Play+ Flow Foundation: The Set Up Move Drill and 3 Keys to Flow

Pawsitive Vybe dog training has always been about Flow, both in terms of keeping things moving and in terms of being “in the Zone”. Reaching this state while working with a dog is the reason that most of us are doing these crazy things. Once experienced, Flow is rarely forgotten and we strive to make it happen again.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi was a psychologist who spent his life researching the Flow State and how all kinds of people – from factory worker to famous athlete – achieve the Flow State and operate in the Zone to increase productivity and retention by 500%.

Set Up Move Drill

We’re going to take a look at creating the Flow State in a foundational drill we use here at Pawsitive Vybe. The Foundational Set Up Move drill is elegant and powerful.

In 3 five minute sessions it teaches:

  • Clock & Counter Around
  • Clock & Counter Through (front to back)
  • Clock & Counter Backwards Through (back to front)
  • Front & Rear Crosses
  • Scoot (back up between legs)
  • a Complete Handling and Communication System
  • Positional Pressure
  • Front & Rear Crosses
  • Follow the Handler
  • Immediate Transition to Live Action Play

.This is Flow Training and 500% productivity increase seems a bit low on this one. This lesson is not what you are doing, but how you do it. Most people lure their dogs. Most teams can do most of these Set Up Moves.

Most teams don’t get a Scoot in 5 minutes, let alone 7 set up moves (in both directions), Flatwork & Team Movement Foundation. And who gets to successfully deploy them to the field in 3 five minute sessions? I do it all the time with just about any dog.

So why is this different:

*These are the first 3 Rules of the 8 Rules of Flow 

Clear Goals

Clear Goals are a first order requirement for Flow in dog training. The Dog | Handler | Team must be aware of what the goals are and how to achieve them. When there are not Clear Goals, the training session is likely to suffer limited success and minimal flow. So what are Clear Goals?

  • Goals are Apparent
  • Mini Goals
  • Clarity of Goals

Most people train Set Up Moves in order to get the Set Up Move. This is a goal, but it’s too big. Your overarching goal is important, but focusing there can kill flow and limit the efficiency of the lesson and the ability to expand and extend the behavior. 

Instead of focusing on the end result as a goal, create smaller mini-goals: Be a Splitter, not a Lumper, to quote an old dog training maxim. These small, mini-goals create a sense of achievement and give you TAG points that can be leveraged towards habitual success and a sense of Flow within the learning process. 

In the Set Up Move drill, our staple Team Movement exercise, Clear Goals is a big feature. Attention, Chase the Lure, Take the Match, Follow Me, Finish: these mini-goals are made apparent and drawn into focus with Positive Markers. Marking behaviors isolate the goals and deliver clarity, in Flow. 

A failure to meet one of these mini-goals breaks the Flow of the session, punishing the behavior that misses criteria. Pausing at this moment allows the dog (or handler) to recover and complete the behavior chain. This recognition of missing a mini-goal and reinforcement of recovery creates a strong sense of achievement and reinforces Flow creating a feedback loop where Flow reinforces your behavior chain. 

Immediate Feedback

The Flow state features immediate feedback. Moment by moment feedback helps Dog | Handler | Team stay on track and retain the memory, both muscle and mind, of the behavior at hand.

  • Clarity of Feedback for Focus
  • Feedback Aids concentration

Within the Set Up Move drill, the marking of Attention, the Match, and the Finish, with the resultant cookie delivers immediate, moment by moment feedback. This communication reinforces performance, confidence, and retention of the behaviors and criteria involved in our Set Up Moves while building confidence and understanding of what is required to keep the game alive and keep Flowing. 

This feedback aids in concentration. Moment by moment feedback allows the dog and handler to focus on the key criteria of the skill in the learning and acquisition phase of training. For dog and handler, this feedback provides signposts, mnemonic devices, and clarity of the criteria that is important for this skill. 

As we take the skill beyond the learning and acquisition phase and start to generalize, expand, and proof the behavior, this moment by moment feedback is used as reference – we’ve been here before. These markers, criteria, or TAG points are just confirmation that we’re doing it right, and the focus can shift to how we are doing it or what is actually happening within the skill. 

The result of Immediate Feedback in Flow is that the Team knows how to do the stuff, clearly and unambiguously, and can relax the naked pursuit of the goals and can Be Present in the moment while staying connected through the feedback mechanism. 

Challenges are Matched to Skills

In order for Flow to happen, the challenge and skills must be matched and balanced. The Dog | Handler | Team must have the requisite skill to perform the behavioral challenge and this skill must, somehow be matched to the challenge. When challenge and skill are matched, training becomes fun, rewarding, efficient, and expansive. 

  • You can Succeed
  • Your Opponent/Partner is Balanced
  • Goldilocks Challenge
  • Success can be Addictive

The Set Up Move drill uses a simple lure to move the dog, follow the handler, and transfer value from hand to hand and target to target. These are not necessarily easy behavioral challenge, particularly for a new dog or a new handler. But what dog can’t follow a lure? 

For the more advanced dog and handler, the lure can and should be scaled to a greater challenge. This can be done through the speed and intensity of the Lure. To Flow with an experienced or aggressive dog, this might mean that we keep the lure sharp and snappy to help the challenge match the Dog | Handler | Team’s skill. But that’s not the only way we can challenge the dog. 

The greater challenge for experienced dogs or dogs who know the skill is to perform the lure slowly and methodically. This slow and methodical lure will challenge the dog to follow you and to demonstrate self control and mastery of the luring skill. Flow is not just about moving smoothly, it’s about being engaged in and focused on the activity at hand and being present taking in all that information and understanding what it is we’re actually doing here.

More Play+ and Flow Training Coming Soon

This is the first offering in a new series – a new paradigm even – of training content that focuses on Play and Flow working in concert. It’s what I do and teach as a trainer and it’s not been easy to deliver in bits and pieces of content. 

Play+ is Game based learning based upon Flow Theory and the Dog Training Cynefin Framework.

Well, that’s changed. I’ve got a sensemaking framework (DogTraining Cynefin) and have just added Flow Theory to the mix. We’re off and running in class and I’ll be live-streaming as soon as Spring Training starts. See you soon. 

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