Team’s move together. The only time a team runs at each other without cooperation or purposeful cooperative movement is when the play is done. To keep the flow going and demonstrate Team Movement in dog frisbee, the dog and handler should be moving together, you know, like a team.
Team Movement is more than just a score, Team Movement is creativity, flow, drive management and control. Shaping the approach of your dog after a catch at a distance is a critical foundational skill that not only looks good and scores well, it enhances the performance and capabilities of dog, handler, and team.
There are many ways to shape an approach in order to enhance Team Movement. We’ll discuss a few of these below.
Lines, Angles & Shapes
The first way to start to shape some unique approaches is to stop throwing straight out in front of you – just stop it. There are a full 12 numbers of the clock and 360º of angles to throw your discs in, why only throw at 12 o clock or at 0º?
This is super frustrating to watch as a teacher, coach, and judge. And while I might be in the minority of judges who are frustrated by this monodirectional play, I would hope that I’m not in the minority of teachers and coaches, although I think I am judging by the typical performance of 90+% of freestylers.
And some of you might suggest that I’m being unfair with the single angle gripe, I mean people throw straight behind them at 6 o clock or 180º, but I think I got you there – it’s the same angle and the same line… Yawn… boring. A single line is not an angle, and certainly not a shape. Any game made up of a single line without angles or shapes is not much fun to play or watch.
Throwing at various angles is the first step towards shaping different approaches. Once the dog starts to approach at various angles there is more opportunity to create shapes in your play.
Creating shapes in your play is how you control your dog’s speed and pace of play and how you manage drive and develop leaping skills on the run. Without a shape to regulate your dog’s speed and to require your dog to do something other than chase after the disc, managing drive and teaching the dog to leap on the run is near impossible. Without shapes only the naturally big leaping dogs will leap and only the naturally patient dogs will regulate their speed.
I recommend throwing at 10 o clock and at 2 o clock to create shapes. There are other angles – 4 o clock, 8 o clock, are nice as well – but the key remains to throw in directions other than 12 and 6. I would add that 3 and 9 o clock wind up with the same linear chase pattern and resultant linear approach as 12 and 6. Mix it up, experiment and develop angles and shapes that work for you and your dog.
The approach of a dog, even from straight out in front, can be shaped simply with handler movement. If your dog is running towards you, simply turning to the side changes the angle and shape of the approach. Add some movement to that turn and you’re further changing and shaping the dog’s approach. This is very useful to keep a dog from flying back at you with reckless abandon.
Adding some handler movement to a variety of throwing angles also can create and shape interesting and useful approaches.
Regulating Speed and Managing Drive
Moving towards the dog will slow the dog down. The pressure applied by the moving handler will be read by the dog and the dog will slow down. Moving away from the dog will create a vacuum of pressure that pulls the dog in faster than normal.
Turning to the side can either increase speed as the forward facing pressure of the dog is reduced or can slow the dog down as the dog tries to read the motion of the handler. Moving laterally to the dog’s line can have the same positive or negative effects on speed.
In addition to regulating speed and controlling drive, handler movement as mentioned above can and does create shapes and angles. Moving towards or away from the dog are the only two directions that do not create angles or shapes, but other than that, any movement you make whether it’s turning or moving will shape a unique approach.
Frisbee dogs want to work in front of the handler, as that’s where we normally start and where most throws are delivered to – there is a strong reward history from Front position. So whichever way you turn or move, the dog will adjust the approach to arrive in front of you. This is super helpful for creating shapes and angles.
To do this well and for it to be truly useful you’ll have to experiment a bit and tailor your movement to your canine partner, but once you start moving with purpose both you and your dog will start to move better as a team.
Cultivating Team Movement
Handler movement, with purpose, that is not simply moving towards or away from the dog will cultivate Team Movement. Once the dog realizes that your movement needs to be accounted for, your dog will start to read and respond to you as a handler as you move around the field.
If you have not moved much as a handler this might not work right away. The dog might fall into historical directional or patterned movement that has worked in the past but with a few reps and some applications of the stuff below, your dog will start to respond to your movement in predictable and controllable ways – you know, like a teammate.
The approach to the handler starts from where the catch is made. How the dog is moving at the time of catch dictates where and how the approach will go down.
Manufacturing the Approach is a good way to think about your out throws. Instead of just chucking something out there, wherever there may be and letting your dog chase it down, throw with some thought and intent, and you can shape and control your dog’s approach for any of the reasons needed above.
If you throw real far, regardless of the direction or angle, the approach will wind up linear. If you throw too short or too high, the approach will also be linear. There is a bit of a Goldilocks thing going on here, where you put it matters and you will need to find the spot that is just right for your dog and for the desired approach.
Reading the Dog
All of this stuff requires the handler to read the dog. Reading the dog is a critical skill for Flow, Shapes, and Team Movement. And is also key to regulating speed and teaching the leaping skill at a distance.
After your dog makes a catch, simply observe how the dog comes out of the catch, we call this exit from the catch the Release, as it is more than partially based in pressure.
So when your dog makes the catch, be present and observe where and how the dog moves after. This knowledge will be critical to shaping an approach and cultivating a sense of Team Movement.
Peace & Happy Jamming