In agility, the stuff that goes on between the jumps, the team movement and cuing proper direction is called Flatwork. Running agility fast has far more to do with Flatwork than it does the obstacles.
We 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.
Some foundational aspects of Flatwork
This could also be called turn towards me, but the Cross 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 Cross 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.
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 Cross 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 Front 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 Zag Skill.
The Flank is essentially a moving position. Think of it as working out on your side – out there. Heel and Side 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 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 Management 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 Vault to an Around the World.
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.