Using ball/tug as reward

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Postby pitbullmamaliz » December 2nd, 2010, 3:10 pm

This may be a silly question, but how do you use a tug as a reward? I understand I'd use my marker word and then play tug with her, but for how long? And how do I regain the tug? Do I tell her to drop it? Wouldn't that seem like a punishment though?

Same with a ball - if we're somewhere enclosed, I could toss it after using my marker word, but she'd run off after it and then gallop back to me expecting me to throw it again - wouldn't taking it away be a punishment?

And wouldn't training sessions go much slower if using a tug or ball? I can click and treat pretty darned fast, but if I'm releasing her for a game every time she does something good we'd only get like 10 minutes of work done in an hour long session. Help me understand! lol
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Postby amalie79 » December 2nd, 2010, 3:42 pm

ARGH. I just wrote a reply to this and it's gone. :cuss:

Anyway, River is our Super-Fetcher. When we play ball, we usually ask her to do something after she's brought the ball back before we'll throw it again. I don't do it for every single toss, but I do it most of the time, and it's usually either something really easy (sit, down, touch) or it's a longer series of things. Her biggest problem is coping with her own frustration-- if she doesn't get what she wants, she barks and barks and barks. I'd like her to learn that slowing down and focusing will produce results. I hope that's what I'm teaching her, at any rate! lol

I've often wondered about using toys and play as teaching rewards, so I'm interested to hear what others think. What we do with River is more an extension of her NILIF and for reinforcement. Since (I assume) Inara is responsive to treats, maybe use play/toys to reinforce longer objectives and successful completion of a series of known commands, and use treats to teach the unknown commands??? I would also think that perhaps the "drop it"/ release command could be the first in a series of commands that results in more play, rather than as a punishment...??
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Postby pocketpit » December 2nd, 2010, 4:25 pm

I would also think that perhaps the "drop it"/ release command could be the first in a series of commands that results in more play, rather than as a punishment...??


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Postby pitbullmamaliz » December 2nd, 2010, 4:40 pm

So don't use "drop it" when I'm ending the session, just when it means that more fun is going to come? Makes sense.

And how long do you guys tug for? 5 seconds? 30 seconds?
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Postby amalie79 » December 2nd, 2010, 4:51 pm

pitbullmamaliz wrote:So don't use "drop it" when I'm ending the session, just when it means that more fun is going to come? Makes sense.

And how long do you guys tug for? 5 seconds? 30 seconds?


Because I have dogs that tend toward being resource guarders, I try to only ask them to drop it when I'm going to give it back (I know this sort of defeats the purpose of the command, but it's something I want to know I can use reliably when it's necessary, and we're still in the learning stages with Robin, especially) so I end play by offering something totally awesome that they can keep in exchange for the toy-- like a kong with even a teaspoon of peanut butter-- or I ask them to drop it and then do a series of commands with treats, usually something that requires them to look away from me while I hide the toy 8) , in order to distract them. But again, I'm dealing with one in particular who is prone to guard, so I never want a release command alone to mean "bad" things. Did that make any sense?

When I play tug with the girls, I do the same thing as I do with the ball: ask for a behavior or series of behaviors, then give the ok to get the toy. We tug for 5-10 seconds (honestly, it varies), then they are asked to give it back, then maybe to sit, or watch me, and then repeat the whole process. For me, I just use the toy as a way of working training into everyday activities, and not so much as a structured part of our training, if that makes sense. I have an hour long commute each way to work, so I gotta squeeze in the training any place I can!! :wink:
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Postby TheRedQueen » December 2nd, 2010, 5:48 pm

Here's a video showing how I use tug/play as rewards...not my video, but a nice one indeed!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6izzWz71RE

As I have flyball dogs, I use a lot of tugging...and I build strong tug drive into all of my dogs. :) (except Ripley...he's always the exception). When they out, they get a chance to play again...but it's under my rules...drop on cue, take it on cue, etc.

Right now, the Wiener is moving towards getting a tug reward instead of food in flyball...so he actually has a tug with food inside...:) He has to tug before being fed...at least 5-10 seconds of tugging. Score started the same way, and now has to be pried off the tug sometimes...(bad puppy knows he can get away with crap with Braden...lol)
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Postby pitbullmamaliz » December 2nd, 2010, 6:05 pm

Thanks everyone!

I'm fortunate in that Inara has a GREAT tug drive (my old flyball instructor used her for a tugging demo a couple months ago and she was practically drooling - she said if I could get her running flyball people would offer to buy her from me at tournaments. I said yes, until she crossed lanes and bit another dog. lol ). She will tug for ever and ever and ever. I'm also fortunate in that I have taught her manners, so she'll out with no problems (other than maybe chewing her way off of it) and she is careful where she places her mouth when lunging for it (teeth touching skin, no matter how lightly, means game over).

I was thinking this may be a good way to start weaning away from the treats that I feel so dependent on (my issue, not hers).
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Postby amalie79 » December 2nd, 2010, 6:14 pm

Robin came to us with no desire to let us touch anything in or around her mouth. I actually think tug games have greatly improved her guarding issues-- she knows she's going to have a lot of fun if she lets us touch whatever she has. It's super funny, though, when she's eating leaves, realizes that I see her, and then tries to bring a leaf to me so we can tug. A full understanding of appropriate materials has not been mastered. :rolleyes2:
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Postby furever_pit » December 2nd, 2010, 8:37 pm

I LOVE using toys for rewards.

The outing of the toy and the end of the training session can be done with two different cues if you want. One to actually out the toy when you are going to give it back after x series of behaviors, and then a second command to signal that you are done; playtime is over.

How long I play tug, and how hard, is going to be variable. I start teaching jump with excited tugging on both sides of the jump so that the dog develops a drive to jump. I use less tug, less excitement to teach the dog to come to a front position after the retrieve. Here I want the tug to just barely stay "alive" so that the dog doesn't want to let go but I also want to teach the dog to calm his brain during this portion of the exercise.

It really depends on the dog. You can use the way you play tug to either build drive or to cap drive in different behaviors. You know Inara and know how to read her, she will show you what she needs.
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Postby pitbullmamaliz » December 2nd, 2010, 9:11 pm

I never would have thought of using it to cap drive...Inara's pretty well focused and the only time I might want to reduce her drive a bit is when we're working on heeling at a slow pace. She alternates between forging and wanting to sit when we're going slow. Damn ingrained auto sits are really making me regret ever teaching that! lol
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Postby Malli » December 3rd, 2010, 12:45 am

I only had a chance to read the first few posts, but I wanted to add...

I stopped using tug in training with Oscar as a reward - too high value (if there is such a thing). He was too fixated on it, would ignore his drop it command, refuse to drop it while I held on to it, and try to snatch it out of my hand, accidentally nail my hand grabbing for it because he was so worked up... etc etc etc :rolleyes2:

The ball worked like a charm though, short tosses and we only ever did one toss.
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