On Flatwork: The Xs and Os of Preferred Movement

Ron & Epic do a Hoop from left to right, which makes it clockwise. After landing, Epic continues on the Clockwise Flank where Ron will pick him up, as a team mate in flowing motion, to continue the flank.

At Pawsitive Vybe we look at the dog’s directional movement and direction of play through a clockwise and counter clockwise lens. It’s a bit “brainful”, like it hurts the brain a bit while wrapping your head around it, but it’s an important concept to have a strong handle on. It will help to maximize your disc dog freestyle game.

Another way to think about direction is left and right, which has it’s own problems. If the dog is moving from left to right in front of the handler it’s a Clockwise Flank. From right to left it is a Counter Clock Flank. If the dog spins or flips to his right, he’s going clock while flips or twists to the left are counter.

A Brief History of Xs and Os

Dogs have a preference for direction, clock or counter. It is a Law of Flatwork. The truly balanced dog is a rare breed. This preference for direction impacts the shape of our game.

Way back in the day, 2004 or so, I wrote the Xs and Os of Diverse Routines. A treatise on the shapes of play that focused primarily on breed or personality type and prey drive. Cliff’s Notes Version: You need to read how your dog moves – lines or arcs, Xs or Os, and play to the dog’s strength 80-90% of the time. Garnish with the opposite pattern.

About 3 years later we discovered Disc Dog Flatwork and started working both Clock and Counter movement. We recognized the natural bias of the dog. Dogs would leap like a beast or leap differently on one flank or another. Some dogs were clock strong, and some counter.

As we developed this, it was obvious that our games got more round and less linear – X dogs became much more O like. In about 2012, we started to talk about how the type of game being played changes the pattern.

Play fast and aggressive hopping from strike to strike and you get X, withhold throws and throw softer less aggressive targets and the game rounds out into more of an O pattern. In 2017 and Stalk vs Strike was identified as a key element: You can’t strike if it ain’t thrown. If it is not an active target you stalk it; walking and looking. A stalking movement requires looking in at the handler while moving which creates arcs.

Clock is Natural for Right Handers

For most right handed handlers, the only way to play is Clock. Counter is foreign and weird. I would estimate that 90% of all handler’s at the USDDN World Finals played 90% of their routine clock, and a huge proportion of that 90% only went counter clock on their Zig Zag.

This tremendous bias is quite noticeable if you’re a fan of Flatwork. Watching this mono directional bias show itself top to bottom in what I consider to be the toughest competition in the world was tough. The occasional Front Cross to counter clock on a Passing move, some of our clients, and Jack Fahle were some of the few notable anomalies.

As I was taking stock of the field’s game in terms of balanced or any counter clock movement, I noticed something.

Strong Flank Reinforces Circular, Arcing Play | Os

There were some dogs at the contest this weekend who displayed round movement. They were in the minority, to my recollection. As I was watching, I noticed something. The dogs who were clock strong ran circles or at least more arcs.

It then hit me like a malinois:

Running the Strong Flank creates round play!

The dog wants to stay on the Strong Flank, the right handed handler wants to stay on that Strong Flank, and anything to the right of center will encourage and reinforce round movement in the direction of the Strong Flank.

Weak Flank Reinforces Linear, Angular Play | Xs

Most dogs at the contest this weekend ran a rather linear game. After my epiphany, I noticed that the dogs who looked to be counter clock strong played what looked to be a much more linear game.

This makes sense, as the dog wants to reverse field from the Weak to the Strong Flank. This tendency to peel off in close proximity creates angles, but at a distance it just creates a line as the dog spins as quickly as possible to reorient to the handler or lopes out a bit in a S-curve, before lining up on the handler to come on in.

Running the Weak Flank creates linear play!

Xs and Os of the Flank

Run the dog on the Strong Flank and you are more likely to get round, arcing play. Running the Weak Flank is more likely to create linear, angular play. If you have too much of one or not enough of the other in your game and would like to change that, try running in the other direction.