I got very lucky with my first three dogs. Indy was so easy to train for anything and despite having no idea what I was doing...she does everything at top speed and desperately wants to please. Goose isn't quite as easy, but did learn flyball in 3 months and still runs consistent 3.8-3.9 in start. And then Pax was also easy. He came with tons of drive for toys and he loves to be trained. I really had zero problems with any of the dogs and this was because they love to tug. Good tug play in which the dog wants to play with YOU can solve lots of problems. A super fast/stop everything and run recall and tug drive can solve 95% of problems in flyball. Spy is missing the tug part. Oh no!
Spy. A beautiful body, but low tug/toy drive. She's fine with just
hanging out and sleeping. Most people love that! She's a great and very
easy dog. But I want her to LEARN STUFF and use that body to do things
I tried all the standard stuff to build tug drive
and that all worked to a point. I wasn't getting the kind of tugging I
wanted. So I starting trying other things. I put her in a crate and
make her watch me train the other dogs, thinking that would make her
want to play. Nah, not too concerning for her. She didn't care either
Then I did some variation of NILIF (nothing in
life is free) or Ruff Love. My version was one training session per day
for her breakfast, no free play by herself or with the other dogs (her
favorite thing to do). This helped quite a bit and she began to enjoy
working with me. It still wasn't enthusiastic at all and we still didn't
have a great relationship with her because I was always putting her
away when she didn't feel like working.
At this point
she was doing recalls to a tug 75% of the time and total refusal to
work for a tug for anything else and definitely not with food around.
She was telling me, "Why should I go fling myself at that wall board for
a reward that isn't rewarding?" I would give her food at the end of our
session when she did a good job and if she didn't feel like it, I just
didn't train her that day. I didn't get too far with this method.
Here is what I did that finally worked:
1. Use the Correct Rewards at the Correct Time. My goal is to use a tug for flyball 100%. We
still have a long way to go, but we are making huge progress. First I
made a mental note of her favorite and least favorite things to do. The
favorites are my best tool for getting her to do things on the least
favorite list. Flyball (or any) trainers need to accept that we can't
ask our dogs to do something they don't really want to do for a reward
they don't really want. Your dog may eventually find the tug rewarding, but he doesn't right now.
2. Build Work Ethic. Give
your dog a cue for when training is starting. "Do you want to
play!!!???" and act really silly and goofy and ridiculously excited.
And then while they are still into training say "That'll do, good dog"
to end the session (which should be very short). The difference in Spy
is amazing. When she sees me...she goes nuts and when I end our
sessions, she still wants more training.
3. Train behaviors that the dog Enjoys. My
daily routine with Spy includes lots of obedience with stay to build
excitement, body awareness, recall games with a little bit of flyball
built in. Use a high value reward. 100% of Spy's diet comes from me for
now. Some of the training is more challenging for her and some is just
getting rewards for basic manners.
4. Using food to get your dog to tug.
This has to be done very carefully. The worst thing I see is the
someone waggle the tug in the dogs face in suicidal bunny fashion and
then when the dog doesn't tug, give food. What did you just do? You
rewarded your dog for not tugging. You basically said "hey do you want
to tug? No? Ok thats fine...you can have food instead! And good job for
BUT...you can use food to improve tugging in a
different way. If your dog tugs at all even for a second, mark it with a
clicker and then reward with food. Add duration and start clicking for
good tugging behavior like rocking back, head shaking and a tight grip. A
good shaping dog will respond to this. If you don't want to shape
specifically, you can ask your dog to tug before every meal. Also, I've
seen success with the tug-it bag filled with nasty squishy meat. And of
course try a different tug. Just remember not to use the tug itself as a
reward until it's REWARDING by itself.
5. Using Life Rewards to get your dog to tug. Is
your dogs favorite thing to run free? To go outside and play with other
dogs? Ask your dog to tug first or do some task and then release to go
do that thing. Start a routine at your door. If you want to go outside
and play..you have to tug first. Just be careful that it stays fun and
the dog doesn't predict the release. Spy loves to zoom around in the
woods. I ask her to tug before she can run and when she comes back to
check in with me, we play tug and then I release her again. She loves
6. Stop Tugging Before the Dog Stops.
In my classes, I usually have to repeat this many times. I'd rather see
5 seconds of engaged tugging that ended with the dog still wanting more
than 30 seconds of tugging that slowly fades away. Only tug when you
are directly engaged with the dog. Most of us with good tugging dogs
are guilty of this in flyball. Check your dogs times and talk to
teammates while the dog is tugging. It's probably find for a dog with a
lot of tug drive. But for a dog like Spy. It's no good. I've been
consciously trying to stop doing this with all my dogs. It also helps
when trying to teach "out/drop it".
7. Off Switch or Go Crazy and Freeze Game. Or
even the ready- set- get it game. Play lots of games that switch
between high energy craziness and calm behavior. This is great for dogs
who have trouble settling down, but I've found that it's great for dogs
that have trouble getting excited. It teaches them to quickly change
between the two mental states. I play with a bed nearby and get Spy
going nuts...playing keep away, chasing her around, acting very goofy
and then calmly say "get on your bed". As soon as she is calm and
ideally fully relaxed...I say OK!!!! and start going nuts again. Or the ready-set-get it game
ultimately works up to being able to say ready-set-......GET IT and the
dog can't move until you say GET-IT. Try swing the tug around, throwing
a ball, running away to test them. It also teaches a very solid stay.
To be continued.......