On Shapes in Disc Dog Freestyle

I have been invited to participate by UpDog Challenge founder, Jack Fahle, in the UpDog Judges Certification program for the last 6 months or so. It’s an amazing program. I learn several somethings in every class. Every player should take it, as well as anyone who wants to judge, regardless of your preferred organization.

Each week we take on one of the judging categories of the Freestyle Showcase: Dog, Human, and Team, and the last week we put it all together with the Performance Round.

Each subcategory is well defined – Flatwork, Flow, Throw Placement & Flight, Release Diversity & Difficulty, Disc Management, Disc Management for the dog – to name a few.

One of the more difficult subcategories to nail down and get a handle on is Shapes.


Shapes – Team Subcategory of the UpDog Freestyle Showcase

Subcategory Description:

  • Team Movement Creates a Variety of Shapes:
    • Linear Movement (back and forth / up and down field)
    • Lateral Movement (side to side)
    • Circles (Around the World)
    • Arcs, Figure 8s, ribbon, etc
  • Variety of shapes utilized throughout a routine will be rewarded. Limited variety will reesult in low point reward
  • Innovative shapes that add t the uniqueness and cool factor of routine will be rewarded

Elementary Shapes – Chasing Lines & Arcs

A line is a Shape. Point A to Point B creates a line. A dog chasing a disc will create a line. Lines are an important and elementary feature of disc dog freestyle.

Jack & Remix display elementary shapes in this video. In the first session, Jack runs Remix with little flatwork and delivers discs in linear pursuit mode. In the second session, Jack adds some flatwork to move Remix around, but still delivers linear pursuit tosses.

These shapes displayed by Jack & Remix are elementary in nature. In terms of Shapes, the first session should somewhat obviously score lower than the second as there were very little shapes displayed, but the second session is still a lower level expression of shapes despite the more diverse patterns created by Flatwork.

Defining Shapes

Shapes are more than just the trail left by the dog on the field, and the patterns created by the dog after the catch. Shapes differ from Flatwork, and higher level Shapes should not rely solely on how the dog releases after a catch. Shapes are how the dog moves to navigate the catch.

Shapes are created by the positional relationship between the handler, the dog, and the disc. A variety of Shapes starts to develop when the handler throws in different directions and different times, and when the team makes a play on a disc while at a distance.

A simple around or through set up move and throw will almost always lead to a chasing pattern. This chasing pattern creates a line between the handler and the disc with the dog running on or nearly on that line. The same happens when Setting the Flank, if you drive the dog out and the dog chases the disc, that will create a line.

Remix 0:16 – A screencap of Remix and Jack from above… Notice that the pattern has arcs and turns, but the dog is running on a line between the handler and the disc. Watch the video above closely and you will see that Remix is always being thrown on a line by Jack.
Remix 0:23 – For those of us with round dogs, a Through behavior that features a throw while the dog is underneath the handler can create a nice straight line in the direction of your choosing.
Remix 0:27 – Side to side movement, while different from up and downfield movement will yield the same shape. Both are forms of Passing and are valid and cool moves in the game of disc dog freestyle. They just should not be the only moves in disc dog freestyle…
Epic 0:08 – Ron Drives Epic out on the Clockwise Flank. Any time the dog chases the disc directly from the handler’s position a line will be the end result. Lines are often defined by the dog and disc running abreast, like a race with the catch being the finish line. The disc takes the lead and the dog runs the disc down, winning with a great kick at the finish.

Advanced Shapes – Intercepting Lines and Arcs

To make an interception, the dog must be off the line of the throw. The further off the line of the throw, the more aggressive the interception. Aggressive interceptions have little room for error.

Ron & Epic demonstrate some more advanced Shapes along with some Blind Tosses. Notice that the positions of dog, the disc and the handler, if they were points, create a triangle rather than a line. The more aggressive the angle, the more aggressive the Shape. The more aggressive the Shape the more precise the throw must be and the more difficult the catch.

The handler and disc are the end points that create a line, the dotted lines in the videos are the line of the throw. Green dots are clockwise spinning throws and Blue dots are throws that spin counter clockwise from the handler’s hand.

There are 3 lines in most shapes: dog to disc, handler to disc, and dog to handler. These three lines, when they start in different positions, create a shape.

Epic 0:37 – Epic is moving clockwise after a catch. Instead of waiting for the dog to return to the handler, Ron delivers a disc on the dog’s line. Epic’s line intercepts the line of the throw for the catch at one particular point in space and time. Epic has already formulated a plan to catch this disc and hopefully, he has planned well. Note the triangle created between handler, dog and disc and also note that the dog and disc are moving.
Epic 0:37 – Looking Good, Eppie… Ron has delivered a good toss on Epic’s line. Epic is leaping in order to get the disc, as the disc has been placed high enough, at the right point and the right time so that leaping becomes necessary.

Shapes = Depth of Play

Playing with shapes requires that the dog and handler work as a team at a distance. Think of this distance as playing at a particular depth, depth being the distance from the handler.

Keeping the dog out away from the handler creates many athletic and team movement abilities for dog, handler, and team. It allows the handler to teach a dog to slow down, to collect properly, to pay attention to the handler, and to address the disc in a patient sensible manner. Playing at depth is a tremendous display of your dog’s drive, not just for the disc, but drive for the game of disc.

This additional depth is beautiful to watch and fun to play around with. Give it a shot, but I’ll warn you, it ain’t easy.

Geometry With Your Disc Dog

It’s Fun, and rewarding, I promise…

Remix 0:27 – The Geometry of lines…
Epic 0:15 –After a catch on the flank, Ron has read Eppie’s line, calculated where it needs to be and when it needs to be there, and has initiated the throw – A blind Flamingo.
Epic 0:15 – The throw is off. Eppie has read the throw, calculated the speed and placement and has initiated a plan to intercept the disc at exactly the right place and right time. It’s a delicate operation…
Epic 0:15 – Mission Accomplished! Success…

A Quick, Logical Wrap Up With More to Come…

Shapes made from intercepting catches and depth of play are not necessary in disc dog freestyle, per se. But if you want a good score in the Shapes subcategory they are. And all things equal, if one player plays with Shapes and another player does not, the player with Shapes should receive a higher score.

The competitive aspects of Shapes aside, playing at depth and working with your dog at a distance provides tremendous training opportunities and additional angles for shaping and reinforcing quality play.

Stay tuned for more stuff on Shapes, we’ve only scratched the surface…

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