A lot of times I look at a Frisbee dog routine and think about it’s maturity. It was nice, stylish, entertaining, but it was somehow lacking. It’s often hard to put that into words, and something we’ve come up with here at Pawsitive Vybe is maturity. A mature game demonstrates mastery and understanding of the game, the dog and the disc. An immature game does not demonstrate mastery, perhaps has a flaw in the understanding of the game, or has issues working with the dog or the disc. Here are six things to look for when assessing a routine’s maturity:
Controlled Performance at 7-15 Yards
I’m not impressed by a 35 yard overhand wrist flip that the dog runs like heck after to catch. What impresses me is a 9 yard overhand wrist flip that floats out there at perfect leaping height and a dog that seamlessly adjusts stride, pops up and snatches it – like it was a plan. On a 35 yard throw there are a million places where the dog can save your bacon. You just chuck it out there and the dog runs it down. It’s cool. It’s necessary for disc management, but if that’s all you got outside of flips and vaults, you’re missing out on a huge part of a mature game. To throw a pretty 10 yard toss with a leaping catch on an overhand wrist flip…? Reliably? That’s tough. It requires so much skill: A thoughtful handler has to make a really tough throw with perfect timing and placement to a patient dog who catches a disc on a well executed leap? Now that’s a plan! Good work in the 7-15 yard range demonstrates incredible teamwork, precision, accuracy and intent. It’s where the pros live.
Variety of Set Up Moves
Having a variety of Set Up Moves with various entry angles keeps spectators and judges on their toes. Creative and unique set up moves are a vital component of flow and are the glue that holds awesome sequences together. Many teams only have two or three set up moves and these set up moves tend to finish in the Front 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 position. Some teams only work in one direction – clockwise or counter-clockwise – as well. Vaults and Overs often go in one direction. When a team works many set up moves, fluidly and dynamically, starts their sequences from positions other than Front, and works both clock and counter, left and right, it’s pretty noticeable, and it looks different. The recipe for being able to do this is a healthy dose of foundational Set Up Moves and Position and the Art of Linking Tricks. Boom, Boom Pow! Foundation and usage!
Clean, Well Placed Targets
Your job as a handler is to make your dog look good. A dog that chases, stops, and then stands around looking up waiting for discs to drop? Or a dog that trips all over himself to snatch a disc 2 inches off the ground? Do those dogs look good? Even if you’re dog “doesn’t jump”, targets need to be placed, in stride, at your a good leaping height for your dog. You’ll find that when you start to place targets in that area, dogs that “don’t jump” start to jump. Discs should come out clean, no wobbles and should be delivered with authority, finesse and style. Easy throws should look hard and hard throws should look easy. Doing that, with backhands alone, will make a routine look mature and make your dog look good.
Xs, Os, and Shapes
Running your routine with patterns that your dog does naturally is a huge part of the game of disc. A good routine highlights these natural strengths but should also demonstrate the shapes and patterns that require teamwork. Just chucking discs out to have the dog chase and catch them, as cool as those throws may be, leads to an out and back or back and forth game. Dog chases the disc out on a line, catches, runs back on a line for the vault or over. Rinse & repeat. Too much of this and it feels like a tennis match. Feeding the border collie outrun, and only working on circular skills can be limiting as well when it comes to shapes. Too much outrun and it looks like NASCAR. The sweet Spot is a “go to a place”, or “go to a mat” behavior. This means that the dog seeks out and performs a duration behavior on a spot of the handler’s choosing. A is in the middle. Run a dog’s strong pattern 80-90% of the time and garnish with 10-20% of the weak pattern. Flatwork, Setting the Flank, setting up interceptions, reversing field as a team; these things create shapes. In a mature routine, the dog isn’t just chasing discs, they hook up with the handler and move in creative ways as a team.
Another hallmark of a mature disc dog game is the amount of separation between the handler’s throwing hand and the disc at the time of the catch. Flying discs float. Discs should fly through the air. Vaults or overs, flips and any other time the dog catches the disc 6 inches from the handler’s hand is probably not a mature skill. If the disc is flying like a ball, it’s probably not a mature skill. Mature handlers can have 1-2+ meters of separation between the throwing hand and the catch on flips, vaults and overs. The discs fly and float. Their dogs catch throws that look like Frisbees.
Pop & Posture
How a player stands and carries his or herself is hugely important. Playing all bent over, loafing around, growing roots, lazy disc pick ups, all of these things can make a player look not ready for prime time. Make sure you’re standing tall and are acting like the performer you want to be. How discs are thrown is important as well. Lazy, sloppy, wobbly releases with little or no intent is going to make you look like a noob. But delivering discs to your dog with authority, competence, and style will make you look like you know what you’re doing – which is a great definition of mature.