On Separation in Disc Dog Freestyle

“When a ball dreams, it dreams it’s a Frisbee.”

~ Stancil Johnson

Disc dog freestyle is about dogs chasing flying discs. It is exciting because the discs hover and float, defying gravity in concert with a flying dog.

On Vaults, Overs, and Flips, the target should be a disc, and that disc should have flying disc or frisbee principles if possible.

Take a look at these two vaults. What’s the difference? The first thing that pops out to your eye or your brain?

Check the Separation

The thing that jumps out to me, and should jump out to all experienced disc dog freestylers is the separation between the throwing hand and the disc. This is your first clue of how bad ass the vault is. This clue happens before the catch.

On the left, we have a toss of about 1 meter. Stretched out to 1.25 meters given the spinning handler and dropping arm after the disc is released.

The dog is just leaving the ground and the disc is over 1 meter away from the hand and 2 meters from the dog. This means the dog was on the ground, probably half a stride away when the handler released the disc. This disc is probably peaking and starting to drop at the time of the photo.

On the right, notice how close the disc is to the handler’s hand? It’s just about 1 foot away from the hand, and less than that from where the disc was released — again, that dropping hand thing after the toss.

At the time of the photo, the dog is already leaping from the obstacle, which means that the tiny toss went up well after he left the ground. The disc was not much more than 6-12 inches from the dog’s face at the time of release, and flies about 1 foot total.

These are two completely different vaults. They deserve completely different scores, and it’s not because one is spinny and one is not. They deserve different scores because of the separation between the disc and hand, and the teamwork required to execute each catch.

A Tale of Two Vaults

Timing and placing a vault at 1-1.5 meters with the dog leaving the ground 2-3 meters away already committed to the target is far more difficult than stuffing that disc in there with a 5 inch toss as the dog is flying over.    

The throw has more frisbee principles because it is thrown 4X further. The dog must commit to a defined target; the dog plans to use the handler’s body to go get the disc that seems to hover there for a while.

When the throw is short the dog just hits the body, cruises over, and all but requires the handler to place the disc in his mouth as he cruises by. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Disc dog freestyle sequences, interior sequences particularly, often require the handler to throw after the dog has left the ground. The handler often needs to stuff the disc into the dog’s mouth and tosses are often short.

But with a stand alone vault, or a simple sequence, the disc should be up before the dog leaves the ground and the dog should leave the ground for a well placed target. There should be separation between the hand and the disc, and the separation shouldn’t simply be the dropping hand thingy.

As players, and as judges, disc doggers need to be aware of this for performance and safety. It’s where we should all be trying to go as players.

Separation on Reverse Vaults is Special

The shot on the left is a Left Handed Screw Vault. The dog starts the vault behind the handler while the handler is facing forward. The disc is tossed with the left hand, over the left shoulder, and then the handler turns towards the dog opening up the vaulting platform.

The disc is tossed before the handler declares a vaulting platform and well before the dog leaves the ground. It’s a pretty bad ass vault if I do say so myself.

The spinny nature of the trick, and the left handed thing are pretty spiffy. But the real special thing about this trick, in particular, is how ridiculously early the disc is thrown and how much separation exists (in both time and space) between the start of the throw and the catch.

Modern rebound type vaults (flips off the handler for a caught disc) tend to look more like the image on the right; a pursuit type vault, as we call them here at PVybe. It is a Reverse Leg Vault to Dog Catch, and is also a pretty sweet trick.

Notice the lack of separation on the right, both from the hand and from the dog’s face.

The dog is never more than 6 inches away from the disc, pursuing it directly from release. The throw is tiny, the dog catches quick while pursuing and drives on up well past the target soaring up into the air.

This is the methodology of nearly all reverse vaults you’ll see in the modern game of disc dog freestyle. It’s cool — It’s a great way to create, train, and cultivate the rebound skill and it does a great job of keeping things safe and successful. It is the place to start, for sure.

But when comparing the two vaults, again, there is no comparison.

A Tale of Two Vaults

The vault on the left is far more difficult to execute due to the tighter and more precise timing and space tolerances that the longer toss puts on the team. The dog leaps from the ground for the target with a concrete plan to use the handler as the flipping platform. The catch is made as the disc is coming down, after having flown 1 meter into the air.

A longer, earlier toss is a more mature vault requiring greater competence and commitment by both dog and handler.

Tricks with greater separation and proper timing should be rewarded with better scores. It’s cooler, it’s harder, it’s more dramatic, and it gives the dog the most control over leaping and landing. It’s proper and it demonstrates greater competency.

Separation: It should be rewarded with a better score.

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