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FOUNDATION BUILDING FOR A GREAT OUT
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By Cory Dewberry  

When performing foundation bitework (rag and tug play), preparing your dog for a good out is often overlooked for various reasons. Most notably, the fear of a negative impact from forcing a young dog to out too soon. This is often manifested by a dog that will release the grip with little or no pressure from the decoy.

Here are two training techniques that have worked well for puppies and young dogs that will lay a good foundation that will lead to a great out in an older dog.

The Cradle -- Using the prey item (tug or rag), play the various bite games to which your puppy or young dog is accustomed. Once your puppy has established a solid grip, (i.e. when you can let go of the prey item and your puppy still holds onto it) To avoid the negative impact of taking the toy from the dog, we hold the puppy in the cradle position. (See photo 1.) Please notice while the puppy is still gripping the prey item, one of my hands is used to support the upper portion of the puppy, bringing her front feet off the ground. In this position, she is not able to fight the prey item anymore. The key to this position is to maintain the front feet off the ground, prey item still gripped in mouth, while calmly praising and caressing the dog. Some dogs may require using your free hand to prevent your puppy gripping the prey item in mouth and with front paws. (See photo 2.) The goal is to calm the puppy, release tension, and suppress the play drive. Once the puppy has fully relaxed, she releases the prey item. We then mark the behavior with the phase “good out.” Depending on age and level of training will determine how long it takes to remain in this position to get the dog to drop the prey item. The key is to allow the dog to make the decision to let go, and for you as the handler to mark the behavior with a command (“good out”) and praise.

Two Toys – While working with your puppy with one prey item (tug or rag), the goal is to then try to introduce a second prey item to the game. When the dog drops the first prey item to get the second prey item, mark the behavior with the words “good out.” Repeating this process will create a game where the dog happily switches between the two prey items. Remember to mark the behavior (dropping the first item) with the words “good out.” The reward becomes gripping the second item. This instills in the dog that releasing the grip is not a negative, but in fact allows the game to continue.


As the dog becomes more advanced, add a second handler to the scenario. Take up positions at opposite ends of your training area. The goal is to have the dog travel between the two handlers, gripping, outing, and regripping. Again, always mark the release with “good out” to establish a strong foundation for a great out.

As always, keep it fun and train safe.

Please call or email with any questions or comments!
 
ERIC ROWE
(513) 233-5717 cell
(513) 742-1570 home
niasplace@aol.com
 
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