Patron’s Choice: Routine Building | Creating Competence

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Backchaining the Routine

Backchaining a routine is a simple process. Simply break up the routine into sequences or modules. And start with the last sequence, even if it is just a dog catch. Raise your hand to the crowd and everything as if you just went dropless. And it’s likely that you will go dropless in one dog catch, or a single sequence. Walk off the field and take a break. You earned it.

Next rep, start with the sequence before your last sequence and run right into the finish sequence. Say thank you to the judges and walk off.

Then the sequence before the second to last sequence and roll through to the finish. One more step back and you’ve got 4 sequences covered. By this time you probably have 3 sequences left. And who forgets, or doesn’t know their first 3 sequences?

The best thing about this is that the end of the routine gets the most reps. It gets the freshest reps in terms of fatigue, and it is quite likely, successful.

Naming Sequences

Name each sequence or module. This is VERY important. You want to move big chunks around in your routine. If you don’t name your sequences or modules, odds are you are thinking of a list of tricks – this, then that, then this, and the other… In real time, that kind of serial attention is going to fail. The likelihood of failure becomes nearly 100% when a mistake happens. By the time you’ve gotten the disc and found your dog you have no hope of dropping back into the list where you left off.

Loot’s Opening Sequence. Features a couple of Jakie flips and a Big Rebound with an Airbounce Under It (BOOM!).

Naming sequences gives you the power to say one or two words that mean the entire list – once you have that name in your brain, the list is a given – the name becomes a symbol for the sequence.

I like to name sequences so they trigger the key concepts in the sequence like Jakie to Rebound, Epic Juggle, or Passing to Yachi Vault.

Abbreviated Patterns

If you are doing a lot of flatwork, or have a Zig Zag or Around the World late in your routine where it will get repeated many times due to the mechanics of the back chain, it’s a good idea to abbreviate it. Do the last 2 or the first and last tosses of the larger pattern.

You just need to get the feel for the placement of the sequence, and the semblance of having done it for Routine Building purposes. Backchaining a routine is more about setting up the memory framework than it is about perfecting the play.

Work your Zig Zag or Around the World on it’s own and do it in full on one of the last reps of your training session.

Bisected Backchain

Splitting a routine in half and back chaining each half is a neat experience. It’s nice for routines with many shorter sequences or routines with a zig zag or Around the World or other large scale pattern that will fatigue the team.

If you have 7 sequences, break it up and backchain the first 4 sequences in today’s session, and the last 3 or 4 in tomorrow’s. You can even warm up with the one you did yesterday.

Back of Disc Mnemonic

Each of the sequences is named and printed, in order on each of the discs we take out onto the competition field. 

As far as remembering your routine, Backchaining it works wonders. Since backchaining my routine, I’ve never once forgotten it. Except for 3 seconds this year at the USDDN Finals. Heh…

Even so, I do this mnemonic thing where I write the name of each sequence, in order, on each of my discs. That’s 5-10 reps of visualizing the routine right before playing. And if I do forget, I can just flip the disc over and see what’s next on the agenda in meaningful symbolic language.

Meet & Beat the Dog

Meet and beat the dog into the starting position. If you’ve read the dog well, you know where he’s going. Beat him there. It’s easy because you know where he’s going to be. Do your thing and then get there.

Aggressive Defense

You know the play, dog catches here and will release there. If I need to beat him to the next set up, I’m gonna meet him right there.

Aggressive defense is reading the play and responding as soon as you got the read. You know the read, you’re running the play. So what are you waiting for. You could walk over there and beat him.

Aggressive defense also means taking one step further than you think when approaching the dog. Keep the pressure on, just a little longer, so the offensive player doesn’t gain as much momentum and is less likely to steamroll you.


Moving aggressively to meet and beat the dog to the punch applies pressure. Dogs tend to give to positional pressure. When you’re applying pressure to the dog with movement, the dog is more likely to read your movement and respond to your pressure. If you’re always sitting back and waiting for the dog to approach, the pressure is applied to you.

Front Cross

A Front Cross slows down the dog and switches the working direction. If you’ve got it applied before you beat the dog to the spot, your meeting will be a slow rolling stop. If you apply it as you meet the dog, you’ll get a flowing elastic stop.

Jam in a Flash

Meeting and beating the dog applies to interior moves as well as bigger tricks. The Front Cross is THE move for interior sequences and it is all about meeting and beating the dog.

Waits Stop Time

Be sure to do the Jam in a Flash stuff with the cued Wait at least 4 times before going live. It is critical to getting the skill conceptually understood by the dog, and competently and cognitively applied by the handler.

The time between the tricks is frozen with Waits. When time freezes focus, attention to details, and visual acuity increase.

Hop From Pose to Pose

Meet and beat your dog using a Pose. Basic Standing Position, the standard disc dog position, or Basic Flatwork Position, should be the standard position you find yourself in having beaten your dog to the next position.

If you’re already set up and ready to roll when the trick resolves, you’ve got the dog locked down – the dog can’t move because,”We’re ready to go.”

Mind Your Trigger

Using Waits and hopping from Pose to Pose sets up easy patient pauses where the team can focus on a nice clean start to each trick. Learn, leverage, or otherwise pay attention to the cue or physical movement that triggers your dog into action.

A clean, well understood, reliable trigger is a must for competent disc dog freestyle.


The intent of the handler is key. It’s key for the dog and it’s key for the team. Without intent, the dog and team are left high and dry when it comes to leveraging skills to demonstrate skill.

To do something well, right here and right now, usually means you have to intend to do it.

Throwing with Intent

A disc thrown with intent is easy to spot. It’s as easy to spot as a disc that’s just puked out somewhere or coughed up by a nervous handler. Intending to deliver discs in stride or intending to elicit a leap demonstrates skill. Delivering it demonstrates both skills and skill.

Moving with Intent

MOVE!!! With intent. You know the play. Do it. You know the dog’s release on this flip. Be there.  Finish your job and move with intent.

Playing, Training, and Coaching with Intent

Are you performing it or are you learning it? Keep it straight. The difference between learning and proofing is quite important in dog training and learning theory. You will be doing one or the other.

Are you jamming no rules or should you be working something. You can’t really do both. Coaching the team can’t happen while playing and isn’t helpful while training. Coaching is an activity best done off the field, between sessions.

Make sure you are intending to do what you’re actually doing.

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