A Bitework Question - Moving to the Sleeve

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Postby furever_pit » November 9th, 2009, 9:58 am

So about a month ago Dylan moved to the trial sleeve from a pillow quite successfully - there was no hesitation, no bumping...just full bites and he even took his first escape bites nicely. BUT, since that time the sleeve work has had some major ups and downs. Sometimes he comes out and he rocks it and I'm obviously very happy when it goes that way, but a few times Dylan gets out there and acts like he doesn't know what the sleeve is. He knows he is there to bite, he's excited for the bite, but then he gets to the sleeve and has a "wtf?" moment. I have noticed it happens more with one particular decoy at our club so I am no longer working Dylan with him. It also occurred at the LCABE last weekend and it was recommended that I take Dylan back to the pillow - which we did and he did great. I was told that by the way he looks on the pillow he should be able to move up but then we get to the sleeve and he is not consistent in his performance.

So, how would ya'll handle this? Would you move the dog back down to the pillow? And if so, when is the dog "ready" to move on to the sleeve? Am I expecting too much consistency for a dog that has just gotten on the sleeve?

Thanks.
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Postby dogged » November 9th, 2009, 2:49 pm

IMO...

Some WTF moments (conflict) are within the normal realm when transitioning to new equipment; but with a good decoy and a solid bitework foundation the dog should be able to overcome it without too much of a hitch. B had it when we switched him from sleeve to suit, in a few sessions it was gone.

If it were my call, I would hold off doing any formal exercises (escapes, courage, etc) or pressure until the dog is proficient and comfortable with the new equipment. Go back to basics...lots of frustration, lots of misses, few bites (if any depending on the session), put the dog up. Keep sessions short. Go from there, always making sure to build the dogs confidence rather than testing it for now. Are you using an actual hard trial sleeve? Have you guys tried an intermediate sleeve? Are you double, triple, quadruple times sure that there is nothing wrong with Dylan's mouth/teeth that would make hard sleeve work uncomfortable?

If nothing else...Have a open line of communication with your TD and decoys. Always (politely and respectfully with the intent to gain knowledge) ask them why are we doing XYZ, what is the reasoning behind their decision, so on.
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Postby furever_pit » November 9th, 2009, 3:02 pm

I have checked Dylan's mouth several times and there is nothing I can see that would be causing a problem. There are no loose or broken teeth and except for a VERY small amount of red gums there is nothing.

I want to add that we have not done any courage bites or really put any pressure on the dog in bite work yet. He has not even been driven. And, yes, we are using an actual trial sleeve. We used the intermediate sleeve for one session and Dylan rocked it but at that point the TD explained to me that we should move on to the trial sleeve because sometimes dogs have a hard time with equipment changes.

I really appreciate your input, what you say makes tons of sense to me. It may just be that we need to build a little more drive for the hard sleeve and allow a few confidence-building bites followed by sleeve slips and perhaps elongated carries so that Dylan can relieve any stress he is feeling. This is definitely something I will be talking to my TD about at training tomorrow.

Also, do you think that it would be best for Dylan to work on only one decoy at this point? At the club he has worked on 5 different decoys and I regularly let other decoys at shows and stuff work my dog. Maybe that was not the best thing for him? Maybe part of the conflict is coming from new environment/new decoy?

Thanks again.
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Postby dogged » November 9th, 2009, 3:55 pm

That depends entirely on the decoys you have and their level of experience. I wouldn't put green dogs on green decoys as a rule. I would hold off on letting decoys at shows work your dog, only caveat being if you know them very well. Too many variables. Never be afraid to say "No thanks" to a decoy wanting to work your dog, I learned that the hard way.

I used to have 4 to 5 decoys at any given time in my old club. It was far too much of a free-for-all and progress was slow. You won't see progress if your decoys do not communicate and are not on the same page with each other. Even if they're all proficient, you can sometimes have too many cooks in the kitchen. Now I have two that I trust my dog with entirely and its made a big difference.

Again, talk to your TD and decoys about your concerns. Maybe ask if your TD can pick a few of your decoys out of the lot to consistently work Dylan until he's good, slowly adding in other decoys down the road.
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Postby katiek0417 » November 9th, 2009, 4:54 pm

furever_pit wrote:I have checked Dylan's mouth several times and there is nothing I can see that would be causing a problem. There are no loose or broken teeth and except for a VERY small amount of red gums there is nothing.

I want to add that we have not done any courage bites or really put any pressure on the dog in bite work yet. He has not even been driven. And, yes, we are using an actual trial sleeve. We used the intermediate sleeve for one session and Dylan rocked it but at that point the TD explained to me that we should move on to the trial sleeve because sometimes dogs have a hard time with equipment changes.

I really appreciate your input, what you say makes tons of sense to me. It may just be that we need to build a little more drive for the hard sleeve and allow a few confidence-building bites followed by sleeve slips and perhaps elongated carries so that Dylan can relieve any stress he is feeling. This is definitely something I will be talking to my TD about at training tomorrow.

Also, do you think that it would be best for Dylan to work on only one decoy at this point? At the club he has worked on 5 different decoys and I regularly let other decoys at shows and stuff work my dog. Maybe that was not the best thing for him? Maybe part of the conflict is coming from new environment/new decoy?

Thanks again.


Okay, in my experience, you get a dog very solid (consistently) on one piece of equipment before moving to the next. Even to the point where my puppies are doing little sends on bite tugs...once they are doing that consistently, they move to the next piece of equipment, which with my dogs, is a puppy sleeve...

Our dogs start EVERY piece of equipment (including the suit) on a back tie....everything they need to be introduced to (drive to the side, distraction, etc) is done on the back tie. The out is done on the back tie...

And it's a progression from back tie, to posting out, to little backups where the dog drags you in, to sends...

Of course, this is probably why it takes our dogs nearly 2 years to be shown a suit...is it repetitive? Yes. Does it get boring? Yes...but Greg has found that this is what brings consistency.

I would take him back to a softer sleeve, and make sure he goes through every step before moving him up...get him fully comfortable before taking him to the next step.

In addition, if he comes out and decides WTF...put him up...he's done for the day...also, I don't know how many bites you give him, but Greg always limits sessions for young dogs to 3-4 bites...and if the dog isn't biting, he's put up.

Also, remind me how old he is....

Finally, when you do bitework, are you outing him, or letting him carry?
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Postby furever_pit » November 9th, 2009, 6:02 pm

katiek0417 wrote:Okay, in my experience, you get a dog very solid (consistently) on one piece of equipment before moving to the next. Even to the point where my puppies are doing little sends on bite tugs...once they are doing that consistently, they move to the next piece of equipment, which with my dogs, is a puppy sleeve...

Our dogs start EVERY piece of equipment (including the suit) on a back tie....everything they need to be introduced to (drive to the side, distraction, etc) is done on the back tie. The out is done on the back tie...

And it's a progression from back tie, to posting out, to little backups where the dog drags you in, to sends...

Of course, this is probably why it takes our dogs nearly 2 years to be shown a suit...is it repetitive? Yes. Does it get boring? Yes...but Greg has found that this is what brings consistency.

I would take him back to a softer sleeve, and make sure he goes through every step before moving him up...get him fully comfortable before taking him to the next step.

In addition, if he comes out and decides WTF...put him up...he's done for the day...also, I don't know how many bites you give him, but Greg always limits sessions for young dogs to 3-4 bites...and if the dog isn't biting, he's put up.

Also, remind me how old he is....

Finally, when you do bitework, are you outing him, or letting him carry?


Dylan is 3 years old, but we've only been doing this for about 6 months I think. I have not yet introduced an out into the bitework. Dylan gets to carry the sleeve and when he puts it down on the ground, I either pull him off (if I can catch him in that moment where he actually lets go) or if he rebites I pick him up by his collar and choke him off without saying a word. Dylan also does not get a long session of bitework, he probably gets 3-5 bites and I put him up still wanting more. So you're saying that if Dylan doesn't take the first bite he goes back in the car? Should I let him out again later that night and see if he does better?

I've actually never used a backtie with Dylan, or with the puppy. We just use ourselves as posts at the club where I train. With both dogs I typically stand still and don't move unless my TD tells me to.

As for things getting boring or taking too much time, I don't look at it that way. I would MUCH rather put a lot of time into a strong foundation and just take it slow than end up in a situation where I have to fix things. I'm in no rush at all with my dogs (especially Dylan since he is pretty much my guinea pig anyway).

Thanks for your input Katrina. I really appreciate and value what you have to say. Y'all are really helping me figure this whole thing out. Thanks!
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Postby katiek0417 » November 9th, 2009, 6:38 pm

furever_pit wrote:Dylan is 3 years old, but we've only been doing this for about 6 months I think. I have not yet introduced an out into the bitework. Dylan gets to carry the sleeve and when he puts it down on the ground, I either pull him off (if I can catch him in that moment where he actually lets go) or if he rebites I pick him up by his collar and choke him off without saying a word. Dylan also does not get a long session of bitework, he probably gets 3-5 bites and I put him up still wanting more. So you're saying that if Dylan doesn't take the first bite he goes back in the car? Should I let him out again later that night and see if he does better?

I've actually never used a backtie with Dylan, or with the puppy. We just use ourselves as posts at the club where I train. With both dogs I typically stand still and don't move unless my TD tells me to.

As for things getting boring or taking too much time, I don't look at it that way. I would MUCH rather put a lot of time into a strong foundation and just take it slow than end up in a situation where I have to fix things. I'm in no rush at all with my dogs (especially Dylan since he is pretty much my guinea pig anyway).

Thanks for your input Katrina. I really appreciate and value what you have to say. Y'all are really helping me figure this whole thing out. Thanks!


Yep....he gets put up if he doesn't take the first bite...Let him think about what just happened...About what he did...You can try to bring him back out...but if won't bite then, put him up again...this is actually a Jerry method (as well as Greg's)...

It's a little different, but Cy was having a hard time paying attention to the decoy he was supposed to be guarding if there was another decoy walking around (his eyes would stray)...so we put him on long line, and if he averted his eyes, the decoy would escape and we would keep him from biting...if he did it a second time, he was put away for that session...

Also, I did mean to also address your question about whether you should use different decoys or stick with one...I would let him see as many decoys as possible (as long as you trust them)...you don't want him eventually to get "caught" because it's a decoy he's not used to...remember dogs are creatures of habit...if you constantly let him see different decoys, and he's used to that, then seeing a different decoy in a trial should never be an issue...
"Rumor has it, compulsion is evil."

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Postby furever_pit » November 9th, 2009, 7:21 pm

katiek0417 wrote:Yep....he gets put up if he doesn't take the first bite...Let him think about what just happened...About what he did...You can try to bring him back out...but if won't bite then, put him up again...this is actually a Jerry method (as well as Greg's)...

It's a little different, but Cy was having a hard time paying attention to the decoy he was supposed to be guarding if there was another decoy walking around (his eyes would stray)...so we put him on long line, and if he averted his eyes, the decoy would escape and we would keep him from biting...if he did it a second time, he was put away for that session...

Also, I did mean to also address your question about whether you should use different decoys or stick with one...I would let him see as many decoys as possible (as long as you trust them)...you don't want him eventually to get "caught" because it's a decoy he's not used to...remember dogs are creatures of habit...if you constantly let him see different decoys, and he's used to that, then seeing a different decoy in a trial should never be an issue...


Cool. Despite what it may have sounded like earlier, I don't let Dylan work on just any decoy. He gets to work on folks like Keith O'Sullivan or Chris Thompson; people I have seen work other dogs and who I trust. I specifically allowed him to work on Josh M. last weekend because Josh is a hard-ass as a decoy and I like that.

Also, the more I have thought about it I have realized that Dylan's really good sessions are when my TD (who hurt his shoulder) is directing the decoy. So I think what I will do is continue to allow Dylan to see new faces under the direction of my TD. Tho I will probably allow Chris to work Dylan again in Ocala in a few weeks because I trust him.

I also see what you are saying about putting the dog up. On one hand, I feel like "holy crap that is a looong drive to not even let my dog get a bite" but I can also imagine how frustrated it would make Dylan to get put up without a bite. Considering that Dylan will sit in my car and load allll freaking day, I'm pretty sure not getting a bite would drive him through the ceiling. lol

I've called my TD and he has agreed to meet me at training a little bit early tomorrow so that we can go over Dylan's bitework (and also our HIDEOUS obedience performance this past week). Again, I appreciate all the insight y'all have given me.
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Postby katiek0417 » November 9th, 2009, 7:48 pm

furever_pit wrote:
Cool. Despite what it may have sounded like earlier, I don't let Dylan work on just any decoy. He gets to work on folks like Keith O'Sullivan or Chris Thompson; people I have seen work other dogs and who I trust. I specifically allowed him to work on Josh M. last weekend because Josh is a hard-ass as a decoy and I like that.

Also, the more I have thought about it I have realized that Dylan's really good sessions are when my TD (who hurt his shoulder) is directing the decoy. So I think what I will do is continue to allow Dylan to see new faces under the direction of my TD. Tho I will probably allow Chris to work Dylan again in Ocala in a few weeks because I trust him.

I also see what you are saying about putting the dog up. On one hand, I feel like "holy crap that is a looong drive to not even let my dog get a bite" but I can also imagine how frustrated it would make Dylan to get put up without a bite. Considering that Dylan will sit in my car and load allll freaking day, I'm pretty sure not getting a bite would drive him through the ceiling. lol

I've called my TD and he has agreed to meet me at training a little bit early tomorrow so that we can go over Dylan's bitework (and also our HIDEOUS obedience performance this past week). Again, I appreciate all the insight y'all have given me.


In reality, it's just negative punishment :wink: Take something good away to decrease the occurrence of a behavior. Biting is a good thing...if you take it away, hopefully he will learn that he has to DECREASE the non-biting behavior...
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Postby mnp13 » November 10th, 2009, 2:38 pm

I don't do sleeve work, but it would seem to me that going from a bit pillow, which is relavively soft, to a trial sleeve, which is quite hard, is a big jump. Perhaps you should back up and make a smoother transition? Not only is the sleeve harder, but the bite surface is a different shape, likely a different surface feel, has been used by more dogs... and basically different in every way. Add that to being actually attached to the arm so that the decoy is actually hovering over the dog's head and that is a very new experience for the dog.

Dylan gets to carry the sleeve and when he puts it down on the ground, I either pull him off (if I can catch him in that moment where he actually lets go) or if he rebites I pick him up by his collar and choke him off without saying a word

I'm wondering why are you choking off to teach the out?
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Postby furever_pit » November 10th, 2009, 3:35 pm

It is too early to start incorporating the out in Dylan's bitework. Because he had to overcome a bit of conflict even in the beginning with a pillow to get a full and committed bite from him we are not going to start asking him to drop that bite yet. By lifting him off of the ground, he does not realize that we are taking the pillow back from him...all he knows is that he is letting go.

This is how it has been explained to me by my trainer and i have seen this method used by many many people.

You do bring up some great points about the sleeve. I guess I'm just a little confused as to why sometimes Dylan is awesome on the sleeve and then sometimes he's not. Seems kinda weird to me. I guess I would think that once the dog is comfortable with it that that would be it. I mean he did an amazing job on the trial sleeve the very first time we brought it out. But I'm sure that is my lack of experience talking.
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Postby mnp13 » November 10th, 2009, 6:23 pm

furever_pit wrote:Because he had to overcome a bit of conflict even in the beginning with a pillow to get a full and committed bite from him

I guess I'm just a little confused as to why sometimes Dylan is awesome on the sleeve and then sometimes he's not.

I guess I would think that once the dog is comfortable with it that that would be it.

I think those three comments answer your question actually. You had to overcome conflict just to get him to bite a pillow. He's comfortable with that now, but you jumped from a pillow - which took a while, to a sleeve which is totally different, and has more pressure and stress. As for why he's sometimes ok and sometimes not, there are a million variables - decoy, weather, mood, you, your mood, your handling, where you are standing, where your trainer is, what collar he has on, what harness... you name it... especially if he's unsure. If the dog is unsure already, the smallest thing can throw it off.

Look at all the "pre-trial" routines that some handlers have, the minute they skip one thing everything falls to pieces. At a certain point, the dogs need all that rigid routine as well. You've seen it... Sch III dogs who run past the decoy in blind #5 to do the bark and hold at empty blind #6. Routine is comfortable, and once you change it sometimes you need to back way up.

Do you have a sleeve that is as soft, or softer, than the pillow or at least doesn't have any bite bar?

furever_pit wrote:It is too early to start incorporating the out in Dylan's bitework. Because he had to overcome a bit of conflict even in the beginning with a pillow to get a full and committed bite from him we are not going to start asking him to drop that bite yet. By lifting him off of the ground, he does not realize that we are taking the pillow back from him...all he knows is that he is letting go.

Ick. Double ick. (Sorry.) You're talking to the wrong person on this one. I have a dog that never lets go. As in, see my avatar? I pulled him from the DSO because the night before the trial he held on to the decoy for 15 minutes, and was actually falling asleep on the bite. I got him off by handing him to Demo and grabbing his upper and lower jaws and pulling them open - while everyone watch and waited for me to get my fingers chomped (which didn't happen)

He knows you're taking the pillow, because when he lets go of the pillow, then the pillow is gone and you have it. :| I've seen the choke off used by many people as well, I used it for a looooong time. All I did was learn how to choke my dog. It's a very common method to teach the out for herders, most are quite sensitive to it; not all bull breeds are though. I've watched a number of dogs (Malinois mostly) get taught to out by being choked off, two or three times and the dog pops right off as soon as you reach for the collar. But be aware that you may not get that reaction once it's really time to use it with Dylan - fighting dogs just fight harder, they let go faster, because they get tired but they just become more determined to try harder.

Greg and Cheryl both suggested using the double decoy method of teaching the out, and if I had two decoys I'd do it because I am 100% positive it would work with Riggs. You might want to give it a try, especially since you have two decoys (I'm jealous!); it's a good game to teach, it works a fast out, and it doesn't kill brain cells.
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Postby furever_pit » November 10th, 2009, 7:15 pm

You have brought up several more good points. I like this, it is totally helping me organize my own thoughts so that I can talk to my TD and not seem like an ass. lol Unfortunately, no training tonight but my TD knows to call me sometime this week so that we can chat.

So with the 2 decoy method I am presuming that you tell the dog to out off of the first one and the immediate reward is getting to bite the second one? I could see that working. I also think that I will start working the out on other objects - like the tug or the ball at home.

Thanks again.
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