First Freestyle: Pre-Routines


Today we’re going to talk about pre-routines. A pre-routine is a series of moves performed after the music has begun playing but before the first disc has been thrown for your dog. Let’s take a look at the various rules governing this aspect in different organizations. Then we can examine the reasons you might or might not choose to use one.

USDDN – Worlds Division (Qualifier) Freestyle teams are allowed a maximum of 120 seconds. Timing begins when the player either throws or places a disc in flight and the canine makes any movement that can be considered an attempt to retrieve the disc. Scoring begins when the music starts. No practice throws are allowed.

UpDog Challenge – The time for the criterion round begins when the player signals to the announcer that they are ready for their music to begin. (Music and time begin together).
A player may decide to utilize a portion of their 135 seconds to conduct a “pre-routine” with their dog. Judging for the criterion round, however, does not begin until the first disc is thrown to the dog.
The performance round begins when the music begins and lasts 135 seconds. A team may decide to do some “pre-routine” flatwork or dog tricks. Judging begins when the music begins. If a disc is not thrown until 30 seconds into the round, that is fine, but judging begins when the music begins.

Skyhoundz – Once the team (human[s] and dog must enter at the same time) enters the field they will have 20 seconds in which to begin their routine or time will begin automatically.

Timing begins when a disc is placed in flight; or the canine attempts to catch or pick-up a disc placed on the ground and makes contact with the disc; or takes the disc from any part of a thrower’s or canine’s body; or 20 seconds have elapsed, whichever occurs first.

Throwers may use their 20 seconds to set discs out on the field, position a canine for their first throw, or do a pre-routine. Until time begins, any interaction between human and canine will not be judged or scored.

AWI – Freestyle routines have a time limit of 120 seconds, or two minutes. Time will start when the first disc is released in an obvious throwing manner.
Competitors are strongly encouraged to limit their pre-routines to less than 15 seconds.

UFO – Freestyle routines have a time limit of 120 seconds. Official time begins with the first throw…
In the interest of time, the UFO recommends competitors limit their pre-routines to 15 seconds or less.

Reasons You Might Want to Use a Pre-Routine

  • A pre-routine is a chance to connect with your dog before beginning. Dogs will learn their pre-routines, and recognize it as a signal that disc play is about to start. Dogs that aren’t always ready to go immediately may benefit from this warmup. (Note: This is different from a physical warmup, which you should definitely do!)
  • It’s a chance to include flashy tricks which look cool but don’t include a catch.
  • You can warm up the crowd & get them excited about your routine. Judges are just as susceptible to this as anyone else in the crowd.
  • Your music may have an introduction with a different tempo. A pre-routine during the introduction, with the routine starting when the tempo picks up may feel natural & flowing.

Reasons You Might NOT Include a Pre-Routine

  • Most competitors, especially those new to freestyle, want to choreograph one freestyle routine that will work for all venues. As we saw in the rules above, some venues count that as part of the time allotted. Using part of your time without a disc throw means you might need to leave some elements out, which can affect your score.
  • Some dogs are ready to go as soon as you take the field, and can maintain focus on you while you wait for the judges to be ready, signal the announcer to play the music, and wait for the music to begin. Dogs like this may not need a “warmup”. (Note: This is different from a physical warmup, which should be done with any dog!)
  • Older dogs may not have the stamina they once had. Two minutes of strenuous athletic activity is a lot, with lots of running. A pre-routine may mean they run out of steam before the end of the routine. Competitions are held in all types of weather, so you may be playing in 100+ temperatures, or in high humidity.


Now that we’ve discussed the pros and cons of pre-routines, it’s up to you to make your decision. Perhaps you’ll choose an extensive pre-routine, perhaps you’ll choose to use only 2-3 seconds in a pre-routine, or perhaps you’ll use an opening pose that is broken when the music starts and you start throwing. Perhaps you’ll forego all of that, and just begin your routine when the music starts. Each team makes this decision on their own, according to what makes sense for that team.

For the rest of this series, see: First Freestyle: Choosing MusicFirst Freestyle: Editing MusicFirst Freestyle: Choosing Elements and First Freestyle: Building Sets.

Featured image is (c) Marshall Smith


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