patterns and Around the World type moves. Their difficulty is primarily judged by the releases thrown and the intent of the handler. Is the handler just chucking discs out there? Or is the handler putting discs in a spot to enhance the pattern or to punctuate the pattern with a big leap?
Wrapping it Up
There is no real formula for difficulty in Dog Frisbee, but many of the general principles have all been outlined above. No two judges will see things exactly the same in terms of difficulty. What some people find difficult, others see as easy. That’s the way subjective judging goes.
I hope this helps, Mila, and I hope some other people chime in on this important and interesting topic. Comments are right below…
I will forward your questions to the USDDN Steering Committee in hopes that someone else might add their thoughts to this conversation.
Alright… I got some good news and I got some bad news…
The good news is that the Toolkit has gone out this morning.
The bad news is that it went out to the DVD printing company and won’t be back in my hands for at least 5 business days… I overnighted the master DVD this morning and expect it to be completed and ready to ship on Friday the 16th. They should go out Monday the 19th.
I don’t mean to make light of the situation, I really appreciate all of you early adopters on this project. Your advance purchases funded the initial 100 units of the DiscDogger’s Toolkit and brought it across the finish line. I cannot thank all of you enough for taking advantage of this initial offering.
I still do not have a concrete delivery date, but I should be shipping 10 days from now (give or take) before I’m able to ship these things.
I know, painful… believe me, I know!
Bobbled, but Caught
We have had a rough going on wrapping up the DiscDoggers’s Toolkit. We were done, ready to burn the disc, when we opened up sales, but it turned out that the installer crapped out on windows machines. We had to recompile the application several times because we misplaced some files, and then we had an issue of being between Adobe Air versions – it’s rather techie, but the short story is that using the new stuff would be so much more awesome and allow us to do cool things like allow updating of the application so Toolkit owners can get the latest and greatest PVybe content.
Now we can just send out an update and have things added… Fidgets anyone? Also if anything is wonky we can get a patch out to you guys and fix it, quick, like a bunny. If we were going to be late, we were darn sure going to deliver a smoking product.
Life was a bit rough on all involved over the last 10 days or so, but we got this thing done, and it’s AWESOME!
In order to make things right for all of you for this late delivery, we are going to offer all of you 6 months of free updates after we release our first update of the application. I plan on putting out more content and improving the Toolkit over time, so you can get new information and we can deliver better instruction. It’s a win win, and not only is it a win win, it’s win win that costs you nothing but a bit more patience and hopefully an acceptance of my sincerest apologies for being late on the deadline.
So that’s what I got for you on the DiscDogger’s Toolkit.
I’d like to take a moment and apologize for not getting a good delivery date to you, both over the last couple of days and also for the very near future. It’s not what I intended to have happen. We were on the cusp, within hours, of shipping this out for the last 6 days, after the initial problem was found and being fixed, and I didn’t want to speak out until I had a firm date, or the first week in September delivery date was upon us. It was quite stressful.
I still, to this moment do not have a firm date. I will get that date on Monday. I hope you understand.
Access a Great Disc Dog Foundation One Element at a Time
Test Drive or Tune Up?
Whether you want a Test Drive or a Tune Up, or you may be focused on one particular element in the game of disc, we understand that not everyone wants or needs a huge and jam packed 6 week course. We’re pretty sure that if we can get you get exposed to any part of our online Disc Dog training classes, you’ll want to come back for the whole shebang at some point in time and will probably recommend it to a friend or two as well.
Disc Dog Elements are online Disc Dog training modules focused on one particular element of the game. Wanna work on your Throwing? Sign up for the Throwing Element. Interested in Flatwork? Take Flatwork. Focus for 14 days on any one of the six elements you want.