Tuesday, March 27, 2012

To tug or not to tug?

So I tried a little experiment last night.

Scorch and I were practicing obedience in a parking lot in Lakeland. We worked a couple of heeling patterns and the figure 8. I had the dumbbell out in sight and he was reasonably quiet. We broke off from heeling for a reward, except instead of a treat, I allowed him to tug for a few minutes.

I put the tug away and we moved on to dumbbell retrieves. He was much more on edge and even barked. He was also grabby with the dumbbell and I had that "barely contained" feeling that marked so many of our runs.

He loves tugging even more than treats. He'll go into my training bag and ignore an open bag of salmon goodies in favor of a felt tug. But it sends him over the edge.

What do I do? Do I stop tugging altogether for a while? Save it for the end? Tug and then try an exercise and put him away if he vocalizes? Practice exercises with the tug toy around but don't let him have it?

What do I do when his favorite reward makes him bonkers?


K-Koira said...

For flyball, tug is the preferred method of reward (a dog on the end of a tug is a dog who is not running after balls, other dogs, or tripping people). Our dogs need to LOVE their tugs more than anything else out on the course, but be willing to run AWAY from the tug at first, over four jumps, perform a box turn, and return with a ball in their mouth, before getting that AWESOME tug reward.

Koira used to do a spin when I let her go, attempting to turn back to me and grab the tug, instead of focusing on her job. I slowly managed to increase her drive to the flyball box without decreasing her drive for the tug at all- mainly by teaching her to think if there was a tug in my hands, instead of just melting into a pile of tug-wanting goo.

Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

I think it purely a personal preference dictated by how you train and what you like in a working dog.

I personally prefer a dog working that edge of control. It takes longer to get there as you first have a dog who can't think at all, then a dog who can barely hold it together as they learn to work but lose all that precision. But if you start slow and build up you can get that precision back along with that intensity that comes from working with such a high value reinforcer. I also think that using a toy with those dogs eventually allows in a greater understanding as they really have to concentrate hard on the task. If you choose to go the toy route you just have to start slow and teach that impulse control :)