Si has always been a great athlete, her saving grace, but she was never smooth. I’ve been working with her for more than 3 years now, drawing out her inner athlete and bringing her game together. It’s been a slow but steady march to a more explosive, successful, and competitive, type of performance.
Up until last fall, Si had always looked uncomfortable in the air, sort of like a horse leaping for a disc. You can easily see the power and scale but the grace is hard to find in your mind’s eye. She looked like that for a couple years and probably would for the rest of her career if I didn’t make this critical adjustment. I started to run Si in the opposite direction. Instead of the normal, and nearly mandatory in the disc dog world, clockwise go round and working direction, I shifted to counterclock.
A Change of Direction Can Change the Game
This one simple adjustment, switching directions, changed Si from a horse chasing a Frisbee to a big cat leaping for it’s prey. The difference could not be more startling. It, literally, freaked me out. When she leapt up there all crunched up and tweaked and snatched the disc out of the air to the left of her face with a graceful turn and stretch of that big muppet giraffe neck I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped. I repeated it a few times with similar, but somewhat less impressive results but I was still a bit shocked. Here was my good little steed, the Si Biscuit, leaping like a cat and looking all graceful and stuff. So cool…
An Over is any leaping catch that happens over top of the handler’s body. Overs are usually named by the part of the body over which the dog flies, i.e - Leg Over, or the position you are in while doing the Over - Seated Over, Spinning Over, etc. Overs should be taught before Vaults.... More the next few months, I dialed in her counter clockwise go round and was quite pleased with the results. It was a bit weird at first, but I started to figure it out after a few sessions. Her leaping ability and confidence soared. Then it started to bleed over into the clockwise direction – not a lot, but noticeably. Working both Clock and Counter can be a huge deal for a team.
Strong Hand Tied Behind the Back and a Half Opened Christmas Present
I briefly mentioned the left and right handed nature of dogs and balance in the close of the original Xs and Os of Diverse Routines, but it was kind of an afterthought. After seeing the response of Si to this simple change this concept of strong and weak circular patterns jumped to the top of my brain.
Many teams are running in the wrong direction. There is so much pressure to send the dog around clockwise in the disc dog world, and probably somewhere right around 50+% of the time it’s a good idea. But for dogs that want or need to work counter clock, this can be a big problem.
Imagine being forced to play a sport with your off hand. Or being forced to leap off the wrong foot. That would stink, man. Your performance, if you could perform the skills and compete at all, would be like a half opened Christmas present.
Many dogs, perhaps even yours, are playing this game with their strong hand tied behind their back and are half opened Christmas presents in terms of performance. I know Si was.
Down the Rabbit Hole
I got a bit caught up in working this skill over the last year. It was just so darned interesting and exciting to play around with these things that made such a drastic difference in performance. I quickly found myself in a flatwork and big leaping rabbit hole – down it went… and I took the trip.
Xs and Os Revisited is due in large part to going down this rabbit hole, and is being written to help disc doggers get a short cut to applying this stuff so you don’t spend a year dialing it in. That said if you do find that your dog needs to work counter clock, you might wind up spending a good portion of the season exploring that rabbit hole. It’s a valuable journey though. You will learn tons, become a much better team, and your dog will thank you.