Disc Dog Flatwork is the stuff that happens between the catches. How the team moves and transitions, often without the disc, is flatwork. Flatwork concepts in disc dog are taken from the More and Shapes are related but not the same thing. Just because you have good flatwork doesn’t mean you will have good shapes and vice versa. It is possible to have great Shapes and weak Flatwork. As it is possible to have great Flatwork and weak Shapes.
Solid Flatwork with Weak Shapes
Apryl & Jolene are a great team. They’ve got solid Flatwork. Apryl moves Jolene around the field well, Jo is responsive to Apryl’s cuing and movement.
If you look at their game with a critical eye or from above, you can see that the Shapes of the game are pretty standard and repetitive. Jo runs in linear fashion with very little arcing and most all the throws are delivered with handler, dog, and disc arranged in a line. On nearly every out throw, Jolene leaves from close to the handler chasing a disc.
This type of movement is one aspect of Shapes – linear. There are 2 instances of some kind of different shape being employed and they’re notated by that triangle graphic.
Apryl makes up for this to some degree with handler movement, but in this performance it’s not used to alter the linear nature of nearly all the dog’s and Team Movement is how dog and handler move, as a team, out there on the field. It is a judging category in some organizations and certainly is a focus of More.
Strong Flatwork Good Shapes
Eppie & I have a bit more Flatwork going on and more diversity in patterns. This diversity of lines and arcs should equate to a higher Shapes score and better Team Movement scores.
Accounting for and handling the greater diversity of Shapes and lines allows for and all but requires more Flatwork. This is that typical relationship between Flatwork and Shapes that most people anticipate.
Why is This Happening?
The tendency of many disc doggers is to present this as a “border collie” vs “not-a-border collie” thing. It’s not. There are mechanical issues with Jolene and Apryl’s game that are promoting the lack of diversity in Shapes.
You can’t run a dog with solid shapes without a solid cued Drop. Stimulus control over the drop is required to get the drop to happen at a time and place to allow for Shapes to happen.
A dog with a latent drop winds up close to the handler before being ready to chase another disc. A dog who will only drop on or near the handler is far more likely to run in linear fashion, as the handler, dog, and disc will wind up in a line on the throw.
A latent drop on the A Zig Zag is a series of catches in smooth succession that forces the dog to move back and forth across the field. Usually performed at a distance of 8-20 More means that the dog will come in close to the handler and be running from the handler to the catch. This winds up being more of a Passing maneuver than a Zig Zag. Passing is a linear pattern.
To create interception opportunities and Shapes, the dog has to drop away from the handler. Only when the dog is away from the handler at the time of the throw can a Shape other than a line be created. If the dog is at or near the handler at the time of the throw, the pattern is highly likely to be a line.
Lateral vs Linear Throwing
If you watch Apryl’s round with Jolene, all but two of the throws were made directly out in front of the handler. These up and down field throws create a linear pattern and a linear retrieve. Their is very little time or slack in a linear retrieve. The dog runs at the handler and then gets there. If you don’t throw, you’re in trouble.
This movement becomes habitual, too. So the dog runs aggressively towards the handler and to the front of the handler. Being out to either side quickly turns into a direct approach to the handler for the next linear release.
Watching Eppie’s round, all but one or 2 throws were thrown laterally. Nothing was thrown directly up or down field. These lateral throws create a lateral pattern and arcing retrieve.
This lateral movement becomes habitual and the dog is comfortable staying away from the handler. There is much more time and flexibility in handling a dog with an arcing retrieve.
Handler Movement and the Dog’s Line
The relationship between handler movement and the dog’s line creates shapes. Moving into the dog’s line creates pressure that moves the dog.
But if the dog is approaching the handler directly moving into that line only pressures the dog to slow down, not to turn. A Take is a cued Bite that replicates the placement and timing of a throw. Usually used with overs, vaults, and flips, the Take is a powerful teaching tool for More a look at Apryl & Jo at 1:10. Apryl is moving into Jo’s line as she’s approaching from the side and it creates a nice intercepting shape. Check it out with the linear approach at 1:20 and you can see that with the linear approach being set, this doesn’t work out as well.
Moving into the dog’s line as they’re on a lateral retrieve means the dog accommodates the handler and works and moves towards the front. Given that the front is not available to the dog they have to run further and wider to get there, allowing for a disc to be thrown that accommodates the dog’s line and creates a nice shape.
There is a lot more to be said about this topic but it’s a bit too much I’ll be working on handler movement and the dog’s line in next week’s DiscDogger Weekly… You’ll have to drop back by to catch it.
See you next week.