Ron & Epic explore the 3 key variables of the Flatwork Process: Pushing, Pulling, and Blocking. These 3 variables are the principle functions in disc dog flatwork and moving dogs using positional pressure.
Rules are Meant to be Broken
This is a great phrase. It is truth. One of the things that I like to add to this phrase is that, when it comes to dog training, I like to bend the rules as far as I can and break them to gain advantage. But you can only do that if you truly understand the rules and if your dog already abides by the rules.
If you or your dog doesn’t know the rules and has not much experience with following them, breaking the rules is likely to break your game or limit the scope and scale of your play:
“He won’t go that way!”
“She has too much Drive for that stuff.”
“I don’t run a border collie…”
The rules are the rules and they work with all dogs. The full expression of a behavior or a particular version of a trick might not be a good fit for your dog, after all, it’s not a border collie, but the rules still apply.
You have to know, understand, and be able to abide by the rules in order to bend them or break them to your advantage.
Riding the Wave
Your dog essentially rides a wave of pressure. The dog likes to stay in the pocket of pressure, right on the edge of being pushed and pulled. This pocket is easy to find and understand if it is exercised by dog and handler, and is impossible to find if you’re not looking for it or don’t expect the dog, handler, and team to recognize it.
If you’re pushing the dog, you’re behind and the dog is pulling you with your assistance. If you’re pulling the dog, you’re in front and dragging the dog along. It is entirely possible and highly likely that this pushing or pulling behavior can be taken too far and that it will break down if it’s exercised too long.
Pushing and Pulling
When you push the dog you are essentially sending him – pushing him away from you. When pulling you are pulling her in – dragging her towards you. If you want the dog to stay away, you want get the dog moving in the right direction and push them along. If you want the dog to get closer, you’ll have to pull in the desired direction. Pushing will slow things down or maintain speed, pulling will speed them up.
Placing you or your arm at or in front of the dog’s head will pull the dog to you and increase lateral speed. Putting your arm or yourself at or behind the dog’s behind will push the dog away and decrease lateral speed. Looking in front of the dog will speed them up, looking behind the dog will slow them down – pushing and pulling.
A pressure transfer from left hand to right hand or side to side can be considered a block. If the dog is moving with you from your left to right and you switch directions or step forward with your right hand you will block the dog’s movement and the dog will change directions.
Rapid, abrupt blocks (changes of direction) will make the dog respond as if pulling – speed will increase and the dog will move towards the handler. Slower, smoother changes in direction will be more push-like in nature and result in a slower directional change and reinforce the dog working at a distance.
Handler movement also serves to shape how the dog responds to the dog. If the handler moves away from the dog or the dog’s new line of movement at or after the block, the dog will be pulled. If the handler moves towards the dog’s new line of movement or with the dog, the dog will be pushed.
Blocking changes directions, but how you block changes how the dog changes direction.
Reading the Dog’s Movement
In order to effectively push, pull, or block your dog you must first have a good read on the dog’s movement. Which direction you turn to push or pull depends upon which direction the dog is moving in. How hard you can push or pull or how hard you need to push or pull is dependent upon where your dog is in relation to you, which direction she’s going, and how fast she’s moving.
Reading the dog is a critical skill in flatwork. You need to move in the right direction and at the right speed and intensity to create the pocket in that wave your dog needs to run in.
Lateral vs Linear Movement
If the dog is running straight at you it is highly likely that any turning you do will just pull the dog harder. This is why we stress Setting the Flank so much in our instruction and why you rarely see me throw directly out in front. I throw laterally to create angles that can be shaped and carved into team movement.
Lateral movement can be created with handler movement as well. Turning your side to your dog or moving in the direction that the dog is moving will help to create lateral movement that can be worked with.
If you look at the first couple throws in this video, you can see that a lateral approach is created by simply throwing out to the side a bit and turning in the direction that the dog is already going.