Flatwork is Flow – Introducing Disc Dog Flatwork

In agility, the stuff that goes on between the jumps, the team movement and cuing proper direction is called FlatworkFlatwork is the stuff that happens between the catches. How the team moves and transitions, often without the disc, is flatwork. Flatwork concepts in disc dog are taken from the agility and herding world.... More. Running agility fast has far more to do with Flatwork than it does the obstacles.

polcontest1We have a similar situation in the game of disc. All of the important stuff happens between the discs being caught. Putting the dog in position, turning them to the left or right on the run, creating large sweeping patterns that lead in to the vaulting and flipping and that are incorporated into your game of disc.

We’ve been doing a lot of Flatwork here at Pawsitive Vybe, foundationally speaking, and it’s really starting to impact the way we play and teach the game. We’re now starting to put some of that foundation into use and it’s pretty exciting.

Watch a Demo

Some foundational aspects of Flatwork

Front Cross

This could also be called turn towards me, but the CrossA Cross is an canine agility term that describes a change of working sides. Your dog moves from your left to your right (Heel to Side) or from Clock to Counter. Crosses are labeled be the relationship of handler to the dog. A Front Cross is a cross with the handler in front of the dog. A Rear Cross has... More aspect from agility, the dog transitioning from working on Heel to working on Side, is quite important in the application of Flatwork.

So your dog is running towards you after making a catch and is running towards your right, a clockwise circle pattern. A good solid Front CrossOn a Front Cross, your dog switches Flanks in with you in front of them. From Clock to Counter Clockwise Flank or vice versa. Taken directly from the canine agility world, the Front Cross is a foundational Flatwork skill for team movement. It allows you to move your dog around the field in stylish fashion. On the Front Cross, your... More could put that dog on a path to the other side of the field – bang! just like that. It’s also awesome for bringing a dog sharply in to heel or front position.

Looking at it in the turn towards me sense, it’s the dog changing their direction by turning towards you, which just so happens to be the way disc dogs almost always turn when their playing this game.

Rear Cross

This could be called turn away from me, but again that Cross Concept, changing the working side, is important when we’re running our dogs.

Your dog is circling clockwise in front of you at the perfect distance to set up a nice big vault, but he’s circling and can’t make the angle. Call the Rear CrossOn a Rear Cross, the dog switches Flanks with the behind her. From clock to counter clockwise Flank or vice versa. Taken directly from the canine agility world, the Rear Cross is a foundational flatwork skill for team movement. It allows the handler to move the dog around the field in stylish fashion. On the Rear Cross, your dog will... More and the dog turns away from you, breaking off the circle and reversing field. When the turn is completed, the dog is standing there looking at the handler with a straight shot at that big vault.

Wham! Huge move! See: working out of the pivot


I guess you could call this a FrontFront is a stable position directly in front of the handler. Front is an traditional obedience skill. Usually your dog sits in this position, but standing is often acceptable as well, especially in the game of disc dog freestyle. It is important to have a stable Front position for training and performing many disc dog tricks. Your Front position should... More Cross kind of move, as most dogs will turn towards the handler, but this is movement in relation to the dog’s direction and has nothing what-so-ever to do with the handler.

A reverse is simply a direct reversal of field independent of the handler. This is the Zig ZagA Zig Zag is a series of catches in smooth succession that forces the dog to move back and forth across the field. Usually performed at a distance of 8-20 yards, the Zig Zag is a skill that highlights teamwork, throwing, and leaping ability. It is also a tremendous leaping drill that can be used to teach a dog to... More Skill.


The Flank is essentially a moving position. Think of it as working out on your side – out there. Heel and SideHeel position is the same as in obedience, with your dog standing immediately to the left and side has the dog on the right. All obedience positions are helpful in the game of disc dog freestyle. Working freestyle tricks from Heel position doubles the number of tricks available to the team. Add Side position and it’s tripled. Tricks performed from... More position are essentially the most simple expression of the Flank. In an obedience Heel, the dog is on your Flank. When we’re playing Frisbee and working Flatwork, we’re looking for a little more space between dog and handler out there to the side.

Foundational Positions

Foundational Positioning is are the most basic element of Flatwork. They are anchor points that have a kind of gravity about them. Good foundational positioning is extremely important not just for flatwork, but for the entire game of disc.

Good Flatwork = Flow

Flatwork creates flow, plain and simple. Without good flatwork a team will be forced to start and stop many times in their routines, it will look disjointed and the flow will suffer. With good Flatwork the game is nothing but easy flowing motion. Even when you’re missing discs, you’re looking good. You’re jamming.

The weak link in the games of teams who do not flow well or for Handlers who feel that they don’t flow well is in Flatwork. It’s usually blamed on Disc ManagementDisc Management is a disc dog term that describes management and organization of discs throughout the routine. Disc Management is a scored category in most disc dog freestyle organizations and has great impact upon the flow and energy level of the routine. A good rule of thumb is to carry 3 discs in your hands at all times. Disc Management... More and masked by repetitive frontal approaches, pauses in the action, resets before the next trick, excessive scooting, go arounds, amongst other things.

Having the ability to bring the dog in from your left or right and work right from there means that you can now flip your dog with them on the left or right and can do so on the fly. You can send them out to your right to work out there because a pile of discs are always laying out there and you keep running out of discs with 20 seconds left in your routine. You can get vaults out of around the worlds with authority! and easily go from VaultThe dog uses the player´s body as a launching pad to jump for a disc. A Vault is a leaping catch from the handler’s body. The dog leaves the ground for the target and uses the handler’s body to get there. There are many different styles and variations of vaults, but they are commonly described by the part of the... More to Around the WorldAn Around the World is a disc dog flatwork pattern consisting of 4 catches in a circular pattern around the handler. This pattern is typically larger than 5 yards and often features creative throws to a leaping dog for maximum freestyle scoring potential. Clockwise or counter clockwise, the Around the World is a working flank with multiple catches that highlights... More.

Why Flatwork?

Recovering elegantly from being out of position on a missed disc, or calmly and smoothly resetting a missed trick or sequence are big parts of the game as well and Flatwork is the solution to that.

I am a big proponent of taking what the dog gives me in terms of building a routine, but I’m also in favor of making stuff happen. It’s real easy to settle in and totally take what your dog is offering because it’s too hard to train them to do it differently. I did that through Kimo’s entire Career and Leilani didn’t really start jamming until I started got working Flatwork.

We’re putting some finishing touches on our Flatwork methodology right now and will be sharing it with our friends in SoCal and NorCal in a few weeks.


  1. myriad


    This is me! You’re describing me!
    The interesting thing is that I actually have a front cross and a rear cross on my dogs but it never occurred to me that I could use them in disc. I am so excited to try this out!

    1. Ron Watson Post author

      Yes, Agility handlers have a HUGE advantage that they rarely capitalize on. I love working agility dogs in camps and seminars… they make me look magical!

      One thing, though, you do have to be careful to ensure that your agility body language is the same. I see agility handlers trying to lead with their throwing hand all the time – it’s like they forget everything about the game they know and love because there’s a disc in their hand.

      You perform the skill (put discs in both hands for simplicity) then you set up and throw.

      I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a flank by an agility handler attempted while trying to hold the disc as if they’re ready to throw…

      Perform the skill, then prepare and throw.

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