Nine Distinct & Observable Properties of the Disc Dog Noob
Here are nine things that noobs do that everyone should be aware of so they can avoid doing them and get bigger and better scores on the competition field. Any one of these issues can and will cost you more than a few points in a contest:
The best way to lose 4 points a round in Freestyle is to bend at the waist and knees while you are playing with your dog. It’s hard to look cool while you’re bending down
This puppy playing position is a hallmark of new players and people who are not confident athletes, although confident athletes are often caught up in this as well. It’s a defensive, cautious, and weak position that makes it near impossible to project an air of experience and competence.
As soon as you present this position the judges will be likely to lowball your skill level and might mistake your skill and intent for luck and happenstance. It also looks pretty bad to boot. Don’t do it!
Stand up tall, lean back, and look cool… like Fonzie.
Watching the Frisbee Dog
When playing a round of Freestyle Frisbee with your dog you are not a spectator.
It’s easy to make a nice long toss and get caught up in the drama of watching your dog make a big leaping catch. It’s beautiful and exciting. I know, I’m an addict too, but if you watch the dog catch, you’re going to have a problem with Disc Management and Flow. You’ll wind up flat footed, backpedaling and rushed. For no reason at all.
Make your throw and throw it with intent, but after it’s gone get on to your responsibilities as a handler so you can be prepared and look like you know what you’re doing out there. If you’re at a contest, just listen to the crowd. They’ll tell you if your dog catches or not.
Single Disc Disc Management
Winding up with no discs and no plan is a handler’s nightmare. You run from one disc to the next, picking up and flinging – pick it up… fling! Doh!
It’s the logical end game when you’re at the end of your rope, and if it happens to you frequently you need to do something about it. It’s costing you points from nearly all freestyle judges.
Having stimulus control over the Drop (it only happens when cued) is a great way to plan and control where the discs are dropped on the field. Being able to tell your dog where and when to drop the discs can help ensure that you pick up more than 1 disc at a time.
Better routine planning and development would help as well, but the best way to handle it is to make sure you always pick up more than one at a time and make it a habit to always have 3 discs in your hands.
“Drop…Drop!… DROP!!!“Talk about painful to watch as a judge (and as a dog trainer)… It screams “not in control”.
Give one cue: ”Drop.”
And that’s it. You may need to shape and reinforce a weak behavior during a contest. Some judges might look favorably on that, some may not, but it’s better to repair the problem than to try to mask it. Don’t be afraid to use the competition field for training.
Habitual re-cuing of Drop, Go Around, Through, or Vault, or any other behavior for that matter, does not reflect well on the handler. The tone and flow of the communication between dog and handler in the game of disc can make you look professional and in control, overwhelmed and treading water, and everything in between. Teams that communicate well get better scores.
Repeating Missed Tricks
Miss it once and you didn’t do it.
Miss it twice and you can’t do it.
Be very careful repeating tricks that have missed. The quote above really speaks for itself, and is especially true when you miss badly.
If you blow it, forget about it and move on. If the dog blows it, move on. If the dog misses valiantly, take the big effort and move on with good energy. Resist prideful urges to “get it right” and pursuits of perfection. There’s a time and a place for that and it’s called the training field. Competitively, it’s much better to build and establish a Flow and good energy than to get a specific trick performed correctly.
If you need the skill for a sequence, you can reset and try again, but you should do so calmly and efficiently and make darn sure you get it right.
There is a timing when it comes to many tricks in the game of disc, and the rule of thumb is that the timing should be early, before the dog has to make decisions on where to leap.
This means that vaults, overs, passes and even zig zags, need to be thrown before the dog leaves the ground in the case of vaults, overs and passes, and before the dog crosses the handler’s plane on zig zags and other out throws. Throwing late busts the dog’s groove and chops up your Flow.
There are exceptions to this rule, for sure. Lots of awesome players throw late tosses, and some tricks and sequences require late tosses, but those should be exceptions and not the rule.
Nothing can make you look more noobish than rushing (or being rushed). When nothing seems to be going right, slow down… Heck, STOP!… reset and give it another shot. Breathe, play slowly, like you’re comatose.
When you have to move, move. Don’t watch your dog, don’t rush, just move, quickly and efficiently and get to where you need to be.
It sounds silly, but the answer to not rushing (or being rushed) really is not allowing yourself to rush (or to be rushed). It’s kind of an intent thing.
Throwing the Kitchen Sink – Poorly
Nothing is worse as a judge then watching a player play over his or her head. A wide variety of pretty crappy throws is not what judges are looking for. Not very many people realize that, and it’s a bummer, as it is the kind of oversight that leads to years of frustration and partial success.
A handler should only throw high quality, precise and accurate throws to their dog on a competition field. When they do that, they can’t look like a noob because noobs don’t know how to do that.
More is not always better. If you want to prove you’re a good competent thrower, then deliver well thrown discs to your dog.
Pro throws don’t wobble and they are caught in stride by a leaping dog.
Overworking the Dog
Signing up for every event in every contest and playing with your dog between rounds, at the hotel, in front of the photographers and cameramen, springing tricks on innocent bystanders… and then the dog craps out in the finals on Sunday. It happens all the time.
A weekend at a contest can be an exhausting and trying experience for many disc dogs. It’s a ton of work as it is. Don’t over do it.